Only a few among the thousands of ancient monuments in Nepal are fortunate enough to sleep under the army’s protection. The pagoda of Taleju Bhawani, built by King Mahendra Malla in 1564 AD, in the historic royal palace complex of Kathmandu is one among them. The Taleju temple is one of the excellent examples of the Gurkhas’ accountability to their duty.
The security is so tight that even the local citizens are allowed to enter the temple premises only once a year during Dasain.
Even foreign heritage experts and tourists are all barred from enjoying the gift of the eminent monarch. I was lucky enough to grab the opportunity and was delighted to see the monument, enlisted in the World Heritage List, for its commendable and exemplary preservation.
A huge tree was flourishing at the base of the temple — giving a balanced potpourri of natural and cultural heritage site scenario. Adorned with the maker’s statue, the pillars and tiles of the pagoda are covered with lush and healthy grass. The stone steps have caved in and are changing their position and the terracotta doors are turning into semi-abstract modern sculptures. Some bells could produce sound , while others don’t have handles — you need a stone to gong them. The brick pedestals are almost in ruin, yet strong enough to carry the piles of the stale junk, piled up over several years.
The heavily carved wooden doors might have been the best among the pagodas of Kathmandu. Now, the doors display cracks, moss, and insect moles. The struts with images of goddesses (some have got their hands amputated) are entangled with cobwebs and more.
On top of this, the idols in the torana of the highest temple of the capital are missing! I’ll bet, no thief can reach the restricted area without the army’s permission and they can never let a thief climb the elevated temple and steal the idols of archaeological importance. Missing idols no longer make phenomenal news, here. And in the Taleju temple too, the torana idols are not the only stolen images. Asking for proof? Sorry, photography is not allowed in the royal courtyard.
At least one or two among the sixteen surrounding small temples are in good conditions — a breath of satisfaction, indeed.
However, all the shelters made for the gun-carrying army guards next to the temples are safe.
Want to read some ancient inscriptions? Some are in bad shape, some painted with layers of fungi and lying in some odd places. They are not important because the guards can’t read them.
Don’t worry. The temple has been reconstructed and conservationists have even added new touches to its beauty. The carved doors are pierced, nailed down and wired so that electric lamps can illuminate the temple. Some portions of the steps and walls have been cemented and some additional cemented pillars have stood up for electric lights. Summing up the scene, we see only those parts of the courtyard are healthy which have been reconstructed in modern ways for the army. If so, why should we be hypocritical? Can’t we destroy all the monument and convert the whole courtyard into a barrack?
Let me read the stone pillar, now: Those who are responsible for deterioration would face the sins of killing a cow, a teacher, or a Brahmin and so and so... So what? The question goes on.
[Kathmandu Monday October 23, 2000 Kartik 07, 2057.]