Eternally Yours

Festival Issue 77 Jul, 2010
Text by Looza Mahaju

Immortality. Nothing has enticed kings and commoners alike than the concept of living on forever.Many a lives have been wasted, oddly, in the search for immortality. History is ripe with the tale of kings desperately searching for anything that will make them immortal. Still, when a bard or a teller of the ancient lore is surrounded by eager ears, hungry souls demand the tales of immortality. And, what haven’t the desperate ones done to find and drink the elixir of life.

Many have, after many a desperate attempts, turned to write their names in the pages of history through their never ending conquests. Not many of them succeeded, though. Yes, they did leave their names in the pages of history, but merely as a passing footnotes. Some erected statues—the cityscape across the world is littered with it. Putting the beauty and artistic credits aside, they make such a nice place to stash a pigeon coop, too. ‘To each his/her own’, the ways are as many as the individuals, as they sought for that elusive fruit. Too bad the sands of time always caught up with them, whatsoever they tried. But we have to agree, they have left some interesting artifacts for us to ponder upon.

The Fountain of Youth now has a permanent place in literature, inspiring every genre and even appearing in, though rather oddly, in Disney’s Duck Tales, where Uncle Scrooge tries so desperately to reclaim so he can earn more of the stuff he loves the most: money. While some have searched for the mythical water fountain, others have sought the comfort of eternity in the netherworld, reunited with their gods. What are pyramids but the eternal hope of mankind that sees eternal life even after all the mortal fragments have passed away in much same way as sand passes between the fingers? While most of these efforts were more or less on a strictly ‘human’ level, there are some who have taken a different approach to ensure that they are remembered long after they are gone. They have had themselves associated with the gods. Literally.

There’s so much to be said of Siddhi Narsingh Malla. He was a versatile king, with interest steeped in glorifying Patan with temples and festivals that would embellish his city to the same effect when the beauty of the women is brought out by jewelry. Little is said about the measures he took to guard himself against the fate of all mortals. Legends have it that after the construction of the famous 21-tier Krishna Mandir, he attained siddhi (literally is
‘enlightenment’) and was granted his wish to be ‘above’ the realities of the mundane world. And, oh, yes, people say that what he did was not only unthinkable at that time, but also unheard of.

The next time you enter Patan’s famed Darbar Square, keep your eyes open. The simplicity and the brilliance of his work is easy to miss. As you enter the palace complex, keeping the inscription that declares Darbar Square as World Heritage Site to your left, look for three specific statues on either side. Lined side by side, from right to left, is the statue of Ganesh, the fearsome god Narsingha, and Hanuman. So what? I hear you say. Wait, hold your horses! You are already missing the finer points there. Stop for a while and ponder on the gods. Why Ganesh, Narsingh and Hanuman? Why not other gods, with so many to chose from? The king certainly had no dearth of them to choose from. ‘Pray, tell us then!’

Correlate the statues with the King’s name and you’ll understand, and therein lies Malla’s brilliance. Ganesh, because his wife’s name gives the King’s first name, Siddhi; Narsingh to give the middle name, and Hanuman, for he is considered to be the god of wrestlers (the Malla dynasty draws its name from this particular sport, wrestling). So put them together and you’ll get Siddhi Narsingh Malla. So simple, yet so brilliant. No one had ever thought of a simpler way to ensure that their legacy is untarnished, even by the wrathful hands of time. And, since the statues are of the gods, no god-fearing citizens will ever try to bring it down to the grounds. And, whenever a devotee prays in front of these statues, he is in fact, revering Malla. He had himself elevated to the status of the gods he so venerated. And, whenever anyone passes by this trinity, in its true essence, Siddhi Narsingh Malla remains immortal. Still.