Lions of Basantapur & Their Master

Features Issue 15 Aug, 2010

Nripendra Karmacharya ECS’s Design Manager, said “Susan please come and meet a great stone sculptor”.  I said, “Sure”, imagining to myself a mature, wizened, wordly-wise Nepalese man, with old and arthritic fingers, but to my surprise was confronted by 30 year old DHARMA RAJ SHAKYA, already a recipient of Prabal Gorkha Dakshin Bahu conferred by the late King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah in 2000. Many of the photos of Dharma Raj showed lovely shoulder length hair, where here he was with a ‘short back and sides’ a saying for a very clean haircut. I encouraged him to grow his hair saying “girls love longer hair, you know”.  Because I had already discovered he wasn’t married and that his parents were very keen for grandchildren, and that their eldest son Dharma Raj was holding back all the others, 3 brothers.  (I just love teasing these boys about marriage).

It didn’t take me more than a few moments to choose the piece for our front cover, the statue of the Buddhist Goddess Pragya Parmitaa, for which Dharma Raj won first prize at the National Art Exhibition held by NAFA in 1996, at the tender age of 23.

Dharma Raj, the son of Nunem Raj Shakya a master sculptor and stonemason, started young chipping away at stone, as young as 8 years, like so many children of master artists in Nepal.   This family has resided in Patan in the ancient area of Okubahal, and the family can trace its way back 1500 years.  Okubahal was the city of artists in stone, metal, wood and lost wax.  Many of course have left these professions,  but still this
family,  related to Abhya Raj Shakya the designer of the 16th century Mahabouddha temple in Patan,  keeps working in stone.  Ancestors of royal scientists and artists the four sons of Nunem Raj Shakya are working in stone.

Dharma Raj pursued his studies with a BA in Fine Arts in ‘98, and a MA in Nepalese Culture from T.U.  Even before these graduations he was winning prizes and receiving commissions.  In 2000 he held his first solo exhibition in Kathmandu inaugurated by the late Crown Prince, and has participated at the ‘97 Biennal Asian Art Exhibition in Bangladesh, and group exhibitions in Nepal, Japan and Germany, and he travelled personally to exhibit in Japan, China and India, with solo exhibitions in Tokyo and Beijing.  In fact he is now (February) in Doha, Qatar, at an exhibition and demonstration for World Tourism Day, participating with 50 other countries’ representatives.