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KATHMANDU, Nov 28: The idols of goddess Bal Kumari and Rudryani from the Rudrayani Temple in Khokana was stolen on the night of November 25. It is not the first case that the idols at this temple have been stolen. The idol of Bhairav was also robbed some two years ago and it is still missing. Before that, two more attempts of theft had occurred in the temple in the years 2033 BS and 2045 BS, but the locals had caught the thieves and restored the idols.
Rudrayani temple is one of the main temples for the local residents and it is also historically as well as culturally important architecture of Nepal. According to Ram Bahadur Kunwar, spokesperson of the Department of Archeology, the temple belongs to 16-17th century, medieval period. “The three storied temple is built in Nepali pagoda style and it is a religiously important temple of Shakta tradition. This is one of the magnificent structures and has been able to establish an identity for Khokana locals.”
Bhim Maharjan, one of the priests at the temple said, “We realized that the idols were gone at around 4:15 am on November 26 as we come to the temple around that time for daily rituals. The main priest and members of the temple went to report the theft on that very day.”
When asked why theses idols are often stolen, he said, “These idols are ancient and popular. So may be the thieves took them away so they can sell them for a huge amount of money.” Currently a team of five police personnel are guarding the temple while investigation into the incident is underway.
Moreover, temples are the belief center for many and the loss of these traditional tangible cultural idols means the loss of intangible living culture. About the investigation, Rabindra Maharjan, chairperson of ward number 21 where the temple is situated, said, “We have reported about the theft to Nepal Police and they are investigating into it. Likewise, the locals are also working in their own way to find clues about the theft.”
Though the thefts have occurred time and again the concerned bodies do not seem to be serious about the incidents. Talking about lack of proper security, Bhim said, “When the Village Development Committee changed into municipality, four persons who were getting Rs 1,200 each per month for the temple’s security stopped getting the money on time and it was a hassle for them. Hence, nobody slept inside the temple after the VDC was turned into a municipality.”
There are 46 members at the temple and they used to take turns to guard the temple. According to him, the coordination between the officials and locals got derailed after Khokana was turned into a municipality. However, Rabindra said, “We are concerned toward the preservation and protection of our cultural heritages and we have been working with the concerned bodies to get enough money for security but this unfortunate event occurred before it was implemented. But, we are still hopeful about finding the lost idols.”
The ward office along with locals and head priests of Rudrayani temple were doing their homework to get Rs 0.15 million per year where Rs 36,000 per year is being allocated for the security purpose of the temple, as per Rabindra.
Moreover, the locals and concerned bodies are aware that it needs coordination between human and machine for proper security of such important religious and cultural site.
Ram Bahadur added, “The government cannot overlook every heritage site all the time and to prevent such thefts the locals needs to be aware and work in collaboration.”
The lost idol of lord Bhairav was recently replaced with a new replica some four months ago. Among the 14 idols at the Rudrayani temple, there are only 11 original idols where the two main sculptures’ space is empty now.