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.]