Missing monuments

Text by Anil Chitrakar / Photo: ECS Media

Nepal is home to many beautiful natural and man-made heritage sites that keep bringing many visitors to this country. Today, due to the attention these monuments are getting and the availability of financial resources, many are being cared for and have been restored. These range from the monasteries in the high Himalaya, the old Malla period palaces of Kathmandu valley and the Janaki temple in Janakpur in the terai. We sometimes get so obsessed with the monuments we see that we seem to forget the ones that existed in history but do not physically exist today. As an example we all see the Dharahara that stands tall near Sundhara. We seem to have forgotten that there was a second one that was destroyed in the 1833AD earthquake. The one we still have with us was shortened during restoration after the 1934AD earthquake.

Another such prominent monument that is missing can be “found” in the Bhaktapur Durbar Square. If we walk to the east end of the Durbar Square, one will come across a pair of lions with a few stone steps leading up and then nowhere. It is a very strange piece of history that is just there in the middle of the big space. There is a book in the market called Voyage of Nepal first published in 1886AD - Around the World New Travel Journal in which there is a photograph and a sketch of the temple that should be behind the two stone lions and the steps. It was a three storey pagoda temple and the trident at the top indicates that it was probably a Shiva temple (Hari Shanker) . It was a very beautiful structure made of bricks and carved wooden beams, struts and pillars. The question then comes to mind, why has it not been recovered and restored, given the fact that Bhaktapur seems to be doing really well in terms of generating revenuefrom tourism each day. What could be the reason for the oversight?

One obviousreasonis that like the rest of Nepal there have not been local elections and hence there is no leadership that has a clear mandate to make a decision. Bhaktapur has seen its share of man-made and natural disasters. In 1349 AD Bhaktapur was destroyed by the invading army from Delhi. It was also badly damaged during the two great earthquakes of 1833 and 1934AD. Given the fact that the city has done so well to conserve its heritage, there is no reason not to recover this temple as well. One challenge that might have to be overcome is that the temple is locally known as the Lan Paungu Dega- which literally means the road-obstacle-temple. There mustbe some reference in history when the temple was built to obstruct access to the main palace square.

There is another theory that the siblings in the other valley towns had the temple built in this odd location and hence local people do not want it back. It will be good to know the real reason as we restore the temple.As the country and the constitutional assembly debate the pros and cons of a federal system, the ordinary people are reminded of the rivalries’ that existed among the city states of the valley that existed in the 18th century. This rivalry is the principle reason why the valley could not defend itself against the invading Gorkhali army. n