One image that my mind carries is of the 1956 Hungarian revolution when they brought down the statue of Stalin at Budapest. I was at that time in London and staying in a house where there were a number of Hungarians. The two broken iron bars projecting out of
what had been the representation of two legs remains vivid. It is interesting that a new twist to monuments has been given by the Hungarian authorities when they unveiled at this same site in 2009 a virtual replica of that remnant. Perhaps, they did not want
to forget the atrocities of Stalin on the Hungarians. Another image is of the
sacrilege committed by the Talibans when they blew up the ancient statues of the Buddha at the Bamyan. There isno justification for such an action, and despotic rulers such as the Taliban have still a lot to answer for their deeds.
One notes that some sort of religious conflict has always been present over the centuries. It is ironic that when people talk of secularism, they do not cast their minds back to the conflicts of the past. We have read and heard of Christian / Muslim, Hindu / Muslim or even of Catholic / Protestant, Shia / Sunni conflicts from time to time. One sees that much of the materials used for the construction of the Qutab Minar were what originally belonged to a Hindu structure. The destruction of the mosque at the site of the Ram Janma Bhumi is a similar action. Now, in this day and age of secularism, such actions cannot be condoned.
The last image in my mind is of the statues of Saddam being toppled down by some furious Iraqis. One concludes, therefore, that history is not kind on despots.
During the last five years, in Nepal, there have
been times when groups of
people have gone around from place to place pulling down statues of the Shah rulers which had been
sited in the middle of the road. If only the Shahs had copied the former Malla rulers of the valley and placed their images humbly in front of a deity, they might have been forgiven.
Perhaps, that is why King Mahendra’s and Birendra’s statue at Pashupati have been spared. After all, it makes no sense to have statues in the middle of the road, blocking the visibility of motorists. Surprisingly, a former ‘High Up’s’ statue on the Biratnagar-Dharan road met a similar fate.
Even the very non-controversial ex-PM Tanka Prasad, whose statue had been placed by the side of a highway had the indignity of being shifted as the road was widened. Rumours abound about a number of statues being ‘blacklisted’and one
wonders their fate. Such
removal, however, does
not detract or diminish in anyway their contribution to the Nepali state or to
the people.
The contributions of Prithvi Narayan, Tribhuvan, Mahendra and Birendra cannot be denied. However, besides Laxman Khadka and Kamal Thapa, there are hardly anyone prepared to come forward to say this. A realistic assessment of all our rulers needs to be done.
Currently, in Nepal, our political leaders and our Sahids are rightly being honoured for their contribution. What I applaud now is that we are now building statues of Shiva and Buddha in many parts of the country. I have been highly impressed by the many Buddhist images that one sees in Sri Lanka.
As Buddha was a ‘Son of Nepal’ and a propagator of peace, it is only proper that we do this. Happily,
this is occurring in that massive images of the Buddha have been placed at various sites in the valley. Not to be out done, the followers of Shiva and Hanuman are doing the same in other places in the country. Hopefully, these sites will be of great tourist attraction as is the image of Christ at Rio de Janeiro.
One hears on and off of religious conflicts in both Northern and Southern borders of Nepal. It was unfortunate that the making of Nepal into ‘a Zone of Peace’ was not universally accepted some twenty years ago. Even Ronald Reagan then President of USA is said to have stressed that we needed to convince our Northern and Southern neighbours on this point.
The massive image of the Sleeping Buddha is also an impressive sight in Yangon, Myanmar.
One unforgettable image in a Muslim country is the monument of Krishna and Arjun with all the 17 horses which constitute a long traffic island in the centre of Jakarta. Then, there is, of course, Bali with all its Hindu culture.
One is surprised to see this in Indonesia which
is a Muslim country, but has not forgotten its past. As a postscript to this, however, is the recent news from Malaysia of desecretion of a site where a Hindu temple is being built.
What is required in
this day and age of varied bickering is an attitude of understanding of one’s neighbour’s point of view. Perhaps, rebuilding replicas of the blown up statues of the Bamyan on one of our Parevavir or Kagvir, where there is a solid rock face, will be a fitting tribute to Lord Buddha. It will be the star attraction for manyBuddhists to visit our land and, thus, increase tourist flow.Any takers?