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Lalitpur sub-metropolitan city, popularly known as Patan is currently one of the most vibrant cities of the kingdom of Nepal. It is located in about 5 kilometers south-east of Kathmandu. With its urban history dating back to as far as 2300 years, LSMC is one of the three major cities located inside the Kathmandu valley, besides Kathmandu and Bhaktapur.
Rich historic past, centuries old living culture of the people, thriving city development are what this historic city today boasts of. Of the fifty-eight municipalities of Nepal, Lalitpur is the third largest city.
Lalitpur, since ancient times has been preserving its unique place and role in the geo-political and economic arena of the country. For many centuries, Lalitpur was a sovereign city-state. In 1768 AD, King Prithivi Narayan Shah assimilated it into the Kingdom of Nepal.
Lalitpur is extremely rich in its arts and architecture and boasts on the largest community of artisans, especially metal and wood workers. In fact, the literary meaning of Lalitpur means the city of fine arts. It nurtures a large number of sacred buildings, temples, pagodas, Stupas and Shikharas, monasteries, math and Chaitya.
The city is renowned the world over for its art and craftsmanship and has produced number of famous artists and master craftsmen, the most famous being Arniko, who spread the legacy of this city far and wide.
In other words, Lalitpur may be termed the artistic capital of the country. In recognition, UNESCO has enlisted the conglomerate of the buildings in Patan Durbar Square as a World Heritage Site, one of the seven Heritage sites in the Kathmandu valley.
Located adjacent to the capital city of Kathmandu, LSMC has today become an integral part of the valley capital region, called Greater Kathmandu, consisting of two major cities Kathmandu, and Lalitpur.
According to tradition, Patan is the oldest city in the Kathmandu Valley. This claim has not been verified but the association of the four main Stupas with Ashok seems plausible. In fact, it seems not unlikely that having had Stupas built in widely separate places in India, and certainly having visited the birthplace of Buddha in Lumbini, legend has it that Ashok could also have erected these. The simple form of the mounds is also consistent with an early date of origin, though it remains to be seen whether the present earth covering masks an earlier brick structure.
The history of the Valley, in a proper sense, begins only with the Lichhavi and the inscriptions of Manadeva in the 5th century. The palace of this ruler, the Managriha or House of Mana , referred to in the inscriptions , may, perhaps, be identified with the Mansiggal which was later used by the Malla kings and which may have given its name to the area now called Mangal Bazaar adjoining Darbar Square. Two other palaces mentioned in the inscriptions cannot be identified although the name of one –Kailasakuta-seems to indicate a building with a high tower, supporting the view that even at that early date there were timber structures in the peculiar Nepalese style.
In any case, Patan has from very early times been a principal town, if not the capital city. It was known as Lalita Patana-the beautiful Patan-or Lalitpur. Some idea of its antiquity and of the growth of its religious institutions can be gained from inscriptions. J.C Regmi lists more than a dozen from Buddhist Vaishnavaite, and Shaivaite foundations in Patan of the period 464 –783 A.D. and many more of the period 987-1475.
Apart from the Stupas, it is not easy to determine which one is the oldest structure. The inscriptions of some of them point back to the 14th century or earlier, but even when organizations are old, the buildings, which house them, may have been reconstructed. Certainly the great period dates from the time of the Mallas, particularly the 16th -18th centuries when almost all of the most celebrated palaces and temples in the city were erected as well as many of the older religious buildings reconstructed or refurbished.
Perhaps because of its Ashokans tradition, Patan has remained a great center of Newari Buddhism, as shown by the large number of surviving Bahals, and also for Buddhist arts and crafts. The Lichhavi rulers seem to have been followers of Vishnu or Shiva. Their attitude to Buddhism is not clear, but in Patan, it seems to have held a special place. Neither has it been clear what form the Vihars took in early times nor what relations they had with the monastic communities of early or Himalayan Buddhism. The old courtyard plans remain, even when contained in an urban setting (itself unusual in early Buddhism), but the Sangha which gave rise to the form has long since departed. The modern Bahal is simply a combination of shrine and family residence, the modern Sangha an association of priests and laity descended from and retaining an attachment to its ancestor.
Lalitpur is believed to have been founded in the 3rd century B.C. by the Kirat dynasty and later expanded during Lichhavis period. It possesses a history of further expansion by the Mallas during the medieval period.
There are many legends after its name. The most popular one is the legend of the God Rato Machhindranath, who was brought to the valley from Kamaru Kamachhya, located in Assam, India, by a team of three people representing three kingdoms of the valley. One of them is called Lalit, a farmer who carried God Rato Machhindranath to the valley all the way from Assam, India. The purpose of bringing the God Rato Machhindranath to the valley was to overcome the worst drought in the valley. There was strong belief that the God Rato Machhindranath would make rain in the valley. It was Lalit's effort that the God Rato Machhindranath was settled in Lalitpur. Many believe that the name of the town is kept after his nameLalit and Pur means township in Nepal.
Lalitpur is said to have been founded by King Veer Deva in 299 A. D. but, there is unanimity among scholars that Patan was a well established and developed town since ancient times. Several historical records including many other legends also indicate that Patan is the oldest of three main cities of Kathmandu Valley. According to a very old Kirat chronicle edited by a noted research scholar Daniel Right, Patan was founded by Kirat rulers long before the Lichhavi rulers came into the political scene in Kathmandu Valley. According to Mr. Subba the earliest known capital of Kirat rulers was Thankot. Kathmandu, the present capital was most possibly removed from Thankot to Patan after the Kirati King Yalamber came into power sometimes around second century A. D. It is interesting to note that one of the most used and typical Newar name of Patan is Yala. It is said that King Yalamber named this city after himself and ever since this ancient city was known as Yala.