KATHMANDU, Feb 22: Stone inscriptions, historical documents, people of the guthi concerned and local old-timers all agree that the land used to build the Chhaya Center complex at Thamel actually belongs to Kamal Pokhari. Managing Director of the complex Maheshwar Man Shakya likewise agrees that the property was once covered by a pond .
What do other informed locals say?
Chairman of Shree Singhasartha Bahu Garud Bhagawan Guthi, Surendraman Pradhan, says Kamal Pokhari was on the eastern side of Bikramshil Mahavihar, or Thaw Bahil, in the Thamel area. He argues that the land covered by the pond and also the surrounding areas were gradually encroached upon and privatized . Similarly, the guthi secretary, Rajendra Prasad Pradhan, said that during his grandfather's time they used to pick lotus flowers from the pond for offering to the mahavihar deities and they also performed some death rituals where Chhaya Complex now stands .
Bhim Das Manandhar, who likewise lives in the pond neighborhood, says that when he was a child he could see the pond surrounded by a compound wall built by the Rana rulers. Pointing to a pipal tree on the eastern side of the complex main gate, Manandhar says, “This tree stood on the edge of the pond.” Former chairman of Kathmandu Metropolitan City Ward 26, Bishwambhar Lal Pradhan, says there is no doubt the land on which Chhaya Complex sits actually belonged to the original Kamal Pokhari.
A research article, 'Historical Kamal Pokhari of Thaw Bahil Bikramsheel Mahavihar', published by guthi member Bhagawat Narasingh Pradhan in 2071 BS, also shows this .
Asta Narayan Maharjan, in an interview given when he was 90 , said the land stretching from the compound wall of Keshar Mahal to the house belonging to Chini Sahu (sugar businessman) belonged to Kamal Pokhari. Similarly, 99-year old Bhuyu Dangol said he used to go to the pond to bathe. Lawa Lal Pradhan, 80, accused the then guthi members of illegally settling a court case relating to the land.
Bishwambhar Lal Pradhan, also a member of the guthi, said the Rana rulers had seized several pieces of land including that of Kamal Pokhari through threats. “They just misused their power,” he says. Madhav Prasad Pradhan, also 80 and a former secretary of the guthi, said in the Bhagat Book that the Ranas had used land originally belonging to Bhagawan Bahal pond.
Elderly people recount that the guthi had written a letter to the Ranas to pay Rs 125 a year as rent for using the land. A deity had appeared in someone's dream and asked why they were not taking back the guthi land . This was when Field Marshal Keshar Shumser had gone to UK as Nepalese envoy.
According to documents collected by Republica, there is recorded evidence with the signatures of the guthi members in 2025 BS that the Ranas stopped paying the Rs 125 rent.
Secretary Pradhan confirmed that some of the signatures belonged to his own grandfather and his brothers. “My grandfather and grand uncles are found to have written the letter,” he said.
There is now no Kamal Pokhari at Thabahil. The pond was there until the time of Keshar Shamsher. His children not only destroyed it but also sold the land. A 15-story building now stands on the land. Those who constructed the building are worried over the documents that show the historical importance of the pond. Chhaya Center Managing Director Shakya claimed that the complex was built on the basis of a court verdict and not ancient records. But he won't rule out that it was the site of Kamal Pokhari .
Land tax receipts including from 1947 BS, 1965 BS, 1967 BS and 1970 BS clearly show that the land belonged to Garud Bhagwan Guthi. Also, other records show the construction of a gate on the western side of the pond and the repair of a wall in 1947 BS . Other records show work carried out on the shore of the pond in 1950 BS. One record shows work on a canal on the shore of the pond in 1959 BS. Testimonials of around 1961 and 1962 BS show cleanup work done due to the religious importance of the pond. A record from 1970 BS shows a contract for cutting the grass around the pond. Other records show details of sales of oranges and other citrus fruits produced in the garden around the pond.
There are several documents on contracts signed for work done in and around the pond in 1956 BS, 1957 BS and 1958 BS . Such records were updated annually.
A document from 1958 BS shows Go Prasad Singh Pradhan paying Rs 40 for using the land around the pond under a contract . A record from 1970 BS says he was awarded a contract to cultivate fruits in the area.
A record from 1964 says a contract which used to be awarded to Gopal Prasad Pradhan was given to Suchet Sing Pradhan instead. Similar records were found from 1970-1971, 1974 BS and 1976 BS concerning the maintenance and use of the pond.
Records also show that the encroaching of the pond area started after that.
Secretary of the guthi Rajendra Prasad Pradhan said devotees used flowers grown on the same premises to offer to the mahabihar deity. But now one has to buy flowers in the market for the offerings.
Evidence also suggests that efforts to encroach the land had been underway for over a century . It was Keshar Shumser who was able to encroach the land and his successors managed to acquire the land registration certificate.
Records from 1953 BS maintained at Bikramsheel Mahabir Garud Guthi show that the land belonging to the historical pond had fallen within the compound wall erected by General Kedar Narasingh Rana . Similar disputes had surfaced when Colonel Iman Singh Basnyat encroached some of the land in 1958. The records maintained at the guthi state that the pond land was also encroached by General Jeet Shumser Jung Rana for his own compound wall in 1958 BS. He had later given three ropanis of land in Imadol as compensation, according to a letter sent by Jit Shumsher Rana in the name of 12 members of the guthi.
Historical documents mention the attempt by Keshar Shumser to seize the land in 1977 BS. After him, his son Kayur Shumser was also active in encroaching upon the land. It was Ambika Rana, who was able to use legal loopholes and get the land ownership certificate. Bina Paudyal, Sudha Paudyal and Shanker Prasad Shah are also connected with the case. The registration certificate for the land where Chhaya Center stands is now in the name of Pratima Pandey.