Patan’s richly decorated Royal Palace was largely constructed during the second half of the seventeenth century, but substantially rebuilt after both the Gorkhali invasion of 1769 and the 1934 earthquake. The palace – whose ongoing renovation, due to be completed in 2013, should open up new parts of the complex – consists of three main wings, each enclosing a central courtyard and reached by a separate entrance.
The Royal Palace’s northernmost wing, Mani Keshab Narayan Chowk, once served as the palace of another noted seventeenth-century king, Yoganarendra Malla. It too suffered in the 1934 earthquake and at the time was only clumsily rebuilt. With assistance from the Austrian government, however, it has been restored to house the splendid Patan Museum.
The museum displays a well-curated permanent collection of important bronzes, stone sculptures and woodcarvings, a gilded Malla throne and archival photographs. The exhibits are arranged thematically to lead you through Hindu, Buddhist and tantric iconography, temple construction, ritual objects and metallurgical processes, all supported by excellent explanatory text. Moreover, the building itself, with its newly stuccoed walls and artful lighting, suggests the royal palace Yoganarendra Malla might have built had he reigned at the beginning of the twenty-first century. From the interior balconies you can look out onto the courtyard below and its central Lakshmi shrine, and watch the kinkinimali, leaf-shaped tin cut-outs hanging from the eaves, fluttering in the breeze. A stunning gold window above the exterior main entrance depicts Vishnu and a heavenly host.
There’s a sedate café, run by the Summit Hotel, in the courtyard behind the museum (you don’t need an entry ticket to eat here), and a gift shop. The courtyard also hosts regular concerts.