Buddhist monuments and the Kings of Patan
Long time ago, King Sarvananda of Dipavati invited sages around the country for distributing alms. Dipankara Buddha, a Buddha who reached enlightenment prior to Gautama Buddha, was also invited. However, instead of visiting the palace, Dipankara Buddha visited a nearby hut belonging to an old lady.
In late 2021, a 1400-year-old stone inscription was discovered in front of the Bhimsen Temple at Patan Durbar. It was kept there by Lichhavi ruler Anshu Verma. The inscription gives information about a Buddhist monastery built by Lichhavi King Brishadev in Patan. The monastery no longer exists but the inscription proves that the Lichhavi Kings embraced Buddhism as a religion. King Brishadev is said to have built several Buddhist monasteries in different parts of Kathmandu valley. Buddhism prospered during the time of the Malla Kings of Kathmandu valley.
Numerous Buddhist Stupas were built during the Malla era and one of the most artistic of them is the Rudravarna Mahavihara located in Okubahal or Uku Bahal. According to legend, the Malla kings of Patan were crowned at the Rudravarna Mahavihara monastery in a ritualistic coronation ceremony in the presence of monks and priests. The Buddhist pagoda style monastery with two-tiered gilded roof is a fine example of craftsmanship in the 2nd millennium. A beautiful image of the Akshobhya Buddha ‘the immovable one’ is housed inside the monastery building. The wood-carvings on the roof struts of the monastery shows the high level of workmanship attained by craftsmen during the Malla age. The Malla era craftsmen in particular were past experts at crafting metals like iron, copper, silver and bronze. Their expertise in metal craft is particularly evident in the sculptures of Hindu and Buddhist deities. One of the fine examples of metal craft inside the monastery is the life size statue of Rana Prime Minister Juddha Shumsher Rana who was the prime minister of Nepal from 1932 to 1945 AD. He is credited for providing donation for the renovation of the monastery after it was damaged by the 1934 Nepal–India earthquake. There are other figures in the monastery such as Gaurda (the Hindu and Buddhist deity known as the king of bird), bronze figures of monkeys, dragons, lions and decorated elephants.
A beautiful white stupa is located in a spacious courtyard behind the Rudra Varna Mahivihar known as the Tago Chiva. It is considered as one of the finest stone craft in the country. The stupa is believed to have been built during the reign of the King Yog Narendra Malla of Patan. It’s believed that it was unveiled in a grand ceremony in which the Kings of Kantipur (Old name of Kathmandu) and Bhaktapur were invited as guests.
Very close to the monastery is the Mahaboudha temple, also known as Mahabuddha temple is a magnificent curvilinear structure dedicated to Gautama Buddha. It’s a rare shikhara style Buddhist temple and considered by many to be the first of its kind in Nepal. The temple is often called “the temple of a thousand Buddhas” because numerous terracotta figures of Lord Buddha is engraved on the bricks. There is a gold statue of Buddha inside the temple. The temple was built by Abhaya Raj Shakya, a priest of Patan after visiting Bodhgaya, India the place where Gautama Buddha got enlightment. It is said that the Mahabodhi Temple at Bodhgaya was his inspiration behind building the Mahaboudha temple. The construction of the temple began in late 16th century but was completed in the 17th century during the reign of King Sidhhi Narsimha Malla. The Tibetans call the temple Syangtungu and it is a scared site for those who follow Tibetan Buddhism. This is a small shrine dedicated to Maya Devi, Gautama Buddha’s mother, tucked between two buildings which is stunning as well.
Guita Prathamshri Mahavihara
Guita Prathamshri Mahavihara is another historic Buddhist monastery located about 800 metres south-east from the Mahaboudha. A chronicle mentions that there was a kingdom named Dipavati in present-day Guita. The kingdom was ruled by a king named Sarvananda who lived in a nine-storey palace. Long time ago, King Sarvananda of Dipavati invited sages around the country for distributing alms. Dipankara Buddha, a Buddha who reached enlightenment prior to Gautama Buddha, was also invited. However, instead of visiting the palace, Dipankara Buddha visited a nearby hut belonging to an old lady. The king couldn’t believe that Buddha did not accept his invitation to the palace and instead visited a poor lady. The King asked Buddha why he visited the hut. Buddha smiled and replied that the King had enough wealth to distribute alms but the old lady was very generous to give away few grains of rice she had. The king was really inspired by Dipankara Buddha’s words of wisdom. He built 9 stupas, nine stone spouts, nine ponds and a nine-storey vihar to match his 9-storey palace. The word ‘Guita’ comes from the word Gugu meaning nine. A sculpture of the old lady is still there in the monastery. The locals call her Guita grandmother Illuminated manuscripts are exhibited once a year in Guita Prathamshri Mahavihar on the occasion of Janai Purnima. The manuscripts illustrate several stories about Buddhism, Guita and Kings.