Changu Narayan Temple is listed as a World Heritage Site. Last week, three historic idols from here, including one of Bhupalendra Malla were stolen. Locals say that this is the work of a well-organised idol mafia that is very active in the area. Under the pretext of providing proper security, a 297-year-old statue of Bhupalendra, and two other statues of Kali and Bhairab were removed-in reality, stolen.
The statues stolen from this site include in 1975 a statue of Krishna, in 1977 a statue of Kileswor Mahadev, in 1980 a statue of Surya, and in 1981, the main statue. "It is no coincidence that in the last six weeks security here has become very lax," says Mohan Bir Shrestha, chairman of the Changu Narayan Village Development Committee (VDC).
Shrestha tells us that only ten days ago he was at a meting in Kathmandu organised by UNESCO called, "How can Nepal recover its lost statues." He realised the urgency of protecting Changu Narayan's statuary. The day after the meeting, he met the Chief District Officer (CDO) of Bhaktapur and requested him to strengthen the security at the site. Shrestha was told that for this he needed to bring the CDO's office a letter from VDC. The next two days were holidays, and Shrestha had decided to present the letter the following Monday, but before he could, on Sunday night, the statues were stolen. Shrestha wonders if this was a coincidence.
King Bhupalendra Malla had two statues, one of himself and another of his wife Bhuvan Laxmi, erected in front of the doors of the temple exactly 297 years ago. The cast iron statue of Bhupalendra that was stolen was 19 inches high, weighed almost 50 kg and was gold-plated. That of his wife was similar, but of bronze. Also gold-plated was the statue of Chinna Masta Mai (Kali).
The next day, Bhupalendra's statue was found partially buried in a hillock 500m west of the temple. A cowherd was tending to his cattle when he saw something buried in the ground, hastily covered with leaves and branches. Curious, he cleared away the leaves and discovered the idol. He got scared and called his uncle, who informed another person, who in turn called the police. The cowherd was rewarded with Rs 1,100, and the VDC has also promised him a reward in the near future.