KATHMANDU, NOV 19 - Atop a hill, at the intersection of three roads that wind their way through a small market area in Gorkha, stands the once-glorious Manakamana temple. Visited by scores of Hindu pilgrims every year, this temple to the wish-fulfilling goddess Manakamana is in desperate need of renovation.
The mythical history of the Manakamana goddess dates back to the reign of King Ram Shah of Gorkha. Every night, the king’s wife would awake and make her way to a nearby hill. Upon finding his kingly bed empty, Ram Shah decided to feign sleep and follow his queen on her nightly sojourn. He soon found himself outside a large hall, guarded by two massive lions. Inside, the hall was lined with various gods and goddesses, waiting for the queen to chair their heavenly meet. Struck with the fact that his queen was possessed of divine power, the king returned home with a heavy heart.
The next morning, he informed his wife of all he had witnessed, claiming that he had seen it all in a dream. No sooner had he revealed his discovery, Ram Shah was struck dead. Back then, the practice of
a wife committing Sati by throwing herself on the funeral pyre of her husband was very much in vogue. However, Ram Shah’s personal secretary Lakhan Thapa Magar pleaded with the queen not to go through with the practice. The queen,
however, assured Thapa Magar that she would return.
Months after the death of the king and queen, Thapa Magar heard of a stone discovered by a farmer ploughing his field. When struck by the plough, the stone began to leak a profusion of blood and milk. Thapa Magar rushed to the area and believing the stone to be an incarnation of the dead queen, built a temple there and began to serve the goddess Manakamana. Unlike other Hindu temples, where Brahmins are the priests, the Manakamana temple is served exclusively by the descendents of Lakhan Thapa Magar, who are now in their 17th generation.
Renovation or Relocation?
Dating back to the 17th century, this holy Hindu shrine’s south-west portion began to tilt following
1934’s devastating earthquake. Manakamana saw a major facelift in 1969 when brass plates were installed on the roof. However, the main southern entrance to the temple has since deviated from his silver doorframe. The temple’s wooden frames are decaying and two huge, black wooden pillars supporting the temple have also changed positions, causing the entire temple to incline. Similar to the other famous Hindu shrine, the Pashupatinath temple, Manakamana too is infested with mice and cockroaches that can be seen scurrying about.
Additionally, last year’s November 13 earthquake, measuring 5.0 on the Richter scale with its epicentre
in northeast Gorkha, further weakened the temple’s base, causing it to depress into the ground. Furthermore, while the hill slopes below the temple are covered in greenery, most of which are orange tress, the slopes adjacent to the temple have seen their share of mudslides that increasingly threaten the temple.
The Department of Archaeology (DoA) and the Ministry of Culture (MoC) had submitted a report a year ago urging the government to take immediate action to avoid further damage to this important religious site. The report warned that the wooden planks supporting the temple are infested with termites and its foundations are being dug up by mice. Thanks to the improper channeling of water, the temple’s brick foundation is also decaying.
However, Mohan Singh Lama, research officer at the DoA’s planning department, claimed that the temple cannot be renovated in situ as previous earthquakes have greatly deteriorated its foundations and weakened the surrounding ground. Instead, the foundations need to be dug up and the entire temple relocated. This will mean a complete reconstruction of the entire temple while keeping the new building in line with the old architectural design. Engineers at the DoA estimate a cost of over 80 million rupees for this purpose.
In the 2010-11 fiscal year, the government had allocated a sum of Rs 10 million for the temple. The money, according to Lama, was spent on gold worth Rs 5.7 million and the rest on wood. Presently, the gold is stored in the Rastriya Banijya Bank treasury. The Manakamana Temple Renovation Committee plans to paint the copper roof with gold.
Narendra Shrestha, coordinator of the renovation committee, claimed that once they have the money in hand, relocation and reconstruction will begin in the months to follow. Shrestha said that they have demanded over Rs 50 million in the upcoming budget and the rest will be raised through collection from locals. He claimed to have already collected around Rs 4 million as donations. Temple priests have also assured donations of Rs 500,000 for the reconstruction.
Posted on: 2012-11-20 09:28