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A brisk tour of Kathmandu’s heritage sites

A brisk tour of Kathmandu’s heritage sites

The Buddha Purnima is over but peace and bliss is very much in the air in the studios of Nepal Art Gallery (the venue of the exhibition titled Deities of Nepal-II, which started on May 21 and will remain open till June 10) drowned in a stream of mellifluous music in the midst of a cacophonous concrete jungle.

 Two lion-like, friendly-looking creatures (Sharduls?) welcome you as you enter the modern building that, frankly speaking, does not have much to offer in terms of traditional architecture of Nepal. But then it will be wrong to judge the council by its building as it has done quite a lot since its establishment in 1962 to promote Nepal’s art and craft.

 As you enter the building and turn right, a spacious gallery draws you. There, next to a beautiful idol of Ganesh, the divine remover of obstacles, Tsering Phonjo Gurung`s monastery (medium: Canvas), adorned with colorful windows and prayer flags, appears to rise with the clouds, unlike the modern-day centers of faith that rise on the lap of Mother Nature, obscuring Nature herself, particularly one of her finest creations, the lush-green woods. 

 Close by, gently rises Priyanka Karn´s Patan Krishna Mandir in Mithila style (medium: canvas), with ‘Hare Krishna’ in a yellow background, bringing a generous touch of Mithilanchal. Karn appears to bring Mithila finesse and fertility to the ruggedness of the mountains that the Shikhar (mountain-like) style seems to represent. 

 In a large canvas titled Snapshot(s) of Lalitpur`s Heritage(s) (acrylic & oil color), Raju Chitrakar offers glimpses of the archaeological heritages of Lalitpur, the city of fine arts. 

In a background of Ashtamangal (eight auspicious symbols), he presents in broad strokes shrines and the presiding deities of those shrines. 

 Among other heritages, the canvas sports the Kumari Chhen and the living goddess, Matsyendranath and his abode in Patan,  Shakyamuni Buddha in his lotus posture and his stupas at Lagankhel and Pulchowk. 

Gushing with water, traditional stone spouts of the Kathmandu valley come to life in Rabita Kisi`s artwork, which is part of her Dhungedhara series VII. While a plastic vessel is quenching thirst, another eagerly awaits, symbolizing, perhaps, a parched urban jungle`s eternal quest and thirst for water. 

 Bishal Maharjan`s Makara (acrylic on canvas) presides over a corner with its coiled snout, leaving a powerful impression that a finely executed piece of artwork never fails to do. 

 Close by, Naresh Sundar Sainju`s piece of art titled Bramhayani Shakti Pith-Treasures of Ancient Panauti (medium: acrylic on canvas) perhaps offers a glimpse of our ancient heritages slipping into oblivion because of our collective neglect. 

Mixed perhaps with the artist´s sad mood at a poor state of affairs vis-a-vis the preservation of our history, it seeks to send a powerful message to the rich and the powerful, who would do well to wake up before it’s a little too late. 

 Jyoti Prakash`s 108 Ganesha (mix media) stands out, both in terms of size and price. The remover of obstacles, by the way, has a formidable presence also in the form of Sushma Rajbhandari´s Ashok Vinayak (acrylic color), one of Kathmandu Valley’s four principal Vinayaks. 

 Other vignettes of the valley’s socio-religious-spiritual-cultural milieu are all there, in the form of royal palace squares, Lokeshwars, Lakhe dance, shrines in the midst of busy thoroughfares  and ancient temples bathed in modern street lights. 

At the center of all this stands Chandra Shyam Dangol’s Bauddhanath stupa carved in stone, with Buddha’s all-seeing eyes looking in every imaginable direction in the form of universal consciousness. Indeed, there’s no escaping his all-seeing eyes. 

While trying to read into the artworks on display, this scribbler had almost forgotten to notice the gallery wall displaying what appeared like a complex web of nerves. He was already quite tired and chances of him getting lost into the web were pretty high. 

 A marathon tour

Then and there came Amish Joshi, an amicable guide and a BFA (first year) student. Showing the way through wide and narrow roads and alleyways of the valley, Joshiji explained that the web of nerves was, in fact, the interwoven network of roads connecting the valley and the idea behind this exhibition was to offer people glimpses of the valley’s architectural heritages, including the major shrines located along the arteries. 

Only then did this scribbler come to know the reason behind his exhaustion: An hour-long, marathon visit of major heritages in the valley had taken its toll, leaving him with no energy to move further. After catching a breath, as this scribbler hit the road again, the sweet music from the art studio drowned and cacophony prevailed, making him wonder how on Earth artists find the peace of mind to create works of art in the midst of chaos. 

 Safety of artworks

Summing up, a piece of art is simply invaluable and Nepal is home to art lovers, who have high regard for artists and their works of art. Still, there are elements around the world, who even seek to desecrate works of art. Nepal’s art fraternity, including artists, art studios and relevant government authorities, should leave no stone unturned to ensure the safety and security of artworks.