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BRONZE WARRIORS FOR EVER

During my first visit to Helsinki, Finland I was intrigued to find the huge statue of Tsar Alexander II adorning the centre of Senate Square in the heart of the city. Didn't the Finns actually fight the Russians for independence? Then I remembered that, of course, Finland gained its independence during the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 A.D. when Russia was convulsed by its civil war. Finland escaped the clutches of the Bolsheviks. A reformist Russian emperor is appreciated incongruously in a foreign country and not in his own!

What is it about revolutions that the past has to be so negated? Does one have to end history to move forward, even while this motion is at the same time making history? Or is it the certitude of history repeating itself and toppling the present protagonists from their high pedestals that these revolutionaries are so afraid of? The French Revolution devoured its own children and gave birth to the French empire under Napoleon Bonaparte. Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and his family have been beatified by the Russian Orthodox Church. In July 1998 their bodies were re-interred in the Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg in a ceremony attended by President Boris Yeltsin, erstwhile Communist apparatchik, a mea culpa by the Soviets for the murder of the royal family. We witnessed revolutionaries vandalizing the statues of Shah kings even as statues of Malla kings adorn the ancient temple squares of Kathmandu valley's cities. "A Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever": blissfully Prithivi Narayan Shah knew what today's misled mass does not.

Maharajah Chandra Shumsher

Commander-in-Chief Dhir Shumsher J. B. Rana
I have often wondered why the democrats and the republicans spared the Rana statues, would it be because they were so busy fighting among themselves over the loot that they forgot the feudal class is still riding horseback and keeping wary watch over their shenanigans? Or is it because secretly they too would like to have their busts displayed for public adulation? Just imagine GPK triumphant astride an Arabian stallion, MKN in a heroic pose with a flaming sword in hand and a colossal PKD clutching little books of Maoist mumbo-jumbo! The six equestrian statues of Rana prime ministers must have taken pride of place in Tundikhel, the army parade ground, in earlier times. After 1951 A.D. those statues were removed to the present obscure corners; they were relegated to the periphery of memory, confined to the margin of history.

Maharajah Jung Bahadur Rana
Prime Minister Jung Bahadur Rana's bronze equestrian statue was unveiled on the 15th of March 1854 A.D. with befitting pomp and splendour as a tribute to his historic visit to England. Originally it was located in the parade ground in front of the Bhimsen Tower, also known as Dharahara. At present it is inside the Army Headquarters compound. It is truly in a heroic mien; Jung Bahadur is turning his head back over his right shoulder to look behind even as his horse is breaking from a gallop. The composition and casting were done in England; the statue could easily be that of Alexander the Great astride his favorite Bacephalus. The statue of Maharajah Ranauddip Singh is placed at the corner of Tundikhel across the road from the General Post Office.
Jung Bahadur's statue being unveiled in 1882 by Prime Minister Ranauddip Singh
The statue of Prime Minister Maharajah Bir Shumsher is placed at a corner of the Army Pavilion inTundikhel just oposite the Nepal Electricity Corporation building across the road. Bir made a statue of his father Commander-in-Chief Dhir Shumsher, the only statue of an army Commander-in-Chief in Nepal, currently placed at the corner of entrance to the Army Pavilion across from Bir Hospital.  
 
The equestrian statue of Maharjah Juddha is located at Tundikhel, in the corner of the Army Headquarters compound across the Bhadrakali Temple. Another statue of Prime Minister Juddha Shumsher J. B. Rana gazes from the planned city center of post-earthquake Kathmandu. The Great Earthquake of 1934 A.D. had levelled over 80%of the city's buildings with untold human casualty. For Juddha it was a traumatic initiation to power so soon after becoming prime minister. Rebuilding Nepal took the better part of his energies during the years after the earthquake and his statue was installed in tribute to the success of these efforts. A restoration of that magnitude has not been attempted ever in the history of Nepal and that too without any foreign aid!

Maharajah Juddha Shumsher
When there is a will, there is a way.The Greek poet Agathon put it succinctly all those many years ago, "This only is denied to God: the power to undo the past". Those bronze figures from the past should be left alone for us to learn lessons of our own choosing.

Maharajah Ranauddip Singh Rana




Comments

  1. Magnificent statues. Great photos - glad I was there to provide moral support. But, when it comes right down to it, are not statues, portraits, etc. a vain attempt to be remembered after death? And "vain" with the double meaning. Best we be remembered by our deeds perhaps. In a philosophical mood this evening...

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  2. As an eighteen year old kid, I have recollections of King Tribhhuwan's statue in Banepa. A gracious white statue with a hand waving in the air. Whenever I went to my Mamaghar in Sindhupalchowk, I remember, I never slept when we came near Banepa, just to catch a glimpse of the king. If the bus, by chance, stopped for a while in Banepa chowk, I used to be the happiest kid in the whole bus.

    On my first trip to Mamaghar, after the Maoists demolished the statue, I was very hurt to see a bare pedestal at the middle of the street. Honestly, few days ago, I went to the demolished Dharahara, but seeing the devastation never hurt me as it did when I saw the lone pedestal in Banepa.

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