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It is but natural to recall events surrounding the Pashupatinath temple on the auspicious occasion of the Maha Shiva Ratri, the night of Lord Shiva. I read a news report that three hundred thousand devotees from the sub-continent thronged at the temple gates. Though Nepalese voters may have voted for the godless Maoist credo in the Constituent Assembly Elections in droves thereby precipitating an existential crisis for the Hindu kingdom, faith in the divine still reigns supreme. The dichotomy of the masses auguring in a secular republic and at the same time celebrating Hindutva does make this country, to paraphrase Sir Winston Churchill, a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.

When I was young my father used to take me to the Pashupatinath temple for religious discourses given by Resunga Maha Prabhu, the ascetic from the mid-western hill town of Nepal. He was old already, his long white hair and flowing beards nearly covering a pale visage, a tall slightly stooped body strained to perform the daily rituals. But his eyes still twinkled with wisdom and saintliness. He was revered by the family of Maharajah Juddha Shumsher J. B. Rana, prime minister of Nepal between 1933 to 1946 A.D.

Juddha was born from the 5th wife of Commander-in-chief Dhir Shumsher J. B. Rana, the youngest brother of Jung Bahadur Rana who started a hereditary rule of the Rana family in Nepal back in 1846 A.D. It is said that during one of his campaigns in British India, Dhir took the beautiful young girl from the royal family of Kangra, Johar Kumari, as his wife. His attraction towards Johar had outweighed his fear of returning with a young bride to his brother Jung's annoyance and possible reprisals. To Dhir's relief Jung Bahadur had accepted his younger brother's new bride in recognition of Dhir's valour. They were married in 1873 and Juddha was born in 1875 A.D.

There is an oral tradition in the family which says that at Dhir's death-bed he called his elder sons and received a pledge from them to list his son from Johar Kumari in the line of succession to the hereditary prime ministership. When Dhir died in 1884 A.D. Juddha was a 7 year old boy. When his eldest brother Bir Shumsher became prime minister he fulfilled the old pledge and enrolled Juddha in the succession list.

Resunga Maha Prabhu had prophesied that Juddha would become prime minister one day, an unlikely turn of event given that Juddha was the youngest and last in line and there were many brothers elder than him waiting. But as fate would have it some of the brothers were removed from power in court intrigues, some died of natural causes and, lo and behold, after the death of his brother Bhim Shumsher, Juddha was next in line! Juddha's faith in the ascetic from Resunga from then on was rock solid. He was the guiding light for all of Juddha's actions.

There is an apocryphal story of how Maharajah Juddha left his prime ministership and went upon retirement to a place called Argheli near the holy site of Ridhi in the mid-west. After the inevitable independence of India from British rule it was a matter of time before the winds of democracy would blow towards Nepal. His ambitious nephews wanted to send Juddha into early retirement and try to control the spread of democracy and save the regime. They somehow managed to get the ascetic Resunga in their camp. Resunga convinced Juddha to retire by prophesying that he had just 2 more years to live. Not wanting to spend the last years of his life in politics, the religious minded Juddha decided to live his last days as a Raj-rishi, a ruler turned yogi, in supplication to God. Perhaps to his chagrin Juddha died in 1952, some 5 years after renouncing his prime ministership. Did the ascetic Resunga manage the unmaking of the Juddha years just as he was crucial in the making of it?


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