A Rare Nepalese Icon from Janakpur

Article excerpt

I paid a visit to Janakpur (in the eastern zone of the same name in Nepal) in 1959 in connection with archaeological investigations. About two miles east of the Ramamandir there is a village called Kapilesvar, presumably named after a shrine dedicated to Lord Siva of that name. The shrine was then in a very dilapidated condition, which, as such, may no longer be in existence now. Exactly when the shrine was set up cannot be ascertained, as there is no inscription available there. The discovery, however, of a beautiful image of Karttikeya, evidently of the Sena period, conjoins it naturally to as far back as that period. The exquisitely beautiful appearance it bore naturally led me to think that there must be some more images like that in the vicinity. I came to think of an old acquaintance of mine, Bodh Prasad Upadhyaya by name, who lived in that village. Deciding to seek his help I called on him at his residence. Thanks indeed to his help, I was able to find a number of such images, not installed in any temple premises, but lying neglected in a grassy land at the foot of a pakar or citron-leaved fig-tree in the outskirts. No rice-grains, flowers or vermilion were scattered as offerings in front of them, and it was obvious that these images were not included among the local people's objects of worship. They had been the playthings of the village children. On the advice of the local prominent persons, I got all these images transferred to the Ramamandir. One of the images was unbroken, and I thought it advisable to have it sent to the National Museum in Kathmandu. At that time the East-West Highway had not been built, and to take such an object of archaeological importance to Kathmandu via India was not possible without obtaining special permission. I, therefore, thought it better to take it to Kathmandu by air. As an ordinary Gazetted Officer I was then entitled to Rs. 12 per day as daily allowance, and out of a total sum of money provided to me then, the amount was bare!y enough to meet the expenses of my travel back to Kathmandu. On making inquiries with the Royal Nepal Airlines, I learnt that the freight for flying it to Kathmandu would amount to about Rs. 300, inclusive of packing charges. Accordingly, I thought of contacting the then Director of the Archaeology Department in Kathmandu for permission. I thought of asking for a loan from the Badahakim, the district administrative head, of Janakpur. He and other prominent local persons fully supported my idea. The Departmental head, however, was not willing to spending so much money for that purpose. On my part, I was not authorized to spend so much amount without permission. Finding no other alternative, I handed over the images to the Store Section of the Ramamandir. Every one visiting the temple these days can see this image installed on the left-hand side of the western gate of the compound.

Here, we are going to discuss this very image. This is the only image of its kind found in Nepal, although many examples of it are reported from India and Bangladesh. This is the so-called Mother-and-child image. I did take a measurement of this image then, but, unfortunately, I could not find it now. If I remember it well, it measured 12" in height, 18" in length, and 4" in breadth. If any one wants its measurement, he can always go to Janakpur Ram Manadir and get it for himself.

The characteristics of this image is as follows. A lady is shown reclining in a couch on the left, with her head supported on the palm of her left hand, that is propped on a pillow underneath. In her right hand she holds a lotus that bends over her legs stretched out horizontally. The left leg is bent at the knee giving it a triangular shape, while the right leg directly crosses it. A female in attendance is seated at the far-end of the legs, massaging her left foot, while the right one is placed on her lap. Another maid is standing a little away on the same side with a fan in her hand in a posture of whisking it. …