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Patan Museum
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Nepal Travels :: Places To See

Patan Museum

The Patan Museum displays the traditional sacred art of Nepal in an illustrious architectural setting. Its home is an old residential court of Patan Darbar, one of the royal palaces of the former Malla kings of the Kathmandu Valley. Its gilded door and window face one of the most beautiful squares in the world. The museum's exhibits cover a long span of Nepal's cultural history and some rare objects are among its treasures. Their meaning and context within the living traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism are explained. Most of the objects are cast bronzes and gilt copper reposse´ work, traditional crafts for which Patan is famous.

The Museum Building: A Converted Royal Palace
The residential palace compound of Keshav Narayan Chowk which houses the museum dates from 1734, displacing a Buddhist monastery that is still remembered in annual public rite on the palace doorstep. But both monastery and palace rest on far older foundations that may go back to the Licchavi Period (ca. 3rd to 9th century).

Altered over time to suit other purposes, and partly fallen into decay, the building has undergone a thorough restoration for more than a decade through the joint venture efforts of His Majesty's Government of Nepal and the Austrian Government. Some parts are new, others were reconstructed to their original appearance, and interiors were adapted to the needs of a museum with appropriate modern facilities added. The museum opened in 1997

The Museum Collection
From existing national collections comprising more than 1500 objects some 200 were selected for permanent exhibition and augmented with a few recent donations. The majority of exhibits are sculptures of Hindu and Buddhist deities which were created in the Kathmandu Valley, many in the nearby workshops of Patan itself. Others originated in India, Tibet, and the western Himalayas. They are accompanied by written commentary explaining their spiritual and art historical significance as part of the cultural heritage of Nepal. The exhibits are also designed to assist in interpreting the living culture that lies beyond the museum's walls.

Ground floor arcade and main staircase: In the arcade is a representative selection of inscribed stone stetue from the mid-7th to the late 19th century. Flanking the stairs above are six 17th century wooden temple brackets carved with images of the Hindu pantheon.

Gallery A - Introduction to the exhibits: Through a combination of specially selected images, explanatory text, and line drawings, this small gallery explains hot to recognize Hind and Buddhist deities by a combination of symbolic features such as how they sit or stand, how they hold their hands and what they hold in them, what ornaments they wear, hoe they dress, and who and what accompanies them.

Gallery B - Hinduism:
One of three galleries devoted to Hinduism, this gallery introduces the religion and presents various manifestations of the great god Shiva, his consort Parvati, and the familiar Ganesha. A highlight is a 7th century architectural remnant carved with a row of Shiva's dancing attendants.

Gallery C - Hinduism: The theme of Hinduism continues with various images and artifacts associated with Vishnu. One important object in this gallery is a rare, ivory-handled bronze mirror while another is the gilded throne of the former kings of Patan. Together with a narrative painting also on exhibit, the throne still plays an active role in Nepalese culture when annually venerated for a day at the Krishna temple opposite the museum.

Gallery D - Hinduism: The diverse objects exhibited here range from images of the most ancient Vedic gods to the most recent Tantric manifestations. Three stunning repousse masks of Indra and a complex, cast image of the goddess Siddhi Lakshmi should not be missed, nor the intriguing group of 11th century sculptures found near Pharping on the Valley's rim.

Gallery E - Buddhism: The origin and history of the development of various schools of Buddhism are introduced and virus Buddhist images are displayed, including a group of rare 11th and 12th century bronzes originating in India. As part of a comprehensive exhibit on the stupa, or chaitya , a monument unique to Buddhism, one may circumambulate a large scale model of Bodhnath (Bauddha).

Gallery F - Buddhism: Whereas the emphasis of Gallery E is on Buddhas and chaityas, this gallery concentrates on the spiritual guides who in many forms, peaceful, fierce, and ostensibly erotic, lead humans to salvation and Buddhahood.

Gallery G - Metal technology: The technique of hammering sheet metal into relief designs - called repousse - is shown in consecutive stages from initial pencil drawing through a finished, gilded Bhairava face, a display supplemented by large scale repousse sculptures. Similarly, based on reproductions of the head of the superb seated Buddha in Gallery E, a series of models explain the process of casting images in the technique known as "lost wax." These skills have been practiced for centuries in Nepal, especially in the nearby family workshops in Patan, the traditional center of the metallurgical arts.

Gallery H- Historical views of Nepal: An album of photographs from 1899, discovered at the Volkerkunde museum in Vienna, is the basis and beginning of collection of historical views of Nepal as it was when still essentially closed to the rest of the world.

Gallery M - An illustrated manuscript: This small gallery is devoted to a single item, an esoteric Hindu Tantric manuscript. Among other aspects, it contains a colorful two-meter long diagram of the "subtle body" thought to lie hidden within the seen body. It is a pictorial representation of Kundalini yoga which is explained in accompanying labels.

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