The history of Lalitpur goes back to the Kirats who ruled there even before the first century. The remnants of Kirat palaces signal that.One can find many statues spread in various places of Lalitpur which carry a history well before the advent of Christian era. Lalitpur is still a home for skilled artists and artisans who can gold-coat the roofs of temples or who can build pagoda-styled temples. There are artists who still carry the profession of building temples in Shikhar style. In fact, the very name “Lalitpur” is derived from the “lalit” or fine arts. Lalitpur means the city of skilled fine artists.
Interestingly, people who were expert in different fields of arts were given different titles in the past, and that tradition is somehow carried on until today. For instance, those skilled in woodcraft used to be called Shilpakars in the past, and the Shilpakars still carry their profession. The same applies for Tamrakars, or the artists who make utensils out of copper. Those who makes items from gold and silver were called Bandas and they continue the tradition still today.
Many Nepalis and foreign authors have written books and articles on diversity of arts in Lalitpur. This has contributed in heightening the city’s fame.
The Durbar Square of Lalitpur and various viharas situated there demonstrate how specially placed Lalipur is in terms of heritage. These and other heritages attract thousands of domestic and international tourists every year. We can find artists working in various courtyard or premise as we walk along. Many artists from Lalitpur have also gone to other countries and spread their arts. In the 13th century, one artist named Aniko led a team of artists to Tibet and China. His works there are still valued with respect. Even at present, we can find different forms of arts being used in countries such as China, India, Bhutan, Japan and the United States, and such artworks have added an elegance to those places. The Nepal Pavilions created by the artists of Lalitpur and stalled in Australia and China help us reminisce Nepal’s rich heritage.
There are about 689 industries in Lalitpur, most of which are related to handicrafts. Besides the practice of transferring of traditional arts intergenerationally, there are institutions under CTEVT of Government of Nepal which provide 6 month- or 1 year long trainings to the youths on various traditional skills. Establishment of various colleges and private educational institutions which provide skill trainings on arts have clearly helped in fostering the growth of traditional arts in the city. Likewise, there is a College of Engineering in Lalitpur, affiliated to Tribhuvan University is one of the famous institutions providing engineering education in the country.
Nowhere than in Lalitpur can we find people and institutions working on handicraft, and those under Federation of Handicraft Associations of Nepal (FHAN). Established in 1972, FHAN has significantly contributed in the preservation of traditional arts and skills, and in their production and preservation. Most inhabitants of Lalitpur are involved either in agriculture or handicraft.
The production of felt, pashmina, carpet and related products have added the artistic asset of Lalitpur. Industries of felt, pashmina and carpet, which are the biggest exports from Nepal, are located in Lalitpur Metropolitan City.
Various cooperatives and saving institutes established by the people of Lalitpur partly for the sake of preservation of traditional arts and kills have also contributed in the cause of promoting arts and handicrafts in the city.
The artists of Lalitpur have immensely contributed to renovate temples, stupas and various other monuments destroyed by the 2015 earthquake. The role of these artists in preserving ancient monuments and preparing architectural materials deserves praise.
Art and architecture in Lalitpur:
Lalitpur stands much ahead than other cities Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Kirtipur in terms of arts and architecture. Some of the arts prominently found here are:
Stone art/stone craft
Wood art/wood craft
Nepali paper works
Some of the arts of Lalitpur are related to the culture and tradition of this place. Lalitpur is famous for ornaments or jewelries worn by various caste and ethnic groups of Nepal. There is long-standing practice of preparing such ornaments here and then taking to other places of the country. Goods made here have local, regional and international markets. In particular, ornaments made up of gold, silver, precious stones and various other materials are exported internationally. In general, heavy and big products are locally purchased, while less heavy pieces of artwork have international markets. Such works used to be done mostly by the local artists in the past. But at the present, artists have come from here from other places as well, and their contribution is equally important and laudable. The traditionally handed skills have a major contribution in the economic prosperity of Lalitpur district.