Teen Dewal

Text by Anil Chitrakar

Along the banks of the Bagmati River there are numerous temples and monuments that carry the history of Nepal and remind us of legends from days gone by. One of these monuments is the Teen Dewal (3 temples) at Pachali, just beyond the offices of the Federation of Nepali Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) at Teku.

On 15th January 1850 Prime Minister Jung Bahadur Rana set out for Europe leaving behind the administration of Nepal in the hands of his brothers. The post of acting Prime Minister was given to Bam Bahadur Kunwar Rana, the then Commander-in-Chief, while the position of Commander–in-Chief,  Head of the civil department and Governor of eastern and western provinces were given to Badri Narsingh, Krishna Bahadur and Ranaudip Singh respectively.  The Teen Dewal Temple, the adjoining complex and the gardens were built by Bam Bahadur from his own resources while he was the acting Prime Minister during Jung Bahadur’s European trip. The temple is unique in the sense that it is a combination of three shikhara style structures, which have been aesthetically placed next to each other. Nowhere else in Nepal is there another structure that resembles the Teen Dewal.

When Jung Bahadur returned to Nepal after 13 months of travel, Bam Bahadur exposed his brothers and revealed a plot to kill Jung Bahadur and take over power. The plotters were punished. Bam Bahadur then helped Jung to wage war on Tibet with whom Nepal had many grievances including trade and mint issues. This war was successfully concluded by Jung and Bam Bahadur with the signing of a treaty at the Thapathali Palace. The treaty was in favour of Nepal and Tibet was required to pay an annual tribute of NRs 10,000/- to Nepal.

On 1st August 1856, Bam Bahadur became Prime Minister again when Jung announced his resignation. Bam Bahadur was given the thankless job of demobilizing the Nepali army after its war with Tibet and of balancing the budget, which had a big deficit. On 6th August, just five days later, Jung Bahadur became Shree Teen Maharaj or sovereign of Kaski and Lamjung provinces of west Nepal. He once again appointed his trusted brother Bam Bahadur as Prime Minister.

Bam Bahadur made an extensive plan to survey the tarai lands of Nepal and assess new revenue standards as a way to balance the national budget.  However, he was already in very poor health and died after only 10 months in the position. Strangely enough, he occupies a special place in Nepali history as one of the few Prime Ministers of that century to die a ‘natural death’. His wife was prevented from committing sati as part of a campaign to end the prevailing Sati system. Bam Bahadur was Prime Minister of Nepal for a total of only 23 months. As the Shumsher line of the Rana family became more powerful in the subsequent years, his son Bam Bikram Rana was sent into exile and imprisoned in south India.

The Teen Dewal of Teku is formally called the Bom Birbekateswor Mahadev Mandir and is probably the most outstanding, unique and well-kept monuments on the Bagmati riverfront. This temple is dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva or Mahadev. There are three Shiva lingums installed within the common sanctum. There are four other smaller shrines within the temple complex dedicated to Vishnu, Surya, Ganesh and Durga at each of the four corners. The temple attracts many pilgrims during the annual festival of Shiva Ratri in the month of February. Since 1910, the wooden pole placed at Hanuman Dhoka to fly the Indra Dhoja (flag) for the duration of the Indra Jatra festival (5th September this year), has been given to Teen Dewal to help maintain the complex. The Guthi (land trust) for the upkeep of the temple complex at the time of its establishment in 1850, consisted of  451 ropanis of land all over the Kathmandu valley.

Today, the quest to restore the Bagmati River to its old glory is catching momentum. People are becoming aware of the fact that this artery that runs through Kathmandu is its lifeline. The death of the Bagmati is surely going to be the death of the Kathmandu valley civilization as we know it. While conservation of monuments like Teen Dewal offers an opportunity to revive the Bagmati heritage, we need to extend this all the way along both banks. There is also a need to think of some new economically viable use of these monuments in the present context. Could these be turned into museums, art and craft schools, learning centers for architects, or schools of religion and meditation?

Anil Chitrakar is a founding member of  Kathmandu 2020 and
has launched  Crafted in Kathmandu to help local artisans.

For comments e-mail: rosha@craftedinkathmandu.com