Biggest Karuwa in the World?: One More Feather in Our Cap

Heritage Issue 110 Jan, 2011
Text by Amar B. Shrestha / Photo: ECS Media

Suresh Man Bajracharya runs the ‘Palpali Karuwa Udyhog’ in Tansen, Palpa, a picturesque little hill station like town in western Nepal. This town is famous for many things, for instance, the Tansen Durbar around which the town is built, and which was razed to the ground by the Maoists in January 2006, in what could be compared to an act of defilement similar to that of the Taliban’s destruction of the colossal 6th century Buddha statues in Bamiyan, Afghanistan, on March 2001. A five minute walk from the durbar is located another famous landmark, the so called Taksar Tole (Taksal Ward). This where one will find a number of shops displaying a variety of metal crafts that have given Tansen a reputation as a town of skilled metal smiths. Most of the metal works are either those that are used for everyday use in Newari households, or for religious ceremonies. Beside Magars, Tansen is a city primarily inhabited by Newar migrants from the Kathmandu valley who just don’t seem to be able to stop practicing their fabled craftsmanship skills wherever they go!

And so, here too, they carry on their trade merrily. It is said that whoever visits Tansen does not leave without a couple of metal work souvenirs. One of the most popular is the karuwa (an artistically done water vessel in bronze). Rare is the Newari household that doesn’t have a couple of them in his house. They might be of different designs and the size could vary as well however, there is one particular karuwa that is a bit different from the rest. Well, more than a little different! It’s a huge affair weighing 150 kg and Suresh Man is the one who made it. Let’s talk to him and know the what’s, why’s and how’s of this exclusive karuwa.

Why did you make this big karuwa?
For publicity and to highlight the name of Palpali karuwa and Palpa Tansen around the world

What is this karuwa made of?
It’s made of honey wax, Palpali bronze, cow’s dung, black stones, black mud and doal mud.

How many kilograms of metal were used?

This karuwa is 150kg. Its production entailed use of 300kg of Palpali bronze and 20kg of honey wax.

Where do you get the raw material from?

We collected the raw materials needed from different villages near Kathmandu, Nepalgunj, and from villages between Nepalgunj and Pokhara as well from some other places of Nepal and India.

How long did it take for you to make this karuwa?

It took us six months to finish the project.

How much did it cost you to make this big karuwa?
At least Rs. 300,000 to Rs. 400,000.

How many people were involved?

From eight to ten people.

Have you tried to record your big karuwa in the Guinness Book of World Records?

No, but we have tried to garner some publicity for it and some time ago a journalist from Sweden came to Tansen to see our karuwa.

What do you want to do with this karuwa?

If somebody wants to buy it, then we will sell it, otherwise it will be kept on display here.

What is the price?
I have priced it at Rs 500,000.

Are you planning to make other things as big as this karuwa?

We only make karuwas so there are no such plans to make other items. But, if somebody wants a karuwa that is bigger than this, then we will certainly make it!

Since when did you start in the business of metal craft?
From childhood - it’s a family business from a long time back. I think I was 12 when I took up the craft.

Who else in your family is involved in metal craft?
Uncles, aunts, brothers, nephews and nieces, you name it, everybody’s involved!

What are the different things you make?

Primarily, it’s all karuwas but according to order we also make things like panas (lamp stand), ghanta (bells used in temples) and so on.

Well, seeing that Khagendra Thapa Magar has only recently been recognized as the shortest man in the world, it would be a sort of coup de grace if Suresh Man’s karuwa could be listed as the biggest karuwa in the world. Coincidentally, Khagendra hails from Baglung, a hill town that is very similar to Tansen in many respects. Would he fit into Suresh’s karuwa? Just a thought!