The Solitary Shiva

Features Issue 91 Jul, 2010
Text by Jebin Gautam / Photo: ECS Media

It is a towering statue, 108 feet high. It is nearly complete, but still grayish and brown, the construction concrete still coarse and rugged. There are even bits of iron rod sticking out of the huge serpent that encircles Shiva’s gigantic neck. “But everything will be complete within a few months,” says the builder.

The great new status of Lord Shiva being constructed on a hill top near Bhaktapur is
the creation of Kamal Jain, a Kathmandu businessman. Jain, who originally hails from India, has been living in Kathmandu for the past 20 years. He is the chairman of the Hilltake Industries Private Limited, a successful water storage tank company in Nepal. In fact, Jain, with his strong business acumen, has even expanded his business venture to importing and supplying electrical appliances. Unlike many businessmen who already have a successful family business to simply takeover and maintain, however, the struggle to be successful in his tasks and undertakings was not always easy for Jain. Hailing from Siliguri in northeast India, Jain first came to Kathmandu in his early twenties when he had no one to guide him on his new endeavors nor did he have strong financial backing. He started everything from a scratch, and as a skillful novice and a clever strategist he single-handedly built an empire for himself. It was Jain’s determination and strong entrepreneurial insight that eventually brought him success and fame. Hence, maybe it was this accomplishment that encouraged this businessman to build a monument so huge and striking; something that will stand in homage to a man’s devotion to hard work and his respect to will-power.

Kamal Jain is Jain by religion, a faith that shuns idol worship. He admits, however, that when he first visited the temple of Lord Pashupatinath in Gaushala during his initial days in Kathmandu, he felt an instant connection with Lord Shiva. He also states that he felt enlightened and blessed immediately after taking tika and prashad (sacred food) from the temple. The experience was so blissful and divine that Jain admits he immediately became a devout follower of Lord Pashupatinath. So this monument is a mark of Jain’s devotion to his beloved lord, who he feels is guiding him and supporting him in each of his endeavors and ventures. Moreover, Kamal Jain says that he feels all his present success and prosperity is the result of his strong devotion to Shiva. Amongst other things, he states, his virtuous dedication to Shiva actually incited him to build the gigantic statue.

When asked how he got the inspiration to build the statue, Jain reveals that eight years ago while visiting the Birla Temple in New Delhi, he was astounded by the 65 foot structure that he saw there. The largeness and immensity of the structure  left him awe-struck and amazed and inspired him to build something similar; something as vast and huge as the monument he saw. He reveals that he wanted to recreate in hundreds of other people the same emotion he felt when he encountered the immense Birla temple; something, he says, that will amaze people with its holy immensity and will fuel their spiritual reverence to god and life. Now looking at the amazing structure, which will be shimmering with bright colors and heavenly glaze in a few months’ time, it appears that Jain has achieved his ambitions.

It has been three years since the construction of the statue began. As the statue is so tall, its foundation had to be dug deep and strong. The foundation, alone, took a year to complete. Moreover, as the statue is being erected atop a hill in Sanga Bhanjyang, it had to be resistant to strong winds and other natural calamities; otherwise a small natural calamity might easily affect the structure. The foundation was not the only challenge. A series of other problems followed when the building process started. In spite of the hindrances that constantly arose during construction, Jain says that he was never discouraged to stop or discard the project. Rather, as he saw the structure evolving, he admits that he saw his dreams of pleasing the Lord he so admired coming into reality.

The gigantic statue of Shiva is not the only structure that is being built on the hill situated at the edge of Bhaktapur. As planned, the statue is accompanied by a series of 12 Shiva lingams. The concept is that prospective pilgrims start worshipping the lingams from the base of the hill and slowly proceed upwards; finally reaching the statue of Shiva at the top. The problem is, however, that the path leading to the statue, which branches off from the Arniko highway northeast of Kathmandu, is still crude and yet to be tarred to make visits to the pilgrimage spot easy and accessible.

Although Kamal Jain has single-handedly garnered effort for the entire project, he had expected a little help from the government to build and furbish the rugged road, which is more of a dusty and potholed path right now. But, Jain says, the government has shown no enthusiasm in helping him construct the road. He is disappointed at the government’s lack of interest and eagerness to help a project that will indirectly benefit them. Jain’s belief is that since the statue is a one of its kind structure (as the largest Shiva statue in the world), many Hindus, especially the devout Shaivaites from India and other parts of the world, will come to Nepal to see it and be blessed. Hence, this will help boost religious tourism in the country and will certainly bring economic advantages, from providing jobs and to aiding the hospitality industry.

Besides the religious motifs being constructed around the area, the designers of the lord Shiva monument are also giving a park-life ambience to the hill. If you visit the construction site now, besides the finishing touches being given to the statue, you can see dozens of gardeners trying to tame and beautify the surrounding wilderness. A well-maintained garden will obviously help enhance the beauty of the hill. It will also help the recovering patients housed at the series of accompanying buildings at the site.

You might wonder why recovering patients are being discussed in an article about a Shiva statue. Besides trying to enhance the spirituality of the people with his independent project, Jain is also planning to establish an Ayurvedic Care Center in the area, to give practical significance to the holy site. Jain says that his plan is for the new center to treat 20-25 residential patients at a time. Given that the site is located in an isolated location, away from the bustle and crowd seen elsewhere in the Kathmandu valley, the patients may greatly benefit from the healthy air of the open hills. And nowadays, he says, when hundreds of people are often plagued by numerous counterfeit Ayurvedic treatment centers, Jain hopes that his Center will set a good example about the wonders and viability of ayurveda in the modern period.

Jain officially wanted to inaugurate the statue at the time of Shivaratri, the winter festival dedicated to Lord Shiva, but with numerous delays in construction, he could not meet that timeline. Yet, there are already hoards of people visiting the site to worship and venerate Lord Shiva. Kamal Jain, the industrious and ambitious businessman, is delighted by the intrigue and inspiration that his statue is creating in the hearts of the people. He even hopes that after seeing his undertaking, others will start similar projects and further beautify this valley of gods with more breathtaking monuments. In the period of Nepalese renaissance, the Lichhavi and Malla kings completely changed the architecture of the valley that was Kathmandu. Maybe in this time, Jain’s great statue of Lord Shiva will encourage exciting new undertakings and create a new renaissance.