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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
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
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
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
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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