Guardians of Bhaktapur’s Dattatreya Temple

BHAKTAPUR, Nepal — Jaimal and Patta, the giant, eternal guardians of Nyatapola Temple, pull double duty by also keeping watch at the entrance to the three-story Dattatreya Temple.

It took some effort to track down the name of the structure, although it helped to know the identity of both the stone sentries (and Malla wrestlers) and that the winged creature perched on a pillar in front of the temple was Garuda. Curiously, the temple wasn’t listed in the otherwise excellent Google Maps layout of the area around Bhaktapur Durbar Square, but a reverse-image search landed me at the photography travel blog, The Longest Way Home.

The statues were familiar to me — Rao Jaimal of Rathore, ruler of Badnor, and Patta of Kelwa, 16-year-old defenders of the Chittor fort in Akbar’s 1567 siege, and martyred the following year. (That’s bravery!)

Dattatreya Temple was originally built in 1427, supposedly using the timber from a single tree, Lonely Planet writes. The mismatched front porch, with Jaimal and Patta, was added later.

Undamaged by the 2015 earthquake, the temple is dedicated to Dattatreya, a curious hybrid deity, blending elements of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Judging from the Garuda statue and the conch and chakra disc mounted on pillars supported by stone turtles in front of the temple, Vishnu seems to have come out on top.

Erotic scenes are depicted on the temple’s terra cotta base. In one, Loney Planet notes, a “bored-looking woman multitasks by washing her hair while being pleasured by her husband.” And a sign posted at the entrance reads, “Leather shoes or other leather goods are not allowed inside the temple please. Thank you.”


There is also a Dattatreya Temple in Bangalore, India.

Dattatreya Temple, guarded by Jaimal and Patta, with a perched Garuda watching. At top, a woman walks past the statues. (Photos by Bruno J. Navarro)
A sign at the entrance to Dattatreya Temple reads, ‘Leather shoes or other leather goods are not allowed inside the temple please. Thank you.’

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