Prime Minister Jung Bahadur Rana’s bronze equestrian statue. It was unveiled on the 15th of March 1854 A.D. by Nirajan Pant
During my first visit to Helsinki, Finland I was intrigued to find the huge statue of Tzar Alexander II adorning the center of Senate Square in the heart of the city. Didn’t the Finns actually fight the Russians for independence? Then I remembered that, of course, Finland gained its independence during the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 A.D. when Russia was convulsed by its civil war. Finland escaped the clutches of the Bolsheviks. A reformist Russian emperor is appreciated incongruously in a foreign country and not in his own!
What is it about revolutions that the past has to be so negated? Does one have to end history to move forward, even while this motion is at the same time making history? Or is it the certitude of history repeating itself and toppling the present protagonists from their high pedestals that these revolutionaries are so afraid of? The French Revolution devoured its own children and gave birth to the French empire under Napoleon Bonaparte. Czar Nicholas II of Russia and his family have been beatified by the Russian Orthodox Church. In July 1998 their bodies were re-interred in the Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg in a ceremony attended by President Boris Yeltsin, erstwhile Communist apparatchik, a mea culpa by the Soviets for the murder of the royal family. We witnessed revolutionaries vandalizing the statues of Shah kings even as statues of Malla kings adorn the ancient temple squares of Kathmandu valley’s cities. “A Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever”: blissfully King Prithivi Narayan Shah knew what today’s misled mass does not.
Just imagine GPK triumphant astride an Arabian stallion, MKN in a heroic pose with a flaming sword in hand and a colossal PKD clutching little books of Maoist mumbo-jumbo! The six equestrian statues of Rana prime ministers must have taken pride of place in Tundikhel, the army parade ground, in earlier times. After 1951 A.D. those statues were removed to the present obscure corners; they were relegated to the periphery of memory, confined to the margin of history.
Prime Minister Jung Bahadur Rana’s bronze equestrian statue was unveiled on the 15th of March 1854 A.D. with befitting pomp and splendour as a tribute to his historic visit to England. It was sculpted by Thomas Brock (1847-1922) and cast by R. Masefield & Co. in 1881 in London. Originally it was located in the parade ground in front of the Bhimsen Tower, also known as Dharahara. At present, it is inside the Army Headquarters compound. It is truly in a heroic mien; Jung Bahadur is turning his head back over his right shoulder to look behind even as his horse is breaking from a gallop. The composition and casting were done in England; the statue could easily be that of Alexander the Great astride his favorite Bucephalus. The statue of Maharajah Ranauddip Singh is placed at the corner of Tundikhel across the road from the General Post Office. This statue was also sculpted by Thomas Brock.
The statue of Prime Minister Maharajah Bir Shumsher is placed at a corner of the Army Pavilion in Tundikhel just opposite the Nepal Electricity Corporation building across the road. Bir made a statue of his father Commander-in-Chief Dhir Shumsher, the only statue of an army Commander-in-Chief in Nepal, currently placed at the corner of the entrance to the Army Pavilion across from Bir Hospital.
The equestrian statue of Maharajah Juddha is located at Tundikhel, in the corner of the Army Headquarters compound across the Bhadrakali Temple. Another statue of Prime Minister Juddha Shumsher J. B. Rana gazes from the planned city center of post-earthquake Kathmandu. Both these statues were sculpted by Domenico Antonio Tonelli (1865-1956) in London. The Great Earthquake of 1934 A.D. had leveled over 80% of the city’s buildings with untold human casualties. For Juddha it was a traumatic initiation to power so soon after becoming prime minister. Rebuilding Nepal took the better part of his energies during the years after the earthquake and his statue was installed in tribute to the success of these efforts. A restoration of that magnitude has not been attempted ever in the history of Nepal and that too without any foreign aid!
When there is a will, there is a way.The Greek poet Agathon put it succinctly all those many years ago, “This only is denied to God: the power to undo the past”. Those bronze figures from the past should be left alone for us to learn lessons of our own choosing.
Courtesy Subodh Rana: Subodh Rana is a long-time veteran of the tourism industry in Nepal, having run his own travel agency since 1990 and currently holding the position of CEO at Malla Travel an international joint venture company. His years of professional and societal engagement with the people and land of his birth, as well as his unique and historical perspective as a member of the Rana family, a dynasty that ruled Nepal from 1846 to 1951, has endowed Rana with a love for storytelling. Having grown up listening to the experiences of his father, once Commander-in-Chief of the then Royal Nepal Army and tales of his ancestors including his grandfather, the seventh Rana Prime Minister of Nepal, Rana indeed possesses a treasure trove of historical anecdotes and accounts. Through his various published writings and blog, Rana endeavors to bestow these gifts to future generations.