A beautiful mind

Rita Dhital


Far from the glare of publicity, Nepalis artists and sculptors are working hard to preserve the tradition and at the same time handing down their skill and knowledge to next generation. One such name in this field among a handful of artists is Dil Bahadur Lama, whose contribution has been though recognised immensely at national level, still not known to many.

Trained from Myanmar in painting and sculptor, Dil Bahadur Lama’s creations have already been placed at the various places in Nepal. To name one among many is late King Birendra’s statue at Birauta Chowk, Pokhara. The other bests among his creations are statues of King Mahendra, King Birendra, Queen Aishwarya, King Gyanendra and the statues of Buddha in various postures. Most of the statues are made out of clay, white cement, metal and with the introduction of new technology as he sometimes uses polymer. Besides sculpture, his Thanka paintings and other paintings depicting nature and mountain are also equally much admired by all. One of his paintings depicts the various stories of the life of Buddha.

He says, “I am not satisfied with my personal achievements and success. So, I want to train the youngsters with my expertise. This is one of the most revered forms of arts which should not die so soon and I believe the next generation should be well aware about this.” In 1994, together with Buddhi Raj Bajracharya, minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, Lama started an institution — Painting and Sculpturing Management Committee (PSMC) — under Association of Buddhist Monasteries, at Akshewor Mahavihar in Patan where he is principal. He has been voluntarily helping the institution to train and support the aspiring artists and sculptors, for the last 10 years. At the age of 70, he is still actively involved in social work and hopes to continue it in future as long as his health allows him to. At PSMC, classes are run to teach both forms of arts. Lama says, “It is a two-year course and the classes are run three days a week in the morning for an hour, incorporating one day for theory class and the rest for practical classes. Both the Thanka painting and sculpture begin with the human anatomy and later they move to tradition-based. The main focus is given in the preservation of traditional art, religious and cultural practice guided by religion.”

Till date, nine best students have become the instructor at the same institution. Starting with 45 students in the first year, so far, the institution has already trained 421 students and the number of student is growing every year.

Recognising his contribution to the paintings and sculptures, he was honoured with a letter of appreciation in 2000 by King Birendra. He received the Gorakha Dakchhin Bahu, fourth class, in 2003 and Birendra Aishwarya Sewa Padak in 2004 as an indication of his service.

According to Bikash R Dhakhwa, secretary of the institution, traditionally, painting and sculpturing were inherited business but now it is changing. With the commercialisation in this field, many people aspire to be artists these days. Dhakhwa says, “Religion guides the art and the art guides the culture. Due to lack of such institutions, the quality of art is going down and the quality has suffered a lot in the name of innovations. So, this institution is committed to keep the traditional mode intact by giving religious knowledge as well to the students.”

To encourage the students to use their skills, to make a space for themselves professionally, to earn public exposure and to let people know the development in this field, the institution organises exhibition from time to time and also actively participates in the exhibitions held abroad.

This year also the institution is planning to hold an exhibition. As a part of the preparation, students are preparing various statues of men and women made of clay, some painted sceneries; and a polymer statue of Buddha, sizes of which range from one inch to 16 feet. Besides this they have miniatures of 61 different ethnic groups in their traditional dresses, a miniature of Machhendranath and Minnath that are enlisted recently in the Unesco World Heritage Site.