The Krishna Mandir is a dream shrine of Siddhi Narsingh Malla, that was constructed right in front of his Palace, in Shikhara Style
The Krishna Mandir, which is located on the western side of Patan Durbar Square, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Most of the buildings reflect the history and evolution of Nepal’s culture over the years, mainly the temples and shrines in Patan Durbar Square. One of the main Hindu temples present here is the Krishna Mandir. Non-Nepalese must pay an entry fee to enter Patan Durbar Square. The price differs for citizens of SAARC countries and other nationalities.
The Krishna Mandir is constructed in the Shikhara style of Hindu temple architecture, which is typical of north India and Bengal and a design technique found in monuments as far afield as Bagan, Myanmar. The temple was built by King Siddhi Narsingh Malla (r.1620-61). The structure that spirals up from the temple’s roof directly over the sanctum sanctorum is one of this style of architecture’s highlights. It emulates the characteristics of Granthakuta, an archaic, regional Nepali fashion. The Krishna Mandir was completed in 1637.
This magnificent architectural creation, which was built from a single carved dark stone which consists of several significant sculptures and carvings on its outside walls as well as on the interior walls. It was basically a stone carved rather than on the more typical brick and timber, shows the evident influence of Indian temple designs and is the first stone temple of its kind in Nepal.
According to the legend, the construction of Krishna Mandir was basically inspired by a dream. King Siddhi Narsingh Mallla had a dream one night that the gods Krishna and Radha were in front of the royal palace, which used to be the Patan Durbar back then. On the same site, the king commanded the construction of a temple to give life to his dream and pay his respect. A decade later, the king prayed to the god Krishna to help him defeat his foes in a fight with a nearby kingdom, and he won. The king constructed a replica of the temple inside the Sundari Chowk courtyard as a token of his gratitude.
On the elaborate brass butter lamps installed in Nepalese households, the distinctive temple is frequently shown. There are three floors beneath its 21 golden pinnacles. Krishna, Shiva (in the shape of a linga), and Lokeshwor are all worshipped on the first floor, with the exception of chhatri pavilions that surround the inner ambulatories. From the courtyard, you can witness the story of Mahabharata depicted in carvings on the first floor beam carving.
The Ramayana is carved in stone higher up to the second-floor beam. A statue of Garuda, the man-bird that served as Krishna’s devoted vahana, is placed in the front of the shrine. The second and third floors have eight ornate chattri each at the corners and cardinal directions, while the fourth level has four that are immediately incorporated into each face of the sikhara. A door is situated in the middle of each façade, and the inner walls of the wrap-around gallery on the ground level are divided into five bays on each side. Scenes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata are retold in Newari script in the remaining bays.
It is believed that Krishna is an earthly manifestation of lord Vishnu. Vishnu and steed, Garuda are shown in many locations throughout the temple. The base of the Shikhara is surrounded by four life-size statues of Vishnu riding Garuda, and the cornices of the ground floor feature bas-reliefs depicting the same theme. The exterior face of the ground-level gallery also has images of the ten forms of Vishnu. In front of the temple is a Garuda statue that stands alone on a pole. Siddhi Narasingh Malla built it roughly ten years after the temple was constructed.
The Krishna Mandir is still in use and is run by local Brahmins, although non-Hindus are not permitted entry but can often hear the religious music playing upstairs (as was the case with the nearby Bhimsen temple, currently awaiting restoration as it had been completely destroyed in the 2015 earthquake).
During the Nepali month of Bhadra (August to September), a significant celebration called Krishna Janmashtami, is celebrated to commemorate Krishna’s birth. To celebrate the birthday of Lord Krishna, devotees flock to Krishna Mandir from all over Nepal. Krishna Mandir is the place where all the celebrations are done by a large number of devotees who gather at night to pay homage beyond midnight. Even during the day, many devotees visit the temple to pray and make offerings. Small oil lamps (diya) are lit as a sign of celebration and devotion to the god, and the air is filled with prayers and incantations.
Compiled By: Nikita Gautam
Photos By: Ayush Maharjan