|Picasso's painting, 'The Picador'|
A boy was born to the Sthapatis who was destined to be immortalized as Arniko, the master builder of the Yuan Dynasty of China. From early childhood the wunderkind was above average in learning his family's craft. With a sharp intellect he probed and asked questions that would stun his teachers and bewilder the elders. There is a story about the family's visit to a Buddhist holy place when the boy was only three years old. He looked up at the pagoda, its multi-tiered eaves and golden finial and inquired of his parents the names of the people who had built them. He learnt quickly the Buddhist sutras and could recite them with utmost ease. It was but a matter of time before he would be noticed and picked up for great building projects that would catapult him into immortality in three different countries linked by the trajectories of geography and history.
|Arniko's Departure for China - painting by Hari Prasad Sharma|
On July 25th 1279 A.D. the White Pagoda was completed. Occupying an area of 810 square meters the temple was 60 meters high and dwarfed the residential buildings of the new capital. The 5-meter high gilt copper top reflected light fanning the city with golden rays and dazzling the onlookers. The population gaped at this new structure in wonderment and awe and the temple became a locus of Buddhist veneration. It is chronicled that Kublai Khan, pleased, granted onto Arniko 15,000 mu of fertile land with 100 heads of cattle and 100 local hands to farm the land. Arniko's fortune started shining brightly.
Arniko had 11 wives. Principal among them were his Newar wife Chaityaluxmi, a princess of Song Court and Mongol aristocratic women. His eldest son Asanger and his handpicked protege Liu Yuan carried forward the work of Arniko. Arniko passed away on 9th March 1306 A.D. at the ripe old age of 62 following a short illness. Emperor Chengzong grieved the death of Arniko and halted court proceedings as a mark of respect for the Nepalese artisan who helped achieve his grandfather Kublai Khan's vision of transforming China into a Buddhist realm. Following Nepalese customs Arniko's body was cremated and the ashes buried in Xiangshan, Wanping County. Emperor Wuzhong ordered a tombstone with inscriptions in 1311 A.D. Arniko left behind a rich legacy for the ages to marvel.