Ancient sculpture left abandoned on road side

- Anup Ojha, BHAKTAPUR

Dec 5, 2018-

A stone sculpture of a cow that historians believe dates back to the ninth century has been lying neglected by the road side in Thausacha, Bhaktapur, for the past three years.

Art historian Suyog Prajapati was among the first people to post the picture of the unattended stone figurine  on Facebook.

“More and more concrete buildings are being built by tearing down old structures, and in this process many of our artefacts and sculptures, which are directly linked to our identity, are being forsaken and forgotten,” he had written in his photo post of the sculpture.

Locals say the statue, which was originally placed at a rice paddy near Hanumante River, was surreptitiously transported to its current location after its previous abode was sold for building construction.

“Instead of the rice field, where I first saw the statue, there is a building and a garage now. I don’t know the significance of the statue, but I reckon it’s part of this place’s history,” said Rajkumar Shrestha, who runs a doughnut shop nearby.

The sculpture is indeed closely tied to the history of Thausacha— the very name Thausacha in Newari means “small bull”.

Local historian Binod Raj Rajopadhyaya says the abandoned sculpture, which depicts a sitting cow with her calf suckling on her teat, is part of the bygone after-death ritual known as “Vrishotsarga” that used to be observed by Newar families.

In the olden days, the native Newar families of this area used to observe Vrishotsarga on the 44th day of the death of a family member by conducting a marriage ceremony of a cow and a bull. The family would then release the bull in a field while the cow would be offered to the priest who conducted the ritual.

“In order to pacify the bull separated from its mate, the family used to place the stone sculpture of a cow in the field. The sculpture on the road side could very well be built for Vrishotsarga ritual. Similar stone images have been found in the four cardinal directions of Bhaktapur city as well,” said Rajopadhyaya.

When the Post asked Saraswati Singh, chief of the National Art Museum, Bhaktapur, why the statute is not being preserved, she said the museum cannot relocate the artefact without the consent from the head office of the Department of Archaeology (DoA).

Besides, Singh added, “Our museum is in a bad state because of the 2015 earthquake. Finding a safe place for the statue will be hard.”

DoA chief Bhesh Narayan Dahal pledged to immediately start the process of preserving the sculpture.

“I am going to retire in 15 days. Before I retire, I will make sure that the statue is placed in the museum,” he said.  

Published: 05-12-2018 07:37

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