Monday, November 11, 2002

Timely construction of overhead bridges always a dream

By Razen Manandhar

KATHMANDU, Nov 10 [2002]: What could be a better example of the pace of the capital’s development than an overhead bridge that was supposed to have been built in two months but has not been completed after a whole year? Considering that five other overhead bridges, which were to be constructed in the meantime, are nowhere in sight, the whole project appears doomed.

Following a grand religious launching in November 22 last year, the constructing company, Innovative Concept Nepal (ICN), had promised that the three-million-rupee-bridge close to the Bhadrakali temple, would be completed in two months. The bridge still requires the final touches before being opened for public use.

Two years ago ICN won the lucrative contract for building six overhead bridges with the stipulation that their revenue would be from leasing commercial space and shutters. It was required to pay Rs 120,000 annually to KMC, apart from bearing the cost of their construction.

A flower-seller at the nearby Bhadrakali temple said that the uncompleted construction has become an eyesore for the public and the government offices around it. "The construction works disturbed the flow of traffic for the whole year as workers stored construction materials along the road due to lack of open space around the site. It caused quite a few traffic accidents beneath the bridge during construction," said he.

Pedestrians remain confused at not being allowed to use an almost complete bridge especially when the vehicle drivers do not control their speed there, seeing the bridge across the road.

"I see the bridge there but it is yet to be used. I don’t know whether I should climb on the stairs or cross the road, defying the speeding vehicles," said Kul Man Maharjan, an elderly pedestrian. He said that the KMC talks too much but works at a snail’s pace.

Though five other bridges were to be built during the interim period, at Ratnapark, Tripureshwor, Chabahil, Balaju and City Bus park in two phases, there are no signs of any construction at any of these sites. However, Director General of ICN, Paras Mani Baral said that the overhead bridge at Bhadrakali would be open to the public shortly.

"I believe we will be able to open the bridge in a week. There will be an inaugural function and we are hopeful that we will be able to lay foundation stones for the other bridges on that date," he said. Baral admitted that the construction of the bridge was "quite slow" blaming lack of working space at the site for delay.

Officials at the KMC maintain that they repeatedly urged and even warned the private company to finish the construction, but they could see no progress. "We really had a bad time with the ICN people. We repeatedly requested them to speed up the work but the result was never satisfactory," said Jyoti Bhushan Pradhan, former Chief of Public Works Department of KMC.

The agreement between the KMC and the ICN was made as early as in November 2000. The ICN also agreed to increase the "royalty" to KMC by five percent per year.
[Kathmandu, Monday November 11, 2002 Kartik 25, 2059.]

Sunday, October 20, 2002

This Kumari needs not follow strict rules

By Razen Manandhar

BHAKTAPUR, Oct 19:Rukmani Devi Shakya, in her early 40s, gives the love and honour to her five-year old daughter Sajani Shakya that must be much more than any mother in the whole world can give.

For her as well as the most people of Bhaktapur, the little girl is a Living Goddess, a Kumari. This has been a tradition in Bhaktapur since the 14th century along with similar traditions in the other ancient Newar cities of Kathmandu and Lalitpur.

The Goddess is about to finish the fifteen-day-long special puja she receives during the festival of Dashain. She resides at her building at Prasannashil Mahavihar for the fifteen days of the Dashain and observes all ceremonial rites from here. For the rest of the year, she is free to go to her parents.

Even her mother calls her Kumari Maju, using the honourable title meaning ‘Mother Kumari’. She communicates with her daughter in the most respectful and honorific form of the language and waits patiently to fulfil any task the Kumari desires.

Mother Shakya, the hereditary caretaker, Nakin of Ekanta Kumari of Bhaktapur, said that she has been honoured with the opportunity to serve the Goddess, especially as her own daughter was chosen to be the present Living Goddess since the last three years.

"I feel special, a pride to see my daughter on the holy throne. I have taken care of two other Kumaris previously and my personal experience has been that the family from where the Kumari is chosen enjoys prosperity and success in their lives," said she. She or any other female member from her family has to take the Kumari to a special daily worship.

According to Narendra Prasad Joshi, the chief priest of Taleju temple of Bhaktapur, the priests take the Goddess to the Mahavihar on Sunday or Thursday, before the first day of the Dashain, to prepare her for the ceremonial Dashain puja. Everyday she is brought to a courtyard of Chaturbramha Mahabihar, beside the Royal Palace, and offered puja in ceremonial settings.

"On the ninth day, she is taken to the temple of Taleju Bhawani inside the royal palace where she is worshipped with much fanfare, in a one hour ceremony," he said.

After the annual puja, the Kumari is taken to a special seat at the temple of Bramhayani, where the pilgrims offer puja to the child goddess. For the rest of four days, she remains at her residence, giving tika to pilgrims.

However, this Kumari is not the only one worshipped in this cultural city. There are altogether 15 such Living Goddesses in Bhaktapur alone.

"There are nine Gana Kumaris, who represent the tantric structure of the ancient city of Bhatkapur; and three more, Bhairav, Ganesh and Kumar," said historian Dr Purushotam Lochan Shrestha.

The eleven Kumaris are chosen from different parts of the city. They first receive worships in the Dashain festival. Then come three others - from Wane Laykoo, Chasukhel and Sakotha Bahaa. The Ekanta Kumari or the prime Kumari of Bhaktapur makes the final entry in the holy courtyard.

Unlike the Royal Kumari of Hanumandhoka in Kathmandu, the Ekanta Kumari of Bhaktapur need not follow the strict rules during her tenure as the Living Goddess. She enjoys most of her days in her parent’s house and goes to a private school everyday. Regardless of minor physical injuries, which is strongly restricted in Kathmandu, they change the Goddess when she reaches 11 years.

The priest, Joshi said that there might have been similar restrictions but, as the government showed no interest to provide facilities to this aspect of Bhaktapur’s heritage, the locals also became indifferent to the strictures.

"So much so, the Guthi Sansthan has already sold the land in the name of Kumari and now, instead of rice grains, it gives the interest of the cash deposited at a bank," he added.

The Kumari of Bhaktapur receives Rs 450 per month which after retirement becomes a hundred rupees monthly from the government.
[Kathmandu, Sunday October 20, 2002 Kartik 03, 2059. ]

A multi-dimensional personality: Lain Singh Bangdel

By Razen Manandhar
Rarely does God give both a brush and a pen to one person. But here, he also gave zeal and mission to one man. He is none other than Lain Singh Bangdel who passed away last week on the very auspicious day of Vijaya Dashami.

He was born in Darjeeling, India in 1924 in a lower-middle class family. After spending his school days at Government High School of Darjeeling, a District Board Scholarship took him to Government College of Arts and Crafts and from where he was graduated in 1945. But instead of returning home, he stayed in Kolkota and tried his luck there. He worked for several advertising agencies, was even sacked for being "incompetent". More than art teachers, he was trained by struggles and failures that also encouraged him to set a goal of his own.

His firm ambition to become an artist inspired him to set off on a one-month-long voyage to London without a single companion and then he moved to France, his ultimate destination in 1952. Since he had no funding, a mountain of difficulties stood on his way. He lived in the outskirts, in chilly rooms and he had to walk around the city to sell his early paintings in the streets. For almost two decades, he lived truly as a struggling "artist" in Paris and London, where he learned much more than the techniques of making strokes on empty canvasses.

The dice was cast in 1961, when artist Bangdel had an opportunity to be introduced to His Late Majesty King Mahendra. The Panchayat system was quite new, and King Mahendra was in search of personalities, who could show Modern Nepal to the world from different angles. The four-year old Royal Nepal Academy needed an artist to showcase Nepal’s art. Though Nepal had been a treasure of art and architecture for millennia, and contemporary art had entered Nepal much earlier than Bangdel was born, he was granted membership of the Academy for being an artist by the King. Luck had it that his working place became Nepal, the country his ancestors had left generations ago.

In the Panchayat period, being a king-nominated member of the Academy was advantageous. His well-maintained relation with the royal family as well as his expertise made him Vice Chancellor in 1974 and again the first non-royal chancellor in 1979, and worked as the head of the Academy till 1989. He was fortunate to remain in the state-backed organisation of the scholars during almost whole of the Panchayat period. He capitalised his power and expertise to enhance his career. This period was also the most productive days of his life - a series of painting exhibitions and book publications, followed by dozens of awards. Most of his books were published from the Academy, whereas some were came out from abroad.

Jadadish Samsher Rana and Genendra Bahadur Amatya had come up with abstract works here when Bangdel exhibited his semi-abstract paintings at Saraswati Sadan, but his were more polished and had a European outlook. Making a position in Nepal’s art arena, where most of the artists were submissive, shy and unexposed to the western world, was not difficult for him. And he became a spokesperson of the art activities of Nepal for at least three decades.

Bringing Nepal Association of Fine Arts under the Academy’s umbrella (it is still a controversial issue amongst some artists) and establishment of Nepal Art Council were Bangdel’s another contributions. The Council was opened as a gallery to exhibit the replicas of Western art, but it was later turned into a kind of art institution, with a building of its own and regular government funding.

Bangdel’s ability to understand the need of the time distinguished him from other artists. So the follower of monarchy did not mind making portraits of BP Koirala and Ganeshman Singh after the 1990’s Popular Movement. Beside his God gifted talent, he had power, blessing from the royals and talent of expression to retain the position he had in the city of art. Nevertheless, the "deified" artist was reluctant to teach art in public. Instead of teaching, he formed a group of half a dozen confident young artists who followed his ism of painting. A group of artists, better known as New Artists’ Circle, are following his path. Most of them were awarded in an art competition organised by the Nepal Art Council some three years ago.

Bangdel was born to be an artist but his contribution to Nepali literature is not less remarkable. He also made his room there as a humanitarian novelist, a freak travelogue writer and an incisive biographer. He had published ‘Bishwa Katha Sangraha’ before he left for London. His stay in London, France and Spain helped him in his literary pursuit. Students of literature today remember him for his books, mainly ‘Spain ko Samjhana’, ‘Muluk Bahira’, ‘Maitighar’, ‘Langadako Sathi’, ‘Bishwa Ka Chha Mahan Kalakar’ and ‘Rembrandt’.

Similarly, Bangdel had a deep knowledge of Nepal’s stone sculpture. He might never have imagined that the small Kathmandu Valley is rich in ancient sculptures, some dating as early as the first century BC. He, with his experience and tireless research, sought similarity between the early sculptures of the valley and the Kushan-period sculpture of Northern India. His diligent study and interpretation paved a new way for studying Nepal’s cultural heritage. His research produced Prachin Nepali Murtikalako Itihas (1982), Ancient Sculptures of Nepal (1982, India) Stolen Images of Nepal (1989) and Inventory of Stone Sulptures of the Kathmandu Valley (1995) are some of his books. Among others, his "Stolen Images of Nepal" is still a matchless gem for Nepali authors as it contains pictures of hundreds of idols that have been stolen, as well as detached pedestals. In the course of research, he had taken thousands of pictures of stone sculptures from courtyards and shrines of the valley. The treasure of photographs, yet to come out, is sure to make a history in the future.

Despite all this, he was noted for his isolation from the Nepali artists’ circle. He was accused of misusing his power, being undemocratic to juniors and favouring only his beloved ones. Some even raise questions over the pictures of the stolen idols. Nonetheless, his contributions to Nepali art, heritage and literature will be remembered forever, and it will take time to fill the vacuum left by Bangdel’s demise.
[Kathmandu, Sunday October 20, 2002 Kartik 03, 2059.]

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

Election in a glass-case


Though the govern ment failed to bring back the stolen (or exported) idol of Dipankar Buddha from Austria, the authorities have lately found a curio item unclaimed, at the backyard of Shahid Manch.

The maker of the abstract sculpture, entitled "Election" is anonymous but he said to have been very popular among the public in past 11 years. The art critics have not yet analysed whether the poor people really love it or the exhibitors wanted to impose this show on the people’s back. The advertisers have made such an impression in the world that it was the people’s wish and not the organisers’ vested interest that guide this poor country to organise the extravagant show in every three or four years.

To be very frank, there was nothing to gain by watching this abstract sculpture for the public. But still, a handful of exhibitors, who earn money by showing of the sculpture often lure the visitors by explaining the beauty of artworks, curves, texture and composition. Their explanation of the curio sculpture reminds me of the political leaders who pretend to watch modern art and to understand it too at such exhibitions.

What could compel them to exhibit the mystic sculpture now and then if not the profit they gain? Though it was constitutional to open the display once in five years at Bahadur Bhawan, they have the practice of opening it in every other year.

A new exhibition of the same mesmerising sculpture is going to be held soon. It was said that this exhibition will benefit all the parties and the public, they have not come up with preparations from their sides. This clearly shows that they are not expecting any such exhibition.

But as a matter of fact the people will gain nothing only by watching it. And this time, the exhibition will be held amid strict security. The authority said that the exhibition would be marked by tight security, so much so that the exhibition will be there but the security will take out the breath of each visitor before s/he could watch it for the last time.

The authority has not yet made proper arrangement for the show to take place, but they are cocksure that they could hold it. They have not even consulted our Hydrology department whether it will rain or snow on that day.

The entertainers are also still not sure whether they should go to villages and lure the uneducated, poor and dim-witted people to the stage. Even going there is not the end. They will have to explain about the specialty of the show this time.

You will never know, the organisers do not want to bring the sculpture to the show. They are afraid that the right to hold another show might be snatched away. To keep their right tight, they have already laid off 205 guards who were working from Singha Durbar. Similarly, they have also deputed their pets instead of 4,000 representatives in local posts around the museum.

But things are not gonna be better anyway. If going there will be more boring than watching Nepal Television, I think the audience will choose the worse than the worst. It’s their right too.

What is interesting about this show is that the louder the authority start confirming the possibility of the election, the more suspicious the possibility of holding this show becomes. They have been repeating the same thing so many times that even the audience have forgotten what exactly will take place.
[Kathmandu, Wednesday October 02, 2002 Ashwin 16, 2059.]

Thursday, September 12, 2002

US $ 41,000 for two seminars

By Razen Manandhar

KATHMANDU, Sept 11[2002]:Nepali authorities should be able to do better things with foreign aid. However, they prefer to blow-up well-intentioned foreign-funded money in typically Nepali ways. Organising seminars, a la Nepal, has come to the open as one more proof of the ingenuity of Nepalis in ‘blowing up’ money, if the following example is any proof.

Nepal is to receive as much as Rs 3,222,190 or 41,000 US dollars to organise two seminars, from the UNESCO central office for the coming year, as per requests made by Nepali authorities, sources revealed to The Kathmandu Post today.

A seminar titled "A Sub-regional Seminar of Government Regulation of Privatisation process in Education in South Asia", 183162 01NEP, will give the authorities 25,000 US dollars, while another seminar on "Women Empowerment, Partnership Nepal, Lalitpur", 183162 03NEP, is going to cost 16,000 US dollars.

"Rather than blowing up the foreign aid in vague seminars, Nepal could have utilised that money for a hundred other more fruitful issues," said a source refusing to be identified.

UNESCO Central Office has formally approved two requests made by Nepal National Commission for UNESCO under the Participation Programme for the biennium 2002-2003.

However, a letter written by Ahmed Sayyad, Assistant Director-General for External Relations and Co-operation of UNESCO, sent on September 2 to Khagendra Basnyat, the Secretary General of Nepal National Commission for UNESCO, states that no new financial contribution for the 2002-2003 biennium will be paid until the applicant has submitted all the financial reports, together with all supporting documents necessary, in respect of contributions for which payments were effected prior to 31 December 2000.

Moreover, the letter also warns the Nepali authorities that it has to keep all supporting documents (receipts, contracts, invoices, and so on) in respect of the use made, for this financial contribution for a period of five years after the end of the biennium concerned (2008) and to provide them to UNESCO when it or its Auditor so requests "failing which unsupported amounts will be reimbursed to UNESCO".

"The way we have been sending reports of the expenditure has not been satisfactory to UNESCO headquarters. This is quite a small amount we have so far taken from UNESCO but it is going to be quite tough for us, " the source said.
[Kathmandu, Thursday September 12, 2002 Bhadra 27, 2059.]

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

Poor seek identity among rich Kathmanduites

Razen Manandhar
No wonder, Kathmanduites are rich. They have (or used to have) fertile lands and skilled hands to fill their greenery. This treasure not only made their houses beautiful but they also constructed hundreds of temples and stupas in the small valley. But a new type of rich people here have over-shadowed any hereditary millionaire.

People in the capital have not yet recovered from the shock they got after hearing that a junior clerk in the Revenue Department can earn over 7 kg of gold. At least some have proved that earning money is not difficult in the capital. If you happen to sit in one of the "lucky seats" of the "lucky departments", you can set an example by saving as much in a year as others may not be able to earn in a decade.

People like the 22 national heroes have given Kathmandu an image comparable to Las Vegas in the past decade or two. They have proven that this is only a city of "rich" people (unfortunately, their image are now lost, luck has it, what can we do?).

Well, we would have to consult an astronomist before buying vegetables with the government salary, but the government officers are buying building after building that their grandfathers never saw even in their dreams. When they first enter the city, they didn’t have money to pay off room rent. But those who finally win the lottery of having a job at those targeted positions, change their lifestyle in a year or so. They come to the city of dreams and turn their dreams into a reality within a wink of time. Do they bring a magic rod from their village houses?

It was not only those 22-type of servants who made this city a paradise by extravagant demands. There are political leaders who lead the poor Nepali praja to an abyss and they themselves jump directly into Pulchowk quarters.

Everybody knows, today’s pot-bellied leaders, used to depend upon "New Road ko Bhauju’s" mercy for lunches and dinners. They used to share even razor blades and walk in the streets flapping their Hawai Chappal. I have not heard the God of Forest offered any of them a gold axe for their sincerity (I’m referring to a story I read in my schooldays). The leaders in power are paid scantily and others who just wait outside the Singha Durbar only receive "try again coupons". And, most of our politicians are professional politicians. That is, they have no other "profession" than doing politics. How can this uncertain profession make Bill Gates with Pajeros out of Chappal-chhap activists within a year they hold power?

By any means, those sincere servants and sincere leaders of the sincere government have established an unwritten principle that this Kathmandu is really rich. Regardless of the per capita income, their purchasing power rocketed overnight and the city-dwellers have become so affluent that their hands never compromised with Nepali products or Indian economic goods. They
started fancying the most expensive, luxurious items. The ordinary Kathmanduites are astonished — where does the money come from?

It would be all right if only the unnaturally rich people did not cast an impact on the general public. But they also have made a general concept that being a khardar is buying a car and being a subba is buying a bungalow in a VIP residential area. That means wives of sincere, hard-working and intelligent staff think their husbands foolish and eunuchs. Living in the same city is sharing a same standard but the two types of people can never compete.

The fact of the matter is that the people, living in this city, are not only those who rush to the newspaper stand every morning just to see whether the CIAA has published their names. Quite a lot of people living here need not be afraid of what they have earned — they eat what they sincerely earned and do not have to say that his son’s property is not his. Moreover, quite a few people here go to the bed without buying dinner.

Along with urbanisation, the number of urban poor is also increasing. According to a non-government organisation, working for the squatters and urban poor, Lumanti, there are over 15,000 people living in some 60 such settlements, mostly by the river banks, who live far below the poverty line. They are such a group of people, whom the local government neither discards or evicts as illegal, nor provides any facilities that other city-dwellers take for granted.

On one hand, in the city, which has to bear the burden of immigrants under this or that excuse every year — either unemployment, or Maoist terrorism, landslide or floods— this extra pressure of squatters cannot be tolerable. As a geographic unit and a bureaucratic circle to provide basic needs to the residents, the population of Kathmandu Valley must have a limit. On the other, most of the pathetic residents in temporary huts along the river need not be really homeless. Instances are that even those people who own concrete buildings capture the huts, just to squat upon public land and snatch bits of government facilities.

Nevertheless, one has to admit that there is no comparison between the 22 government staff and those people in slums. Most of them have or had their land in the villages and possibly living decent lives too, but it is those 22-type of servants have allured them here. Or they are the ones who could not include them in that herd of CIAA targets. Be it unfulfilled or shattered, they do have dreams. In the condition of not helping them increase their population, will anybody stand up and say that they also deserve at least some attention?
[Kathmandu, Wednesday September 11, 2002 Bhadra 26, 2059.]

Monday, September 09, 2002

Shrine of Risheshwor, will it come out of government’s clutches?

By Razen Manandhar
KATHMANDU, Sept 8:It is not only the public who encroach on open space in the capital. Even government bodies can break the law, by squatting on religious land. The famous Risheshwor temple, located at the heart of the capital has been a possession of Nepal Transportation Corporation (NTC) for the last three decades.

Moreover, NTC even tried to sell-off the 37 ropanis of public land to distribute salaries to its employees.

Every year the shrine is visited by thousands of Hindus on Rishi Panchami, the fifth day of bright fortnight of late August or early September (next Wednesday this year). Unfortunately, the shrine is in the compound of NTC, a terminated government body these days.

Balbhadra Bhatta, a priest of the shrine said, "This happens every year. Thousands of women visit here on the day of Rishi Panchami, but the shrine lies in the government body’s premises. It is shame, the government does not even leave ‘God’s land’ free."

The holy area lies in Teku and to visit the shrine people have to walk through the now abandoned NTC garden, down a corridor of an empty office building and then into the ground where the shrine is cramped between ugly compound walls.

Some security persons live behind the compound and the whole area is littered with junk, left by the government.

The 63 years old priest said that the shrine used to be surrounded by jungle until the city expanded to surround it. "Meantime, it dramatically went into the possession of a government body and it has become difficult for us to practice daily rituals too," he added.

"This holy area must be free from control of any government body or any other. Rather one must take steps to construct a temple over it. As you are seeing I cannot even sit properly when I come to worship the deity every morning," he told The Kathmandu Post.

Bhatta said that he has heard the government wants to sell-off the commercially valuable land. The government has no provision to pay for the three priests, who depend solely on what the pilgrims offer at the temple.

Since NTC is not functioning, the area is full of unmanaged vegetation. Just before the annual festival, a local authority cleans up the area and prepares the shrine. Then it goes back to ruin for the rest of the year.

Surprisingly, officials at the Department of Archaeology, the only government body to conserve monuments of religious and cultural significance, has not taken any step to free it, neither have they any plans to conserve it, taking its religious and cultural value into account.

An officer at DOA said, "I have not even heard about the shrine of Risheshwor. Where is it, anyway?" Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) has tried repeatedly to free this shrine from the clutches of the government body.

Niranjan Shrestha, past ward no. 8 chairman of KMC, said that KMC and NTC had a long battle over the Risheshwor issue some five years ago.

"It must be by 1998 that NTC finally agree to spare at least the shrine and provide a way to reach the area. But it demanded KMC should pay for all the construction it needs. This was beyond our possibility and the issue cooled down without bearing any fruit," he said.

Shrestha added that the area must be used for public purposes or at least should be easily accessible to the pilgrims throughout the year.

[Kathmandu, Monday September 09, 2002 Bhadra 24, 2059.]

Wednesday, July 17, 2002

Wanna buy a ready-made house?

Razen Manandhar

To dream of buying a house in the capital is perhaps "a duty" of all the citizens who come here at least for once on whatever purpose. In a country where decentralisation is only a minister’s pastime and all the decision-makers are stuck to it; it is not a crime either. When people realise that buying a house in the capital is not easy with regular income, some dig out "source-force" to get a job at the Department of Customs and others try their luck in Wai Wai Noodles.

While all sorts of industry are licking the ground, one unprecedented type of business is shining here. In a year, around two dozen companies have come up with dreamy schemes to sell ready-made houses and apartments in the suburbs of the valley. And, there is no government or municipality in the "urbanisation" campaign but private business houses.

According to available sources, there are at least 30 such companies who have already either taken their plans to the floor or table-working to face the market. That has become almost mushrooming in the periphery of the valley.

Ansal Chaudhary Developers, Sunrise Homes, CE Engineering, are some of major investors in this field and others are ICL property, Civil Co-operative, Oriental Housing, Sangril-la Villa, Comfort Housing, S Investment and so on. The Ansal Chaudhary Developers alone has planned to spread their merchandise in 85 ropanis of land. That means, in total, there will be more 1,200 families with permanent residences in the capital, either with independent houses or with apartments. In the history of housing, this is of course a groundbreaking event. They do deserve encouragement.

Still, there are things each citizen should think about before leaping. The business of real-estate itself has an infamous history. This type of business emerges when people can’t find any suitable place for investment. Buying a piece of land instead of investing the money in an industry or running an individual business has been our "culture". We don’t believe that investment pays. The housing companies or the banks supporting them have lots of money and they know that one after another industries are falling into the pit of bankruptcy. So they chose this "risk-free" business: They say, there may or may not be profit but there is little risk of losing your investment.

This is the reason real-estate business came on the rise after the 1990 democracy. People had money but they needed safe landing of the capital. The developers as well as the clients are in search of a glamorous means for financial mobility. Thus housing and land development is the apt business when nothing progresses or the state is in confusion.

Most of the developers has taken this new business as a part-time or supplementary to their major corporate organisations. Most are related with construction business. Some have industry of building materials or just imports them or own banks. And they admit that they are just experimenting on the business. They might have money enough to practice "learning by doing" but the clients may not and their life and money should not be guinea pigs to the big houses industrialists.

Despite the laws and regulations concerning building construction, what goes on at the Map Section of KMC is not a secret. The laws hardly reach implementation stage. Therefore KMC openly admits that one in three houses are built against the regulations, how can we be assured that all the built house have indeed followed the regulations inch by inch? KMC has just come up with a grand building by-laws and its implementation is still far way. In this situation, how can one expect that the houses in the showcases are really "legal (in practice too)"?

The ready-made houses are being built in the capital’s suburb or in the surrounding villages, where there is no system of map approval, quality inspection. Such areas are more or less virgin to urban development and need a long term vision to develop so that they may not be more "New Baneshwor" areas.

The developers will bring only physical facility but the quality of a building cannot be visible in Photoshop-aided diagrams and pictures. To make a "house", what is more important than washable distemper is the right place to dispose human waste. The main road, the drinking water, drainage, telephone, electricity etc are still the part of the state facilities and a house cannot be a piece of heaven but a inseparable part of the urban infrastructure.

This is a capital where a campus wall falls and a passerby dies on the spot but the builder or owner of the wall is not punished. In such condition, who will be responsible if the houses turn fake, low quality some half a decade later? Will the developers be present after one decade and be ready to respond the house/flat owners’ complains? Who will take the guarantee of future of the buildings? State?

Sunday, July 07, 2002

Nyatapola Temple

Heritage tour

By Razen Manandhar
We must be proud that our forefathers have left lots of things for us to wonder. Among them, the grand temple behind the Durbar Square of Bhaktapur is one. They we so much skilled that they could construct about 100 feet high temples, with no other materials than mud, bricks, wood and a bit of stones. The Nyatapola temple (known as five-storey pagoda to others) is standing upright today. The temple is going to celebrate its 300th birthday soon next week.

King Bhupatindra Malla had the temple of Nyatapola constructed in Nepal Era 822 (in 1702 AD), which lies at Tomarhi tole of Bhaktapur. Some say that there had been a simple five-storey temple there and the king only made it grand, in the course of competition among the several states of today’s Kathmandu Valley to decorate their states with the biggest structures. Today, this pagoda stands as the biggest temple of the valley.

The temple is made on brick and stone plinths made on 22.5 X 22.5 metre square. On fifth plinth, there stands the elegant temple with five roofs made one on another. surrounded by fife arches on each side. A long straight stone series of steps takes you to the top, which is also a suited view point to get a panoramic picture of Bhaktapur. One can see giant pairs of warriors, elephants, lions, griffins and tantric deities on either side of the steps.

None of the wooden pegs, beams, supporting structures in the temple are placed without adding a taste of art on them. The ends of the beams spread on the ceiling are given head-figures of legendary animals and skeletons. The doors are so delicately carved that one can find images of gods, guards or animals on every inch And so are the decorative windows on either sides. They are not randomly put but the artists were following an unwritten tradition of which deity should occupy which space of the temple.

Simlarly, there are similar windows on other floors too. The roofs are made of wood beams with local tiles on them and supporting struts. The struts are, like in other pagodas, the major attractions of the temple. There are in total colourful 108 struts with images of deities and 529 wind-bells under the five roofs. The gold-plated pinnacle of the temple is said to be of almost 100 kg. One can hardly imagine how the people of Bhaktapur brought it up to 100 feet without any crane.

Historians say it took only six months to complete the whole temple, it is an example of mideaval construction management. They have found out that 1.1 million bricks and 100,000 tiles were used to construct the temple. Eight kilns were set around the site and thousands people from all areas of the Bhaktapur state were invited to contribute in the making of the matchless temple. Even the kings of surrounding states visited the site to observe the construction process. A 48-day long worshipping took place when the temple was consecrated. The king was so happy that threw a dinner to over 2,000 people and he presented a golden crown to the first priest who consecrated the temple on that occasion.

The main deity inside the temple has been kept secret. They believe that the mystic deity is very powerful and anybody’s entrance to the temple who is not strong to see the deity might even die. Only a edified priest can enter the temple once a year.

Quoting the priest historian Dr Purushottam Locan Shrestha said : The temple houses Goddess Siddhi Laxmi — a union of Chandi Bhadrakai, Pratyangira and Siddhi Laxmi — the supreme savior of the city of Bhaktapur. She has nine heads, 16 arms. She is sitting on Rudra who himself has made Betal his mattress. The goddess is flanked by Mahakal Bhairav and Smashan Bhairav on both sides. The whole image is made on one single piece of stone.

Religious importance aside, the temple has been a mystery to the present engineers. They say that the secret behind the strength of the temple is the perfect combination among the foundation, plinth and the temple structure. Even when the valley was hit with over 8 rector scale earthquake and hundreds of temples collapsed completely, the Nyatapola Temple lost only its top floor. It was renovated several times, Late King Mahendra did in 1962 and Bhaktapr Municipality in 2000.

The heritage is standing today with pride, as a challenge to the modern technology and people’s lukewarm attraction to the beauty of the past. Howsoever, the 300-year old legacy is not safe. Many of the idols on the fist floors have stolen. The paintings were damaged. The sculpture of the warrior was damaged by a vehicle. The local government at least must do something to stop the vehicles plying in front of the temple.
[Kathmandu, Sunday, july 07, 2002 Ashadh 23, 2059.]

Friday, June 14, 2002

Electric vehicles in bureaucratic tangle

By Razen Manandhar

KATHMANDU, June 13:Despite the government’s populist slogan to promote electric vehicles, five electric cars, a new alternative to polluted Kathmandu, have been collecting dust in the backyard of the Customs Office at Birgunj for the last three months.

"The five electric cars that we imported from the Indian city of Bangalore on 18 March so as to provide an alternative mode of transport in Kathmandu, are lying uselessly," said Anup Singh Suwal, the manager of Eco-Visions Pvt. Ltd. today. He added that Eco-Visions has invested millions of rupees and it is spending over Rs 50,000 per month on rent and other office accessories.

Suwal said that the Birgunj Customs Office was not sure whether it was necessary for battery-operated vehicles to produce Conformity of Production (COP) and has kept the company waiting for months. "And then the customs office was confused whether ‘electric vehicle’ and ‘battery-operated’ vehicles are same or not. They have been asking for regular 130 per cent of customs duty whereas Article 13.9 of Financial Act (2058 B.S.) provisions vehicles operated with electricity would only be levied 10 percent of customs," he said.

Sensing the stalemate, the US Embassy wrote to the Ministry of Finance (MoF) in mid-April to provide the electric cars the same value-added tax exemptions that the government has been giving to the SAFA tempos. SAFA tempos enjoy tax exemptions and they have to pay customs duty of only one percent.

Not only the customs duty, the importer is facing other problems as well. The concerned file is moving between the Department of Customs (DoC) and Ministry of Finance ( MoF) for the past two months. He alleged that the government officers are putting forward one after another problems for some "mysterious reasons".

While the Director of DoC Bodhnath Niraula said that the files have been forwarded to Revenue Division of MoF, Suresh Kumar Regmi, a section officer of MoF said that the issue is under consideration in the DOC and has not yet arrived at his table. And in this "game of passing the buck" the vehicles are in the danger of being damaged in the open yard in Birgunj.

Puran Rai, the general manager of Lotus Energy Pvt Ltd, a sister organisation that distributes alternative and renewable energy equipment in the country, said that this blocking of the electric vehicles was totally against the government’s policy about promoting electrical vehicles in the capital.

"It’s just injustice. The company ventured to import the cars as per the laws and who is to redress if the government officers themselves do not obey the laws," said he.

An environmentalist campaigning for electrical vehicles said, requesting anonymity, that there is a big racket to discourage introduction of electrical vehicle. "Some vested interests are deliberately working hard foil the attempt to introduce and promote the alternative means of transportation with zero emission. They might be doing this at the behest of the sales dealers of the conventional petrol-powered cars," he said.

He added that the officers would clear the files if their demands were met. But the importers of Reva are not ready to pay a single penny to them as bribes. So the company is being made to suffer.
[Kathmandu, Friday June 14, 2002 Jestha 31, 2059.]

Electric vehicles in bureaucratic tangle

By Razen Manandhar

KATHMANDU, June 13:Despite the government’s populist slogan to promote electric vehicles, five electric cars, a new alternative to polluted Kathmandu, have been collecting dust in the backyard of the Customs Office at Birgunj for the last three months.

"The five electric cars that we imported from the Indian city of Bangalore on 18 March so as to provide an alternative mode of transport in Kathmandu, are lying uselessly," said Anup Singh Suwal, the manager of Eco-Visions Pvt. Ltd. today. He added that Eco-Visions has invested millions of rupees and it is spending over Rs 50,000 per month on rent and other office accessories.

Suwal said that the Birgunj Customs Office was not sure whether it was necessary for battery-operated vehicles to produce Conformity of Production (COP) and has kept the company waiting for months. "And then the customs office was confused whether ‘electric vehicle’ and ‘battery-operated’ vehicles are same or not. They have been asking for regular 130 per cent of customs duty whereas Article 13.9 of Financial Act (2058 B.S.) provisions vehicles operated with electricity would only be levied 10 percent of customs," he said.

Sensing the stalemate, the US Embassy wrote to the Ministry of Finance (MoF) in mid-April to provide the electric cars the same value-added tax exemptions that the government has been giving to the SAFA tempos. SAFA tempos enjoy tax exemptions and they have to pay customs duty of only one percent.

Not only the customs duty, the importer is facing other problems as well. The concerned file is moving between the Department of Customs (DoC) and Ministry of Finance ( MoF) for the past two months. He alleged that the government officers are putting forward one after another problems for some "mysterious reasons".

While the Director of DoC Bodhnath Niraula said that the files have been forwarded to Revenue Division of MoF, Suresh Kumar Regmi, a section officer of MoF said that the issue is under consideration in the DOC and has not yet arrived at his table. And in this "game of passing the buck" the vehicles are in the danger of being damaged in the open yard in Birgunj.

Puran Rai, the general manager of Lotus Energy Pvt Ltd, a sister organisation that distributes alternative and renewable energy equipment in the country, said that this blocking of the electric vehicles was totally against the government’s policy about promoting electrical vehicles in the capital.

"It’s just injustice. The company ventured to import the cars as per the laws and who is to redress if the government officers themselves do not obey the laws," said he.

An environmentalist campaigning for electrical vehicles said, requesting anonymity, that there is a big racket to discourage introduction of electrical vehicle. "Some vested interests are deliberately working hard foil the attempt to introduce and promote the alternative means of transportation with zero emission. They might be doing this at the behest of the sales dealers of the conventional petrol-powered cars," he said.

He added that the officers would clear the files if their demands were met. But the importers of Reva are not ready to pay a single penny to them as bribes. So the company is being made to suffer.
[Kathmandu, Friday June 14, 2002 Jestha 31, 2059.]

Sunday, June 09, 2002

Te Bahal

Heritage Tour
By Razen Manandhar

While walking through New Road, a few would think that there is a millennium-old courtyard behind the towering business complexes. One would be surprised to find a big open space with temples inside, between New Road and Dharahara that might be as old as 1,522 years old.

This ancient Buddhist area is believed to have been built in courtyards that once belonged to two (or three) Buddhist monasteries. The quadrangle - approximately 40 metre wide and 60 metre long - is surrounded by residential buildings. It proudly houses over a score of ancient monuments, installed at different periods of history. The locals believe that there was a Tirtha Vihar some 2,200 years ago and its name was twisted later into Te Bahal. The oldest evidence found there is a stone inscription, used as a pedistal for Mahakal’s image, dating back to 480 AD. Some of the monuments in the Bahal are as follows:

Ganesh temple: It is a small temple at the eastern entrance to the courtyard, closely related with the cultural life of the local residents. People of Khichapokhari, Bhotebahal, New Road and Nhuchhe Galli visit there during festivals.

Sankata: At the south-west corner of the courtyard is a two-storey temple of mysterious God Sankata or Padmantaka, worshipped by both Buddhists and Hindus. It is said to have been brought from Assam state of Kamarup or Kamakshya along with Red Macchindranath by King Narendra Dev in the 7th century AD. The temple also contains an idol of Red Machhindranath.

Tedo Vihar, Tet Vihar, Tirtha Vihar, Triratna Vihar, Rajkirti Vihar or Prachandavira Mahavihar: This three-storey monastery-building is the main shrine of the Bahal, facing east. It has a torana, donated to the Vihara in 1700 AD.

Bandhudatta Vihar or Mugaa Dyo: This ancient temple remains to be a small one-story temple, containing a Kwapa-Dyo - the Akshobhya - stands opposite to Tedo Vihar. It is said to have been built by King Narendra Deva for his tantric Acharya Bandhudatta, who helped him bring Machhindranath to the valley. It was renovated in 1826 AD. The alternative names of the two Vihars are often confusing in various sources.

Nasaa-Dyo: This abstract deity of Nasaa Dyo is worshipped for learning traditional drums. Farmers offer sacrifices to the Dyo during such occasions. A concrete structure has covered the shrine recently.

Bhadrakali Dyo-chhen: The "God’s residence" of Bhadrkali or Chamunda, one among the eight Hindu Mother Goddesses, lies at the centre of the Bahal. It is not clear when and how this blood-seeking fierce Hindu Goddess happens to reside in the Buddhist courtyard.

In addition, there are several other chaityas and other idols, erected at different times inside the courtyard. And there used to be a small rest house (pati) behind the Sankata temple with a series of ancient idols. But now a concrete building stands there, which also shelters the local ward office and nobody knows where the idols have gone.

There is another large Stupa with four transcendent Buddhas around it behind the RNAC building. It is said to be built by King Narendra Dev too. Several other chaityas are found there, including an image of Akshobhya. The Akshobhya is said to have been the Kwapa-Dyo of Vandakirta Mahavihar, once stood on the Tundikhel until it was demolished.

It is said that Te Baha is a complete identity in itself. There were seven wells in the Bahal but hardly any of them is functioning well. Many of them also might have come under concrete buildings. There was also a Chhwasa, a corner said to be a place of protecting demon, which has been encroached upon.

Te Baha is obviously a very ancient Buddhist site that might be a powerful Buddhist resource centre during the Licchivi period but it converted into Hindu shrine as Hinduism got more priority during the Malla period.

Regardless of its ancient picture, the priceless monument of Te Bahal are being neglected by the locals as result of urbanisation. As the government has not set any guidline to protect this monument zone, modern houses are being built for commercial purposes. The tall residential buildings are dwarfing the monuments in the middle. The three-wheeler stand, next to the courtyard, is also affecting the religious atmpsphere and a huge building of RNAC and the commercial complext being built by Karmachari Sanchaya Kosh is disturbing the environment of Te Bahal.

There is no enough open space in the middle as the local youth clubs are adding one after another building or shed in the courtyard. They not only neglect their heritage but also let in heavy vehicles in the fragile Bahal. An easy business is going on: Any one can park their vehicles in the courtyard by paying a small amount of money. It invites more and more vehicular movements in the courtyard area.
[ Kathmandu, Sunday, June 09, 2002 Jestha 26, 2059.]

Saturday, June 08, 2002

Possibility of Stolen Dipankar Idol's Return Feeble

By Razen Manandhar
The Kathmandu Post (Kathmandu, Nepal)
Saturday, June 8, 2002
KATHMANDU, June 7 : The return of a 293 year-old head image of Dipankar Buddha, stolen from Patan four months ago, and recovered recently in an Austrian museum, is less likely soon as concerned authorities have shown lukewarm response to the pressure from the local guthi members to bring it back.

A source in Austria suspects that it reached there through legal channel, though Nepali law strictly forbids export of any 100 plus year-old cultural objects. He, requesting anonymity, claimed in his letter dispatched to a local Buddhist scholar that it was "exported ‘legally’ with all the seals from the National Archives". The 1.2 metre high idol of gilded copper with precious stones and ornaments was stolen mysteriously from Chuka Baha Guthi House on February 16, as it was reported by the caretaker Sanu Chhori Shakya and was seen in public for the last time in August 2001, the guthi members said.

Being a state party of the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, UNESCO 1970, Nepal holds rights to claim its any antique artifact that is culturally significant to the local community.

However, the Austrian Government has shown interest to return that idol after it found being sold to the museum. "The idol has been confiscated and the government is ‘very much’ interested to return it to Nepal soon. It is now waiting for a formal request from the Nepal Government to return it," said an Austrian expatriate, currently living in Kathmandu.

The idol was unexpectedly found in Ethnographic Museum in Vienna a month ago, with the help of a German Buddhist scholar who had been to a Patan festival where the head image was exhibited last year.

The idol was to be sold to the museum at Rs 13.65 million (182,000 US dollars) by a person claiming to be an international art dealer. Currently, the idol is under protection of the museum. Sanunani Kansakar, the director general of Department of Archaeology (DOA), the government body to conserve any cultural object over 100 years old, said that it has already forwarded the request letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) to initiate process to bring the image back to Nepal.

But an officer at DOA, requesting anonymity, said that it is yet to be verified that the idol is the same stolen from Patan. "We can’t verify it by only looking at two photographs and there is no inventory of the existing or stolen art objects in DOA," he said. And Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent the documents to the Nepali ambassador in charge of Vienna, who lives in Berlin.

It is not yet clear whether the documents sent were complete or not. Meanwhile, a news dispatch form German news agency DPA stated that "There would be inquires into the route by which the Buddha-head had been smuggle to Austria."

Heritage experts here suspect that the government officers prefer to remain silent, as claiming the idol would stir hornet’s nest.

"In fact the government officers do not want to claim them as it would mean revealing the chain of smugglers. That is why, Nepal has not claimed a single stolen idol found in overseas though Nepal has signed international conventions on this regard 30 years ago," said Keshav Raj Jha, the former ambassador to France and representative to UNESCO.

However, Min Bahadur Shakya, chairman of the Nagarjuna Institute of Buddhist Studies, said that he would do his best to bring back the Dipankar at any cost, even to set an example. He was the first one to get the information about he finding of the idol in Austria.

"The return of the Dipankar would set an example and may also raise a curtail on the racket of antique smugglers." The locals filed an application at DOA on May 8 to accelerate the process. And they have also sent a request letter to Interpol unit of Vienna.

Sunday, May 26, 2002

Mahaboudha Vihar

Heritage Tour

By Razen Manandhar

The grain vendors behind Bir Hospital which are privileged to unload their merchandise at an ancient Bajrayani Buddhist monastery, could be over 1,500 years old. The Mahabhuta Mahavihar or popular among the locals as Mahaboudha or Mahaboo is one among the unique monasteries of the Kathmandu Valley.

On looking at what now remains, we can guess that it could have been a really big monastery in ancient days. The priest associated with the monastery quotes ancient chronicles saying that it was constructed by a powerful Nobel during the regime of King Basanta Dev (around 512-520 AD). However the historians have not found any such inscription at the monastery spread in one and a half ropani land. The oldest historical evidence states that the monastery was renovated in1838 by Tamrakars of Maru Tole, Kathmandu.

A great stupa, a temple of Buddha, three votive chaityas, four stone inscriptions, two newly made gates, two stone lions and ruins of an older pair of lions as well as some other archaeological objects are found in the stone-paved courtyard today.

But certain features confirm that the monastery is not only 165 year old but also indicates that the monastery was originally much more bigger than it now appears.

The biggest supporting factor is the prime deity (Kwapaa Dyo) of Bahal. Unlike other Kwapaa Dyos, the 15 feet tall Buddha inside the monastery temple is made of clay and 15 feet tall, which could be the biggest idols of Lord Buddha. One can imagine how big the monastery might have been if the deity looks so huged. Next, though the main deity resembles Akshyobhya, in touching-the-earth position, that iconographically attributes blue colour, this is in red colour.Bahal draws the attention of the visitors due to the over 30 feet tall white stupa, standing between the Vihar temple and the main gate. It spreads in 625 square feet of land at the middle of the courtyard. It bears four brass idols of Dyani Buhhdas — Akshyobhya, Ratnasambhav, Amitabh and Amoghsiddi — and their consorts, the Taras, in symbolic pedestals.

This stupa is also different in several ways compared to common stupas of the Kathmandu Valley. There are only 11 layers of circles on the top of the stupa, whereas common stupas bear 13, representing 13 layers of perfection to Nirvana. The eyes of the stupa on four directions are unusually wide open.

These factors indicate that having been renovated in different times, the origin of the stupa, and the Vihar itself, might be much older than the inscriptions indicate. Nevertheless, the monastery no longer has a surrounding building to make it a quadrangle, neither do images of Ganesh and Mahakal remain there.

The daily rituals are being carried out by the priests of five Shakya families in rotation. They are in charge of white-washing the stupa, observing annual pooja and special pooja on the day of Buddha Jayanti. Obviously, the land property that they had had in the past for carrying out rituals must have been lost. Now, the rituals are somehow continue from their own pockets.

The Vihar temple remained in dilapidated condition for decades as the related priests lacked fund. Finally, the priest families constituted a Mahabaudha Renovation Committee in 1995. It was amazing that the committee got encouraging assistance from the local Buddhists, social organisations and the municipal authority etc. The white plaster was removed and the temple was rebuilt with carved wood doors, windows and struts. It also added a pedestal and a Vajra on it in front of the temple. In three years or so, they completely changed the appearance of the Vihar temple, despite a minor controversy over the building material and the traditional norms of Newari architecture. The Buddha temple had to be reconstructed that cost the committee Rs 2.2 million and also the trace of the heritage. The devotion of the locals and management saved the ancient idol at least.

Still, a cluster of modern private building in one corner of the Vihar, the unused concrete buildings of the ward committee, the godown of Nepal Electricity Authority, and the collage of film posters on the walls of the latter visually pollute the heritage site. The market atmosphere dominates the peace lover’s paradise. To add, a local Mitra Youth Club has changed the 1,500 years old site into a parking space, where scores of mini-trucks, tempos and motor-cycles surround days and nights. The result of making the sacred monument a market place is that the porters use inner corner courtyard as their free pee corner.
[Kathmandu, Sunday, May 26, 2002 Jestha 12, 2059.]

Monday, May 20, 2002

Piles of empty bottles littering cities, tourist destinations

By Razen Manandhar

KATHMANMDU, May 19[2002]: Drinking mineral water has in recent days become a necessity, at least in the cities where the demand of water leaps higher than the government can supply. We drink the water and just throw the empty bottles. But have we ever thought where do the bottles go after we empty them? Bottled water is easily available but the places to dump them are not.

Such bottles have been a nuisance in most of the remote tourist destinations, where the tourists leave countless bottles every year bhind them. But they are not only the problems of Annapurna Base Camp and Royal Chitwan National Park alone anymore. Kathmandu Metropolitan City is also facing quite a difficult time due to the hundreds of plastic bottles every day.

The plastic bottles are made in Nepal but they come in small compact shapes and here the local industries only blow them to the shape. There are over a dozen producers of bottled mineral water in the country and several brands of beverage and oil come from across different countries as well, but none of them go for recycling in Nepal.

Rajesh Manandhar, the chief of Solid Waste Section of KMC says, "Though the empty bottles bear nominal weight and density, they occupy around hundred times more space than general type of waste so they disturb the whole solid waste management system".

He reveals the secret of the persistence of the problem of plastic bottles: The rag-pickers do not touch the bottles because they pay them nothing.

"The rag pickers do not collect plastic so they are growing in number in the cities as well as in remote villages," Manandhar says.

Environmentalist and executive director of Clean Energy Nepal, Bhushan Tuladhar says the plastic bottles of mineral water and other beverages are made of a subsistence called PET that needs special plants to recycle them.

"Recycling of PET bottles is easy but it needs special plants which is difficult to set in the country immidiately. The rag-dealers also cannot export it to overseas as it takes much space than other recyclable objects. And the District Development Committees (DDC) slap tax from such collected recyclable items that also discourages them," he said.

He suggests that rather than slapping "rag-tax", tax must be imposed to the producers of PET bottles for their share in environment pollution and the rag dealers should be subsidised to export or installation of a recycling plant.

"If the consumers can pay Rs 18 to Rs 20 for a small bottle of water, I don’t think they will refuse to pay 50 paisa for the sake of environment," Tuladhar added.

But Surya Bhakta Khanal, the Local Development Officer at Kathmandu DDC says that the local body needs "rag-tax" for its resources from the garbage collected for recycle and it does not have right to demand tax from the producers. DDCs of Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur collected Rs 36.5 million rupees from such garbage last year.

He says, "It might be a good solution to the littered plastic bottles that could also have changed into money if reasonable policy is set. This idea must gather public opinion and also provoke the government to change the existing taxation system on recyclable garbage."

Narendra Pokharel, an officer at Environment Pollution Branch of Ministry for Population and Environment (MOPE) said that there is no specific regulation concerning manufacturers of plastic bottles or penalty to the manufacturers of mineral water for littering the city. "Emphasis should be put on implementing the existing laws, to raise awareness to minimise use of such bottles and to encourage reuse of such bottle."

Pokharel said that the best way to bring the unmanaged empty plastic bottles under control is to commission some parties to install a recycle plant in the country for the only right solution is recycling.
[Kathmandu, Monday May 20, 2002 Jestha 06, 2059.]

Sunday, May 12, 2002

Gunakar Mahavihar

Heritage Tour
Razen Manandhar
Out of hundreds of Mahayani Buddhist monasteries, only a few are in proper condition in the Kathmandu Valley. The negligence of the concerned families, people’s tendency to encroach and government’s indifference are to be blamed. But at least a few have proud stories of conservation to tell. The Gunakar Mahavihar (or Chhusya Bahal as locally it is called), at Jyatha, Thamel is one worth mentioning.

The small quadrangle shaped building in a brick-paved courtyard at the middle, has been standing there for the last 353 years. It was a Lhasa merchant named Gunajyoti Bajracharya from the neighbouring monastery of Hemakara Mahavihar (Dhwakha Bahal), who donated a major part of his treasure to have this monastery "renovated" in 1649 (Nepal Era 769). The related inscritption indicates that there had been a small shrine there where the Mahabvihar stands today. King Pratap Malla graced the ritual consecration ceremony performed in 1669 (Nepal Era 787), whom the maker donated a golden crown.

There are two giant lions guarding the main entrance. The torana over the main door bears the image of Pragyaparmita, the goddess of perfection of wisdom. The Mahavihar is a two-storeyed building made of bricks and roofed with tiles. The roof is supported by carved wooden struts with figures of deities on them. The stone plinth is made all round the buildings outside and inside the courtyard.

The central room of the ground floor facing north is the sanctum of the prime deity Akhsyobhya (Kwapadyo in local Newari language). There are four wooden staircases to reach the upper floor. The rooms in the upper floor are dedicated to worshipping of traditional esoteric deities and for the chief worshipper. Other rooms consist of reading room of sutras and reading room of figures of deities. The main entrance and lobby has an open space on either side that can give you a wide view of the courtyard.

When you look at any corner of the couryard, you can find images or the Mahayani Buddhist deities. There are figures of Dhyani Buddhas, five protective goddesses, seven deities representing the planets, six wrathful goddesses, ten wrathful Bhairavs, six Paramitas, six Adi-Buddhas, six Taras, four Maharajahs, twenty one lunar mansions and many more in the struts alone, supporting the roof. On each wing, there are heavily decorated windows, in sets of five or three. They can remind you of the beautiful courtyard of Kumarighar.

The torana at the room of traditional secret deities on the upper floor is decorated with an image of Bajradhara. Only initiated or trained ones are allowed to enter the room. A Buddha Mandala made of wood carving is placed on the ceiling of the shrine. The rooms of central part of the mandala is filled with symbols of gods and goddesses. Apart from Akshyobhya ("Kwapadyo"), there are images of Akshyobhya, Manjushree, Amithabh, Simhanada Lokeshhwor, Harihara Lokeshowr, Amoghpas Lokeshwor, Mahamanjushri, two lions and four inscriptions are found there.

Everyday, the priest washes the face of Kwapadyo, offers him water, tika, flower, rice and incense sticks, rings bells, shows mirror, comes out with the gambasin (a hollow wooden rod) and beats for 08 times, reciting mantra. He then holds a Yak-tail fan and worships the Tathagata with oil lamps.

In the courtyard, one can find figures of Hanuman, two Mahakals, Sariputra and Maudhakalyan, Gunajyoti and his wives, Chaitya, Padmapani Lokeshwor, Dharmadhatu Bagishwor, a pair of elephant guards and a small but beautiful temple in Sikhar style at the middle. Among others, the Mahavihar possesses a rare holy book of Pragyaparamita, which is displayed to the public during the Buddhist festival of Gunla that falls in August.

The priceless monument took a drastic change along with the urbanisation trends some three decades ago. The caretaking families started consuming the ancient monastery as their assets and also used it for private and financial purposes. Obviously, there was nobody to take care of it, and it started decaying slowly. Unaware of the significance of the cultural heritage, the "owners" started adding new windows and doors. The result is that many idols were lost or stolen from the courtyard.

But it was never too late to do something good. The monastery was renovated by 1996 wtih the contributions from IUCN, Nepal Heritage Society, local ward chairman, locals, Department of Archaeology as well as the Federal Republic of Germany.

Expert of Newari Bahals and Chaityas Niles Gutschow helped as a supervisor for the restoration. The completion ceremony was performed on Basanta Panchami on February 17, 2002. The empty monastery is now being utilised as a training centre for the Buddhist ritual and religious dances, etc., according to the Bajracharyas associated with the Monastery trust. Hope, priests of other delapidating monasteries also take lessons from Chhusya Bahal and pull up their shocks to renovate them too.
[ Kathmandu, Sunday, May 12, 2002 Baishakh 29, 2059.]

Sunday, April 28, 2002

Ashok Binayak: Temple of royal Ganesh

Heritage tour

By Razen Manandhar

Among fifty plus monuments constructed in the various stages of the history, the most commonly visited shrine in Hanumandhoka Durbar Square area is the insignificant temple of Ganesha, the elephant-headed god. It is associated with the social life of the public as well as the royals of the Himalayan Kingdom.

The temple of Ashok Binayak is situated at the east of Hanumandhoka Durbar Square Protected Monument Zone, beside the tumultuous vegetable and flower market. It is dwarfed by the giant pagoda structure of Kasthamandap that stands in front of the temple but the locals automatically turn themselves to the temple and take a round from the left whenever they arrive at the courtyard of Maru.

The Ganesh temple, however, is still waiting for the proved accounts of its history. The only historical evident we have about the temple is that it was renovated in 1850 AD that certainly cannot be the date of origin of the temple. It is the unwritten history and the strong belief of the locals that the insignificant shrine among the grandiloquent temples of the monument zone draws hundreds of pilgrims to its small threshold. The legends give credit of initiating religious rituals to a Tantric priest Jamana Gubhaju and continuing the rituals and caretaking the temple to a local merchant Dhamanan Sayami. Perhaps this is the reason the Ganesh is held to be deified incarnation of oil pressers (Manandhars).

According to a legend, the area where the temple is situated today was once upon a time a big jungle and people found the miraculous idol of Ganesh there. The legend implies that it belongs to the time long before Hanumandhoka as a royal palace came into existence. But as it was cramped among trees, the makers could not give the final touch by adding a pinnacle to the small temple. Branches of an Ashok tree was hanging above the temple. So the people named it Ashok Binayak. The tree shaped decoration inside the temple that is hardly visible these days, are the reminders of the Ganesha’s love the Ashoka tree that gave him its name.

The temple is only a small chamber, no garbhagriha or doors from other directions. From outside, almost all parts of the front is covered with brass plates. The reppouse plates resemble the wooden structures behind. A decorated Torana is on the top of the gate, which is tightly tucked up with iron bars, to save it from the hand of art thieves but a small Ganesh figure under the Torana has been missing. Two lions at the door and a shrew across the street guard the temple. Four ancient looking pillars inside the temple indicate the ancient structure of the temple. Like in the shrine of Budha Nilkantha, the pillars were meant to make the temple roof but it kept falling off, as people believed it, due to the God’s unwillingness to dwell under a roof. And people left the temple without completing the roof. This legend supports another logic behind the temple’s missing pinnacle.

The stone idol that has endured innumerable pilgrims’ beggings, and scraping of "prasad" is seated on the floor. With an unusually big face, the god with elephant’s head sits with four hands. On every Tuesdays, the stone idol is given a "cover" of copper idol and during major festivals like Dashain, the temple is decorated with silver idol. Recently, a gold plated idol was made for ceremonial purposes. His Majesty King Gyanendra was also present on the occasion.

A pilgrim hardly gets enough space in front of the temple to sit and ask for his blessing. And the busy pilgrims find it easy to "salute" the poor god from outside. Irrespective of its indistinct history and archaeological value, people throng themselves to the temple every day with unlimited desires they believe will be fulfilled by bless of Ganesh.

The metal idol of Ashok Binayak is taken around the core city on the eighth day of Dashian. The locals offer animal sacrifices and flowers to the god who runs from one street to another in hurry. The chariot of Ganesh is also taken to Simha Durbar and Narayanhiti Royal Palace to grace offerings.

Members of royal family take their children to the temple of Ganesh temple to accomplish rituals of rice-feeding, bratabandha and wedding. Similarly visiting the temple is a must part of coronation of every monarch of the country.

One among the four guarding Ganesh: Surya Binayak (Bhaktapur), Chandra Binayak (Chabahil), Jal Binayak of (Chobhar) remaining the three.
[ Kathmandu, Sunday, April 28, 2002 Baishakh 15, 2059.]

Friday, April 26, 2002

CBS data on high literacy ignites controversy

By Razen Manandhar
KATHMANDU, April 25 [2002]: Census 2001, the recently concluded mammoth head-count exercise, reveals that Nepal’s literacy rate - that is people who can both perform basic reading and writing- has shot up to 53.74 per cent. But the data is attracting controversy as education experts refuse to believe that progress in literacy has made such strides.

The Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) announced recently that adult literacy rates has reached 54 per cent. But experts say, the figures do not reflect the actual situation. Worse, there is spreading confusion as many institutions and organisations other than the CBS continue to have their own literacy data.

Mana Prasad Wagle, a professor of Tribhuwan University’s Education Department, said that the data of CBS is "not reliable" and the government is only trying to please the donors by "playing the game of digits".

To drive home argument, Wagle pointed out that the National Planning Commission, in a study conducted four years ago, found Nepal’s literacy rate at 36 per cent. "I can challenge, the literacy rate of Nepal cannot go beyond 40 per cent," he said. "The census was carried out at a critical time and most of the western villages were officially and unofficially left untouched. A sample study in five development regions will reveal the fact," Wagle said.

Moreover, Wagle is vehemently against the present system of surveying literacy rates. "Nowhere in the world does statistics on literacy rate include children below 15 years of age. Post literacy and continuing education should be taken into account when we survey literacy rates," he argued.

Another educationist, Dr Tirtha Khaniya, questions the very definition of literacy. Though he does not challenge the CBS data, Dr Khaniya nevertheless says, "what is the use of literacy if it cannot help a person in his profession later on? So we need to go for functional literacy to seek people’s participation in development, rather than boasting about literacy figures."

Meanwhile, international organisations do not see the CBS announced figures as a major achievement. Education officer at United Nations Educational Scientific Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Rohit Pradhan, said that 54 per cent literacy should not be a cause for joy since the government had committed as far back as in 1990 to raise the rate up to 67 per cent by the year 2000.

"The next thing is that literacy must be defined according to the present context. Many of the VDC officers have not even seen computers.

Then the question arises, what type of literacy we are talking about," says the UNESCO officer.

Another area which is confusing experts is the different literacy data in circulation. While CBS puts the latest literacy rates at 54 per cent, other organisations have their own figures. UNESCO for instance found 35.9 per cent literacy in 1998. Then there is the four-year old National Planning Commission figure of 54 per cent.

Says Pradhan of UNESCO, "It’s embarrassing that on World Literacy Day (September 8), half a dozen newspapers gave different data on Nepal’s literacy rate."

Spokesperson of Ministry of Education and Sports, Yubaraj Pande said that the recent data produced by CBS "must be reliable" as it was based on door to door survey. "Irrespective of its outcome, we can’t say that the actual survey of CBS is wrong and the national and international projection is right."

But he admitted that the term literacy rate must be redefined and come to functional utility of literacy the surveyors count.

Sunday, April 21, 2002

Ranamukteshowr : Running away from Guthi Sansthan

Heritage tour
By Razen Manandhar

We Nepalis now and then boast of our heritage, the gift of the past for the future generation. But, it is a tragedy that a 175 year old temple of Lord Shiva in the heart of the capital is on the verge of extinction, mainly because of a government body that earns money out of such priceless monuments. The two-storeyed temple of Ranamukteshwor, which is a representative of Shah architecture of Nepal, lies just behind New Road.

The temple does not have any written inscription now. According to ‘Devmala Chronicle’, it was built by Commander-in-Chief General Bhimsen Thapa in 1827 in memory of King Rana Bahadur Shah, who was assassinated at the same place by his younger brother.

It is constructed in Rajput style that was new to Nepal in those days. That is why a chronicle narrates that it was constructed in "foreign style". This indicates that it must be one among those which introduced new type of religious architecture to Nepal (that later became an icon of Rana architecture). This type of temple hides brick walls and covers it with a coat of plaster, making the temple more eye-catching.

The temple stands on square-shaped stone plinths, and looks like a set of cubes, added one on another. There is a stone staircase at the southern side to reach the temple entrance. Four artistic stone doors with Kheppus on their top are there but only the southern one welcomes pilgrims. Wooden panes are added on the doors that have relief figures of Mahadev, Parvati and bulls. The first floor has lattice windows with porch structures around them and four temple structures are made of gilded pinnacles. A big dome is made on the top that has a glistening pinnacle and a small Trishul, protected by four snakes’ figures.

There are small but beautiful temples of different Hindu deities around the main temple. The temple of Ranamukteshwor was established according to Panchayan system, that is, the Shiva is worshipped along with Ganesh, Surya, Devi and Vishnu. Altogether, the courtyard is enriched with 18 stone idols of Bhringi, Kuber, Indra, Ganesh, Brahma, Kamdev, Dharmashila, Ramraj, Birbhadra, Niriti, Nandi, Barun, Basuki and Bayu.

The maker of the Ranamukteshwor temple also constructed an elegant octagonal sattal (rest house), circulating the temple premises. The facade facing the street and each of the inner facades of the sattal have beautifully carved windows and doors.

But the temple has been a constant victim of encroachment, both from the public and the government sides since long. The broadening of the Jhochhen-Khichapokahri road has made the northern part of the circulating sattal lopsided. Half of the circulating sattal, of southern and eastern side, has been completely destroyed. And the northern and eastern portion is now surviving somehow, though the woodworks, walls, veranda and tiled roof have been destroyed or deformed very much.

The northern part of the historical sattal is now used as Nirmal Lower-Secondary School. Obviously, it has distorted most of the windows and doors and also has occupied a veranda of the eastern side. The sattal was meant for the temple’s pilgrims and caretakers. Now, caretaking lacks but still, only their families occupy the beautiful houses and consume it in a way irrespective of its significance.

Apart from that, there is a Kumari Pith temple outside the courtyard. The local shopkeepers have covered it with a fake temple structure, full of bathroom-tiles and also added a couple of "idols" on it.

The temple belongs to a government body called Guthi Sansthan that was set up to conserve the religious heritage. But rather than saving the poor monument from the hands of encroaches, The Sansthan is destroying and omitting the traces of the historical monument.

The temple of Ranamukteshwor is one among the richest temple of the Kathmandu Valley. It has around 400 ropani of land outside and the temple premises make 10 ropani. Moreover, the Sansthan also had leased its 7 ropani of land to an RB Complex in December 1996 to a private company that will give the Sansthan as much as Rs 103 million in 27 years. That is, it earns 3.8 million rupees from the complex and 480 thousand rupees from the 17 shops annually. It is strange, other government bodies are silent though there is a strong law to control misuse and deformation of ancient monuments.

The Sansthan might have benefited a treasure out of it but two giant buildings from two sides have overshadowed the temple. And, it has not spent a single penny to renovate the temple, say the locals - a sorry story indeed. The latest development is that the owners of the complex are now waiting to capture the sattals and the temple itself very soon.
[ Kathmandu, Sunday, April 21, 2002 Baishakh 08, 2059.]

Sunday, April 14, 2002

Bhairav Temple: The house of Kashi Bishwonath

Heritage tour

By Razen Manandhar

The royal palace in Bhaktapur is the most beautiful place. At the end of the market street, a rather small stone-paved courtyard of Taumadhi welcomes you. You can’t stop holding your breath when you see 300 year-old two giant temples, which reflect the fabulous art, architecture and love of art of the people living there.

A giant Bhairava temple stands at Taumadhi, Bhaktapur, next to the famous Nyatapola temple. The temple, known commonly as Bhailaa Dyo, is considered the temple of Kashi Bishwonath, a wrathful image of Shiva from Baranasi. Though it looks dwarf in front of towering Nyatapola, it has its own significance.

People remember this temple during the Bisket Festival, which falls in mid April. The deity of Bhairava is taken around the city in a wooden chariot to show how happy local people are and that he is the source of their happiness.

Though the exact date of the temple’s construction is not known yet, it is believed that it existed even during the Lichchivi period, from 4th to 7th century, perhaps in a simpler form. Chroniclogical order states that Lichchivi King Ananda Dev of Bhaktrapur had renovated it in 1150. Bhairava of this temple later became so angry that he started bringing calamities in the city to disapprove the people’s worshipping. The priests later decided to erect Nyatapola temple of Siddhilaxmi to calm him down. She is considered as Bhairava’s consort and both of them together admired the work city-dwellers did tirelessly and got good harvest.

Like all religious monuments of this country, the origin of this temple is also based on a legend. One day, Bishwonath of Kashi or Baranasi, came to enjoy the festival of Bisket in Bhaktapur in the guise of a simple man. A Tantric, identified as Muni Achaju, recognised him with his sixth sense. Thinking that Bhaktapur would win fortunes if he could force Bishwonath to reside in the city he tried to capture him with the help of his mystic power. But he failed and he was forced to behead Bishwonath and keep him in the temple. People still believe that the real head, cut thousands of years ago, is still there.

This is not the only temple where Bhairava’s head is worshipped. Shweta Bhairava of Hanumandhoka and Akash Bhairava of Indrochowk are also worshipped.

King Ananda Dev earlier constructed the temple of Bhairava that had been there before he had ruled the country in the 10th century. A stone inscription found nearby indicates that there was a temple as early as 1005 AD. And a series of renovations and addition of new and new decorations took place in course of time. And then King Bhupatindra Mall again turned it into a giant temple of seven stories in 1722 AD. The great earthquake of 1934 destroyed that temple extensively. It was renovated later but obviously, its original splendour was lost. The Bhaktapur municipality renovated the temple using local technology and craftsmen last year that cost 7.3 million rupees.

It is in rectangular shape and has three major doors in the front. There is one small cast image of Bhairava but no one is allowed to go inside. There are two stone reliefs of Kalash and small windows on both sides. Now, there are no Taranas, hanging over the doors. On the first floor, there are five gilded windows which are too small to peep through. On the right hand side, there is a beautiful golden window and on the left, a painting of Bhairava is hung. Other floors are either filled with struts or latticed windows. It has windows in either side as well. The top floor is covered with metal roof whereas other ones are made of tiles. Seven gold-plated pinnacles decorate the temple, which also have umbrellas over them. It is flanked by pairs of guarding lions, bells and pillars. In each floor, series of wind-bells supported by struts are hung. They add sonorous environment to the whole area as they stir when the gentle breeze blows in the temple.
[Kathmandu, Sunday, April 14, 2002 Baishakh 01, 2059.]

Sunday, April 07, 2002

KMC finally gets to manage city landmarks

By Razen Manandhar

KATHMANDU, April 6:After a long wait, the government has finally decided to hand over the management of the capital’s four prominent landmarks to the Kathmandu Metropolitan City.

The government eventually agreed to hand over Ranipokhari, Ratnapark, City Hall and the Balaju Water Garden to KMC that were previously under the Public Garden and Auditorium Development Committee (PGADC), a semi-government body, Hari Prasad Rimal, spokesman of the Ministry of Local Development, told The Kathmandu Post today.

"But it does not give authority to the KMC to sell the land and it requires the Ministry’s approval for any development programmes like giving in lease or changing the constructions," Rimal said.

Though the Ministry recently finalised its decision to hand over the ‘rights of utilising’ these major attractions of the city, the KMC will formally take over only after a hand over ceremony.

The decision gives KMC the authority to use the places, develop them and manage them in a better way. The responsibility to manage the 120-odd number of staff also falls on the KMC as per the understanding.

Deputy manager of PGADC Sahadev Shrestha said that the earlier attempts to take over the rights of PGADC belongings by mayors Kamal Chitrakar and PL Singh had failed. "For us, it would be of little difference working under the government or the KMC," he said.

But Mayor Keshav Sthapit has taken this decision as the biggest achievement of his four and half years tenure. "We finally got it" Sthapit said, responding to a question on the decision.

"It was the result of my continuous effort of almost five years," he said. Former Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala had announced from several platforms to hand them over but that had never materialised, Sthapit added. "It seems the whole country has now become ours."

He also added that the open space in Teenkune is also on the pipeline to come under the KMC’s jurisdiction. This decision to hand over Teenkune to the KMC would come out within a few days time, according to Hari Krishna Bhagat, in-charge of the Division of Road.

KMC is strong enough to manage the places it would acquire, secretary of KMC Surya Silwal said. "KMC is desperately waiting for a letter to immediately start the maintenance works."

"After completing the garden around Ranipokhari, we will start the maintenance of the City Hall," Silwal said, adding, "We will provide the service of International Birendra Convention Hall in reasonable price at the City Hall itself."
[Kathmandu Sunday April 07, 2002 Chaitra 25, 2058. ]

Ramchandra temple with thirty-two butterflies

Heritage tour

By Razen Manandhar

Along the time passes, temple architecture of the Kathmandu Valley also changed slowly. Specially after the First Rana Prime Minister Jung Bahadur Rana visited Europe, the palaces, temples as well as private buildings took a drastic change in their appearance - they imitated European looks with plasters and eye-catching white washes. Among others, the temple of Ramchandra, at Battisputali of Pashupatinath area, is an exemplary for the reason that it represents the religious architecture of the later late 19th century.

The 130 years old temple is situated on the top of a hillock at Gaushala, so it can be seen from all over the surrounding locations (however, its location has turned out to be a dense residential area). On the other side, this temple premises is an appropriate point to have a panoramic view of the ever-expanding capital city. Long winding stone-paved steps lead the visitors to a colourful hilltop almost crowded with small and big idols and temples, without leaving enough foreground to enjoy the scene from one angle.

Going through the legends, people believe that a group of thirty-two fairies in the guise of butterflies brought the throne of King Bikramaditya from his Indian State. Since the king was known for his unmistaken justice, people till some years back, believed that the local shepherds could provide miraculous justice to the people on that auspicious hillock. Apart from that, the hill is considered as a religious shrine before the temple was constructed over there, according to the locals.

A two-storey building hardly looks like a temple to those, who are accustomed to judge temple architectures from the view point of traditional Newari architecture - of dachhi appa and tilted tiled-roofs. The temple is rectangular and fully white-washed. The temple stands on a stone pedestal. Unlike other temples, there is no inner room or garbhagriha. Rather, a pradakshinapath or dalan is made around the temple which also gives an impression of being a verandah. The false doors on all four corners give an conspicuous impression of Muslim architecture while the pinnacles remain traditional. It has four minarets while the rectangular centre is turned into three gilt pinnacles on the top.A big space is left in the room where around 30 people can sit together to worship the series of five idols. Surrounding the temple inside, modern-looking 32 images of fairies in the form of butterflies are painted on the wall.

There are fine black-stone idols of standing Ram, Sita, Bharat, Lakshman, Shatrughna facing east. Those idols stand by the wall with gilt snakes and decorative trees form behind.Outside the temple, there are other idols of Ganesh, Surya, Devi and Shiva on four corners. As it is with other Ramchandra temples, there is an image of Hanuman, the server of Ram family, in praying posture. A winding staircase would lead you to the temple’s upper floor which has verandah around the temple. But it covered with iron-sheets where the caretakers live. Four minarets are made on four corners that also bear golden gilt pinnacle.

The open space in the courtyard is decorated by small temples of Shiva, Ganesh, Surya and Bhagwati in the four corners. These four corners, including Lord Shiva is worshipped as member deities of Panchayan family.

Besides, there are other nine temples of Shiva and one of Vishnu around the periphery. They were constructed in different times and, as usual, are named after the person who had them constructed.The temple is said to be constructed by a high ranking officer Sanaksingh in 1871 AD. And when he established the temple, he also offered a land property of 373 ropani, so that the income from the land could be used for daily rituals in the temple and also for conservation of the temple. Unfortunately, locals claim the land is no longer in possession of the temple. As the time passed, the temple lacked proper and continuous caring. The periphery turned out to be the dumping area of garbage for the locals, the daily pooja rituals discontinued, some of the important ornaments were stolen and one after another, the open rest houses (sattals) fell down to earth.

Above all, the temple of Ramchandra has set an example of conservation of cultural heritage from the local efforts. While quite a many temples in the Kathmandu Valley are falling apart, this must be a lucky one to have caring neighbours.

With the locals people’s effort, a Ramchandra Temple Renovation Committee was formed a decade ago. It collected donations from the locals and started painting, stone-paving and conserving the temple. Daily rituals take place and special festival invites hundreds of visitors on the day of Ram Nawami, which occurs this year on April 21.
[ Kathmandu, Sunday, April 07, 2002 Chaitra 25, 2058.]

Sunday, March 17, 2002

Ranipokhari : King’s tribute to his beloved

By Razen Manandhar

Love never dies. A mother can’t forget a young son’s untimely demise and a man, who loves his wife equally, cannot see her begrieved endlessly. That is the story behind the biggest artificial water body in the whole Kathmandu valley. This 332 year-old Ranipokhari has a love story to tell, apart from its historic, religious, social as well as physical importance. As it lies in the centre of the city today, people walk or drive along this everyday but they scarcely have time to look at the heritage, the legacy of the past.

This temple was constructed during the reign of king Pratap Malla who ruled the Kathmandu from 1660 to 1674 AD. Some believe that the pond was only a reconstruction over the ancient one and the king only expanded it and made systematic water inlets, so it is locally called "Nhoo Pukhoo", (i.e., the New Pond). When constructed, it was a tribute in the name of his youngest son Chakravartendra, who had died recently and a token of consolation to his wife, drown in sorrow. He had dedicated the pond area to Shiva, Parvati and Brahma, after bringing holy waters from 51 shrines of Nepal and India. "Whoever performs all the religious duties... after having taken his bath in this lake, will obtain the merits and rewards attaching to ... bathing in all the shrines," states the maker’s note.

Historians believe the pond’s area was quite bigger than now it is conserved with the help of ugly iron bars. Initially, it spread to the areas surrounded where lie today Narayan Hiti, Trichandra Campus, Kamalakshi, and Tebahal. The king also erected four huge stone inscriptions at Naachghar, by Seto Durbar and Nurses Hostel (but the last one is still undiscovered). Similary, he had four water spouts constructed at the four corners. One was found while constructing the sub-way at Bhotahity, the second was encroached by Ranipokhari Sports Team building, the third and fourth ones are probably be buried under the building of Nepal Electricity Authority, and around somewhere in Kingsway.

The pond was crowned with a Shiva temple in the middle, that was originally in Pagoda style, and bridged it with the pond periphery with a bridge from the western side. According to historic description of Oldfield, Prime Minister Jung Bahadur Rana pulled down and replaced them with ugly brick walls. But it is not known, whether the present temple was reconstructed by him or was renovated after the 1934 earthquake.

The present temple, opened only once a year on the day of Bhaitika, is made in Mughal-styled architecture. It has two stories and made in cube forms with latticed windows. There are bars around the first floor and are small domes on its four corners and a domed pinnacle is on the top.

It is surrounded by a low bar and gives a picturesque view of the water surface that bears a reflection of the neighboring college and the clock tower.

The pond was guarded by the statue of King Pratap Malla, riding a life-sized elephant from the southern side. He is accompanied by his son and the wife (or two sons). Behind the statue, there was a octagonal open rest-house, which is now disappeared.

Four simple temples are established at four corners of the pond. Among them, one is lumpishly decorated with red marble sheets where as the other two are prohibited from public visits. And one is lying neglected under the overhead crossing bridge. It is still unclear whether the temples were also made by the King Pratap Malla or they were later additions. Probably, the temples were is contributions but were ruined and later they turned into simple dome shaped shrines.

What so ever might have been the past, the King Pratap Malla might have ashamed of the present government if he say today’s Ranipokhari . Either government or the people with some rights in their hands — all are working days and nights to encroach the only beautiful water body in the city.

One after another, constructions like a city auditorium, Durbar School, an Education Administration Office, Seto Durbar, Clock Tower, Bir Hospital, Saraswati Sadan, Legal Reforms Commission, Zonal Commissioner’s Office, KMC’s office builiding, and Electricity Authority and many more. A Police post was added several years ago. There are over 80 small stalls arond the southen face of the historic pond.

Late though, the Kathmandu Metropolitan City has decided to demolish all the ugly structures at the south. That is undoubtedly a good step. But cautions must be there that the future of Rainpokhari may not follow the fortune of Sundhara Park and again the dream, KMC is selling, turn into a private party’s possession.
[Kathmandu, Sunday, March 17, 2002 Chaitra 04, 2058.]

Saturday, March 16, 2002

Ranipokhari finally getting a facelift

By Razen Manandhar

KATHMANDU, March 15: The 332- year-old artificial water pool of Ranipokhari, built at the heart of the capital, will soon be free of squatters and will be replaced with musical water fountains, lush green garden and picturesque open ground.

The Kathmandu Metropolitan City has finally decided to demolish the petrol pump, the building with a rooftop cafe and a municipal office as well as a chain of shops on the southern side of the historic Ranipokhari.

KMC received the permission to do so by the cabinet decision of December 20 last year. After waiting for three whole months, it has issued a public notice to vacate the shops and buildings by last Wednesday. But, it has not yet vacated the area.

The shops were given on lease by the government body Auditorium and Public Garden Development Committee (APDC) over a decade ago.

The 81 shop-owners of the area have had an agreement with the APDC, the authority that they pay monthly rent from Rs. 2,000 to 50,000 and would vacate the area when demanded. The committee collects Rs. 12.5 million every year from the shops south of Ranipokhari.

Mayor of Kathmandu Keshav Sthapit said that demolition works would start by next week. He said, "I feel proud to have an opportunity to rebuild the heritage of the city. Actually, I was asking for this permission for the last four years. I’m indebted to Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba for his right decision,"

According to the designs completed by the KMC, the pond will be free from iron bars, chairs will be added around the pond and additional beauty will be added with grass and flower. There will also be colourful water fountains around the pool that will make the historical area the biggest recreational ground of the city.

The KMC also has a plan to open the road from Bagbazaar to Bhotahity for pedestrians and turn the area into a parking zone where people can park to shop in Ason and Bhotahity.

Sthapit said the pond is a cultural heritage and "it should not be occupied by filthy chicken-sellers, vegetable market and stinking public toilets."

National co-director of the Kathmandu Valley Mapping Programme P.S. Joshi said that the Ranipokhari has been the victim of pumping out ground water in the city.

Surendra Ratna Tuladhar, the chairman of the ward, welcomes the plan of cleaning the Ranipokhari area and making a garden there. But he is against closing of the street that joins Bagbazaar and Bhotahity.

"Closing of the main road will affect business of around 3,000 small and big shops in the Ason and Bhotahity area," he said.

Naresh Bir Shakya, the chairman of local Hapaa Guthi, said along with the demolition of stalls, KMC should also take step to dislocate the adjoining Kathmandu Valley Police Office.

"If the police office, said to be built despite strong protest from the locals, continues to remain there, the public will be deprived of going into the garden," he said.

However, the cabinet decision and the KMC’s plan has not decided anything about the newly-built police office.

Deputy Inspector General Amar Singh Shah said the police was ready to follow any decision to beautify the city but it needed the government decision.

However, the local shopkeepers around the area have already made themselves ready to fight against the decision. The local Sorhahate Ganesh Byapar Sangh filed a case against the decision last Friday.

"We are not against the KMC’s project but since we have been running our shops here according to authorized directions, we must be given due consideration," said chairman of the Sangh Rajkrishna Tandukar.
[Kathmandu Saturday March 16, 2002 Chaitra 03, 2058.]