Patan's museum piece
The Patan Museum is a must-visit among the draws of Kathmandu Valley: tastefully designed and informative, its curation is logical yet sensitive to the nuances of the richly-layered heritage and local traditions. Visitors can trace chronological lines in Nepal’s cultural history, and are guided to recognise stylistic themes in the faces of gods and goddesses and the iconography that they pass on the streets of the Valley’s old towns.
Visitors get an introduction to the symbiosis of Hinduism and Buddhism in the Nepa civilisation. Besides the artifacts on display, the corridors provide an unassuming serenity, places of repose and leisure of rulers past. We see courtyards where the public would gather to celebrate, debate or venerate, and sense a graciousness, a deep attention to detail. And most striking: these are living traditions that carry on to the present day.
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There is the bathing well, (tusha hiti) of King Siddhi Narasimha Malla in Sundari Chok with its gilded garuda spout. Or, a large display of a gilded pair of the Buddha’s hands, ‘calling the earth to witness’, depicting the moment he attained enlightenment.
In these days of quick-fix concrete and steel, visitors sense a dwindling appreciation of lingering around a water well, resting on a courtyard ledge, or leaning in to admire the intricate carvings of a temple’s eaves.
Which is why it is important to accept the invitation to spend a day at the museum, to explore, to rest, to compose one’s impressions of the city, and even rekindle the divine spark with greenery, nourishing food and inspiring architecture.
Monuments are kept alive by their relevance to the community. In Nepal, they have been maintained by devotion: annual rites and festivals that ensure places of worship are regularly tended to and repaired by devotees. In cases where monuments are given into state care, they have often fallen into disrepair.
Luckily, the team led by Austrian architect Götz Hagmüller that was given the charge to restore Patan Durbar in the 1990s, took to the task with an intention to turn the palace complex into a self-sustaining cultural institution, capable of withstanding not just natural shakeups but also political instability.
In its modernisation into a world-class cultural treasure, the palace complex underwent a significant rearrangement to house not only artifacts, but a constant flow of people within what would once have been quiet, private quarters of the royal court. Amid the mostly faithful restoration of the palace to its Malla heritage, the Patan Museum also features a clutch of modern elements: new materials and motifs seamlessly worked into the intricate historical fabric of the East Wing’s Malla and Rana styles. As part of the rearrangement, a graceful timber staircase leads from a new foyer to a stunning display of iconic tundaal: intricately carved timber struts featuring deities in various poses.
The columns and capitals supporting the restored Rana-style wing are detailed in steel and timber, to clean modernist lines, and hold their own within the simple brick and white plastered detailing of the period. They also feature a postmodern take on the scrolls of old Newa capitals, reinterpreting the decorative art of traditions past, whilst acknowledging the architectural language of the restoration’s own timeline. At the Museum Café, new metal-roofed pavilions also feature similar modern detailing in timber, a graceful reminder within the new construction of its heritage.
The restoration efforts that led to the establishment of Patan’s Royal Palace as a public museum in 1997 features modern twists on traditional motifs, designed in timber and steel by Hagmüller’s team. The clean lines and geometric postmodern interpretation of decorative Newa carving presents a nod to the architectural language of the restoration’s own timeline.
Courtyards and access to the Museum Cafe are open 7am-6.30pm.
Entry fees to the Museum:
Foreigners: Rs1,000 (included in Patan entry fee)
Nepali Students Rs5 (with ID)
In perfect harmony, Sahina Shrestha
Ever since it opened more than 20 years ago, Patan Museum has been a quiet sanctuary hidden away from the densely-packed city outside. And in a tranquil, leafy corner of the complex is an oasis within an oasis: the Patan Museum Café.
Under new management by Dwarika’s Hotel, the restaurant offers a delectable selection of continental cuisine, as well as finessed pickings of Nepali and Asian dishes. The menu features healthy salads, brunch specialties, snacks and full-portioned meals, hinting at the raison d’être of the place: all-day dining, whether you choose to start, continue or end your day at the museum.
Lush greenery reaches up to rooflines of weathered jhingati tiles. Artfully contained shrubs spread against the geometric curves of patterned brick and into dining nooks and inviting enclosures. Low-slung pavilions reminiscent of Patan’s many resting platforms (pati) provide shady private cubicles, as do cafe-style umbrellas dappled with shadowplay as the trees dance with the wind.
Austrian restoration architect Götz Hagmüller also transformed the Kaiser Café in the Garden of Dreams in Thamel into the popular destination it is today. It seems fitting, then, that both these treasured historic restorations now feature bars and cafés managed by Dwarika’s Hotel whose revenues contribute to the upkeep of the sites. Patan Museum Café now has a menu and service that places quality and consistency foremost.
The guardian of the shadows, Sebastian Gansrigler
Organic produce from Dwarika’s own organic farm in Dhulikel features on the cafe menu.
Creamy buffalo mozzarella, organic tomatoes and torn holy basil, drizzled with rich, flavourful olive oil, and a selection of viscous balsamic or crisp white wine vinegar to liven the palate.
Baked Jalkapur fish with quinoa and vegetable salad
A sweet sticky sauce accentuates the mouthwatering caramelisation of a fried Jalkapur fillet, cooked to moist, breakaway softness. Soft quinoa and hearty vegetables complete the healthy ensemble.
A rich bisque, perfectly sweet and buttery, with pieces of cooked shrimp and a hint of cream, garnished with a sprig of micro herbs.
A generous double shot of espresso with a double scoop of vanilla ice cream, served in style in a martini glass.
Almond chocolate cake
A luscious log of nutty chocolate cake, smothered in rich chocolate ganache, accompanied by an assortment of fresh fruits and slivered almonds.
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