Nepal | November 25, 2020

Hope and faith amidst destruction

Sangita Shrestha/Sabitri Dhakal

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BHAKTAPUR: Upon reaching the Sallaghari bus stop, one is almost sure that one has caught the wrong bus. The bus helper informs one needs to walk a “little” to reach Changu Narayan. And while walking, the green forest from Duwakot Buspark towards Changu Narayan temple makes one forget why one is there. One doesn’t find any other human companion on the trail save a couple of dogs.

Steps uphill and some more … they become the guide and as soon as one reaches the hill top and gets a glimpse of the pinnacle of the temple and the debris around, it takes no time for one to come to reality of why one is here.

Around Changu Narayan Temple premises
Locals inform that no one is allowed to enter the temple premises because of “security” reasons, and they aren’t wrong. The entrance at the back is blocked by a metallic cupboard and bricks from the debris. Army personnel have been posted to stop people from entering the temple premises. Yet one tries to get a glimpse of the temple that was destroyed in the April 25 quake.

There are nails scattered everywhere in the front yard. The entry is blocked by a zinc sheet. Security forces are posted here too.

Listed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Changu Narayan Temple is historically and culturally important. There is an idol of Bishnu inside the temple, with Chhinnamasta (goddess) and Kileshwor (Mahadev) in the same premises.

Prachand Man Karmacharya. Photo: THT

Prachand Man Karmacharya. Photo: THT

“Narayan’s temple has inclined and if there are earthquakes like that of April 25 and May 12, there are high chances that the temples will collapse,” said Prachand Man Karmacharya, priest at the Chhinnamasta temple.

However, there is no damage to the idols and the temple interiors.

“Earthquakes of four or five Richter scale won’t harm the temple as there are wooden nidaals and thaam. They are the beams and pillars of the temple. And as to support the walls, the wooden supports are given,” he informed.

A part of the Chhinnamasta Temple has collapsed. A shankha (blowing horn) that is inside the temple premises has sunken in.

The paati and sattals that were on the temple premises are no more. The security forces are dismantling the remains so that the ground floor can be used.

A 67-year-old man, who refused to give his name, said, “The sattal inside the Changu Narayan Temple premises was built spending Rs 90,00,000 recently. But the earthquake destroyed it completely while our houses made of mud and unbaked bricks build 50 years ago only suffered some cracks. It has proved that the government has cheated the citizens and its destruction has given me heartache.”

Being a local resident and concerned about the cultural heritage, he opined, “Cultural heritage is our identity and the government must build them properly and strongly. I hope this time that while building the once collapsed cultural heritage, the government works fairly without any corruption.”

hope-and-faith-2Karmacharya’s mother was buried inside the paati where the priest’s family lived. The mother breathed her last in the area and it took around five hours to find her. “I was inside the temple for a special puja that day. As we can’t come out without completing the puja, I remained inside the temple. When I came out, there was nothing left. I didn’t know where my mother was. We tried hard to find her and
we were able to do so only after five hours. She was already dead by then,” informed Karmacharya.

The temple is famous as it is the oldest among the four Narayans in the Capital — Changu, Ichangu, Bisankhu and Shesh Narayan. There are many interesting myths attached to it.

There is a grain of rice kept in the temple building. This rice grain is six inches in diameter and one foot in length. During Satya yug, chamal (rice without husk) used to grow and one seed was sufficient for any number of people. “Once a woman cut the seed to cook as she was alone and she felt the huge seed would be more than enough for her. Since then, not chamal but rice with husk grows everywhere. A single seed was not enough for any number of people,” narrated Karmacharya.

The quake however has done no harm to this chamal in the building.

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The elephant is safe
A statue of an incomplete elephant stands here on the temple premises and the quake has done no harm to it as well. There is an interesting myth about the elephant also.

“The artisans (kaligadhs) were making the elephant in the northern part, it was night and they stopped work for the day. The next day, the elephant was found in the eastern-southern part of Chhinnamasta Temple. The artisans were surprised to see it there. They started working on it but the stone started to bleed, they believed it to be a live elephant. Since then elephants aren’t supposed to be brought to Changu,” narrated Karmacharya.

No one is allowed in the temple and premises for the time being other than the priests of these three temples. “We enter the temple for nitya puja and aarati in the mornings and evenings.”

Cheating death

Rukmani Bhayal. Photo: THT

Rukmani Bhayal. Photo: THT

There is destruction in the temple and around, and people were buried in the rubble. But some were rescued. Among them is Rukmani Bhayal. Bhayal, 60, was sitting in her neighbour’s yard chatting on June 12. Bhayal was buried in the rubble of her house for three hours on April 25. Her neighbours and family members dug her out. “While I was buried, first I thought this is it and I am going to die. But as my head was not buried, I thought that if I shout for help and someone hears me, then I can cheat death. So, I shouted and shouted but no one came to help me. Then I gave up hope and just remembered God and prayed. However, I heard my husband calling me and I responded to him. Slowly just using their hands, they cleared my way out and my son immediately took me to the health post.”

Bhayal still has bruises and is taking medicine. Currently she is living in a temporary shelter nearby. She has plans to work as much as she can and she is also all set to plant rice in coming planting season. When asked what inspired her to overcome her grief she expressed, “This earthquake has taken so many lives. It did not see whether the person is a child or adult. It also took away lives of newly married couples and in the time of life’s best period. And even god’s place has been destroyed. I feel it is not only us humans who are suffering, but gods are also suffering the aftermath of the earthquake. This has made me strong and inspired me to live. However, I also wondered why I am alive and why children or youth are dead. I wonder now what to do with my life.”

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