Upper Dolpa monasteries losing identity with theft of idols

Published On: August 31, 2018 03:10 AM NPT By: BISHNU PRASAD DEVKOTA

DOLPA, Aug 31: Smugglers are targeting precious idols at the monasteries of Upper Dolpa.  Locals say they are worried with the frequent cases of theft of precious idols from the monasteries. 

More than 12 valuable, antique idols have been stolen in the last four years from Upper Dolpa. Locals say smugglers have targeted several monasteries of Upper Dolpa namely Shey monastery, Ray monastery, Mekhim monastery, Gankar monastery and Bon monastery among others to steal precious idols. 

According to police, four Buddha statues and a Buddhist religious book were stolen on April 10, 2016 from Rural Municipality-3 of Upper Dolpa. Along with the gold- and silver-plated statues of archaeological importance, sacred scripts were stolen from Gankar and Mekhim monasteries in the rural municipality of the district. 

Among the four stolen statues, three with a stolen religious book were confiscated on the same day, according to police. Those recovered monuments and scripture were sent to the Department of Archaeology (DoA), Kathmandu for an examination. 

“The idols were again restored at Mekhim gumba and Gankar gumba on July 31, 2018,” said Prakash Khadka, director at the archaeology department. 

Also, a set of Buddha statue was stolen from Bon monastery situated in Charka Tangsong Rural Municipality-1 on June 10, 2016. The stolen statues were recovered immediately. The recovered Buddha idol is currently kept at the District Administration Office. The administration is preparing to hand the idol over to the locals once they assure fool proof security to the statute. 

 “The idols will only be handed over to Bon gumba in the presence of their representatives,” said a DAO official. 

Additionally, seven sets of statues were stolen from the 600 years old Thasong Choling monastery of the district this year. Both the locals and police are clueless about the idols that were stolen from the monastery of Shey Phoksundo Rural Municipality. 

“Due to continuous stealing of statues from Gumbas [monasteries], the Gumbas are losing their identity,” said Lotyae Lama, the chief at Thasong Choling Monastery. 

The monastery situated on the shores of the deepest Lake of Nepal, Shey Phoksundo, is the second important tourist destination after the lake.  

It takes three to seven days to reach various monasteries situated in Upper Dolpa from Dunai, the district headquarters.

DOA director Khadka said smugglers are targeting idols of Upper Dolpa after it was rumored that the idols of the region fetch millions of rupees. 

Namkyal Gurung, a local of Dho from Dolpo Buddha Rural Municipality said, “Due to rural area and lack of security guards, smugglers steal the monuments openly at gunpoint.”   

“Due to the unavailability of telephone services in most places of Upper Dolpa, the information about the theft is delivered after a week,” said Avadesh Bista, DSP at Dolpa Police Office. By the time the police get the information and reach the spot, the traffickers have enough time to run away, according to Bista.    

Despite the stealing of monuments of archaeological importance taking place every year, the police haven’t been able to catch thieves, complain locals. 

There are altogether six police offices in upper Dolpa.

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