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The Bhandarkhal Pokhari Of Patan Durbar

godesssShaphalya Amatya

The ancient Pokhari or pond of Bhandarkhal garden inside the Patan palace was constructed by  King Siddhinarsimha Malla. Kanu Sharma, the court poet of his son and successor King Sri Niwas Malla, has briefly mentioned about this pond in his descriptive account of Lalitpur (Patan) known as “Kritipataka”.
In this ancient text, he has mentioned it as a pond inside the Pukhula Bagaicha or pond garden. He says varieties of colourful flowers are blooming around its border. The water is clean. Fishes and tortoises are playing. In one side there is a beautiful stone water spout. In the pond different types of aquatic birds and animals are playing as in the lake of Kailash Mansarobar etc.
The historicity and details about this historical pond have been mentioned in three inscriptions dated NS 767 (BS1704), NS776 (BS1713) and NS796 (BS1732). All these inscriptions were erected by King Siddhinarasimha Malla himself. The first inscription dated BS 1704, which is kept inside a small chamber of the pavilion, has clearly stated that King Siddhinarasimha Malla built this pond, stone spout and flower garden to please his family deity (Ista Devata) and in the inscription dated NS767 (BS1704) he has mentioned that he presented them to Ista Devata.
In another inscription dated BS1713 it is mentioned that the king has established a guthi ( trust) for the upkeep and maintenance of the stone water spout, which stands on the eastern side of the pond.  The third inscription is more important because it has mentioned rules and regulations about how to use and who are authorised to use this pond and also how to keep it clean etc. These two  inscriptions are kept on the eastern wall of the pond next to the stone water spout. On this wall there is a very beautiful stone image of Goddess Ganga. These two above mentioned inscriptions of King Siddhinarashima Malla are kept here on the right and left sides of this image.
The second inscription also reads that the pond along with the spout was constructed to fetch clean and unpolluted water for worshipping on the day of Mahanavami and to wash and clean khadgas or weapons. Nobody was allowed to take bath in this pond and spout. No one could dry their paddy near the pond area. No one could throw wastes and old and torn clothes and other pollutants. No one except the king could come here by wearing shoes. No one could take shelter inside the chamber, which is in the north side of the pond.
The ancient pencil drawings by Rajman Singh in 1844, which is in the Hodgson collection of the Royal Asiatic Society and the drawing published in the book by Henry Ambrose Oldfield in 1853 have presented its old and original look.  This tank is larger in comparison to other tanks in the Bhandarkhal gardens of other two ancient palaces of the valley. Its northern side and eastern side are architecturally and artistically very rich and these two sides are very important part of this tank.  In the eastern side there is a stone water spout. It is surrounded by stone images of different deities such as four handed Ganga, Varuna, and Bhagirath and so on. The image of Ganga is beautiful and richly carved. It is kept inside a richly decorated stone niche. The niche has beautiful tympanum with crocodiles, chepu or a legendary animal eating snakes and it is standing on the pillars with Kalasas as its base. There are two statues of Bhagirath in pranaya mudra on two sides of the spout and a statue of Varuna just beneath the stone spout. In the eastern side there are some other sculptures of attraction such as two giant human figures holding sword and shield. They are here as the guards of the pond.  The guards are 102 cm tall. On the topmost wall above the human figures there are two large stone lions, which mark the importance of this pond. They are also facing west. The lions are 110 cm in length.
This Bhandarkhal pond is one of the largest man made pond inside the valley. It measuries about 20X20 meter square. In the middle of the pond there stands a lotus made of copper. Recently, it was restored by Kathmandu Valley Preservation Trust. After restoration, this pond is looking more beautiful and whosoever visits the Patan Durbar Square they should never miss to see this pond.
This pond has two levels of platforms. The pavilion in the north side is covered by a jigiti roof on its four sides.  It is an open space or veranda, from where one can see in all directions. This stone pavilion is richly decorated with carvings. It seems that the small chambers in this pavilion were used by the ladies of the royal household probably for taking rest and changing dress after taking bath in the water spout or swimming in the pond. Below it there are stone carvings all around.
There is a small room, which was most probably used as the dressing room by the ladies of royal household. On the both sides of the dressing room there are stone sculptures of various deities.   Among them there are two standing goddesses. One of them is four handed Goddess Saraswati playing Bina or a musical instrument. Another is most probably four handed Goddess Laxmi. Below this dressing room there is another small open chamber where one can go by using stone stairs built on both sides. This small chamber has a beautiful stone fencing designed as lattice windows. On the entrance of the dressing room there are some small carved lion figures on both sides. The tympanum above the dressing room is very beautiful and artistic. In the centre of the tympanum there is a figure of Vishnu riding on Garuda.
The most interesting part of this pavilion is the stone carvings. These carvings have three parts. The first  are the carvings of religious nature. In this category there are cows and some scenes of Krishnalila or romance of Lord Krishna with her Gopinis or girl friends. The second is carvings of different animals such as elephants, camels, lions, dogs, deer, etc. The third part is related to the royal household. In this stone panel we can see a lady wearing a tiara is feeding a dog. It seems that she must be the queen. Then there are some love scenes also.
The most important part of the panel is the four ladies playing some musical instruments and another one is dancing and the king is watching them sitting on a dais.  In all these panels the male folks wear hat like caps on their heads. In some scenes the women are also shown wearing such hats.
The women have frock as their lower dress.  King Siddhinarasimha Malla might have made it a very artistic and beautiful panels not less than that of Mohan chowk, Hanumandhokha but the time factor, wear and tear and negligence have spoiled them to such an extent that now they look not so beautiful as before but thanks to the efforts of some Austrians conservation students who came from the University of Applied Arts, Vienna some time back, and tried to revive them in their original shape.
This pond was used by the Malla kings as the swimming pool as well as for boating during hot summer. They had also planted lotuses of different colours and bred colourful fishes in this pond. For many decades it was left uncared. Inside the inner city of Patan the Bhandarkhal Garden is the only large open space where people can promenade and relax during leisure hours. It is not only this pond but the whole garden complex should be made as a proper spot for relaxation, where retired old people and young children could breath of fresh air.

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