Nepali Kalasahitya Dot Com Pratishthan


Narendra Raj Prasai

Newer Revelations on Araniko by Satya Mohan Joshi

After Satya Mohan Joshi was forcibly fired from the post of the Director of Archeological Department, he went to China. There, he convinced Chinese intellectuals and students with his works and findings. Therefore, even after his term at Royal Nepal Academy expired, he was invited to China. In fact, those who invited him were students Joshi had taught before. “We have established an effective Department of Nepali at our university. We want to place you at its high office, and work under you,” they wrote Joshi, following which, Joshi headed towards China.

After reaching China, Joshi started new researches. So, he committed himself to raising the standard of Nepali language, and the understanding of the students. He once again concentrated on the task of educating the Chinese students on Nepali language, literature and culture. 

While in China, Joshi was inspired to take up a new task too. He started making newer researches on Araniko, the sculptor. Accordingly, he started working on the life and achievements of Araniko, who had gone to China in the thirteenth century A.D. About the project he says, “Without hampering my assigned duty, I started utilizing my leave and leisure in researching on Araniko.” He didn’t face any linguistic difficulty in the task, for his students helped him as interpreters. 

Nepali architect Araniko had started the construction of the White Pagoda in 1271, under the decree of the Yuan King, and the same was completed in 1279 in eight years. Joshi had seen the dome in the heart of Peking, the capital on China, soon after his arrival in the country. He also had witnessed a short written introduction on Araniko and the White Pagado, at the grand hall that hosted presentation of China’s archeological materials in Peking, the capital city. About this, Joshi says, “On attending the exhibition, I came to know of the Chinese government’s initiative to renovate, improve and preserve Araniko’s legacy by making a huge investment.”

When the White Pagoda, which was badly destroyed by the earthquake of 1976, was renovated, artistic Buddhist works, artifacts, archives and scriptures were retrieved from its huge urn-shaped steeple and its rectangular base, and these materials too were kept on exhibition. In fact, most of them belong to the time of Qing rulers, who had renovated the Pagoda in 1753, and kept the invaluable artifacts in the interior part of the Pagoda. 

The two books placed here, which contain the biography and details of the immortal sculptor Aranko, are Yuan Sha Le Chas Chyau Kung Yee (History of the Yuan Dynasty, 19th canto on ‘Handicrafts’). In this book about artists, Araniko features at the very beginning with authentic information. Another book that mentions his details is Swai Lau CHi Chuan Chhi. In the seventh canto of the book, Chen Chu Phu, a renowned writer of the Yuan Dynasty, has written authentic historical information about Nepali master artist Araniko. Besides all these, the book presents details about the renovation of the White Pagoda taken up in the period from 1343 to the present.

Satya Mohan Joshi’s students made tremendous contribution to help Joshi write the biography of Araniko. Joshi also started collecting ancient Chinese scriptures here. But the language was so old that even Chinese students of the present time could not decipher it. So, they turned towards old scholars for interpretation and translation. This way, Joshi collected many documents about Aranko that were scattered in different parts of China. 

Joshi also went to the burial place of Araniko, along with his students, to collect information about the master sculptor. There, he found a stone carving about Araniko. He deciphered the same through his students. He was highly encouraged by the discovery, because he had been able to collect more documents that he hoped. So, he made up his mind to prepare a book about Araniko, incorporating information he had gathered during his research.

For the first time, Satya Mohan Joshi went to China in 2016. He was a member of the team led by monk Dr. Amritananda, Chairman of the Dharmodaya Sabha, along with five others. It was a good-will travel to China. Joshi has gathered a lot of basic information about Araniko from Chinese scholars during the visit. On returning home, he wrote a write-up interpreting and explaining various facts about Araniko. It was published when he was the Director of the Archeological Department. In this work “Kalakar Araniko” (Artist Araniko, 2044), Joshi writes:

In November 1956 (Kartik 30-Marg 5, 2013 BS), the fourth world conference on Buddhism was held in Nepal by World Buddhist Society, under the aegis of Dharmodya Sabha. Delegation of Buddhist scholars from China too took part in the conference. During the visit, the delegation invited members of the Dharmodya Sabha to visit China and make an observation of the Buddhist shrines in the country. I too was a member of the Society, that time. Later, in Shrawan 2016, I was included in a six-member delegation of the Dharmodaya Sabha, to visit China under the leadership of Chairman Dr. Amritananda. In our stay of a few days in Peking, I was privileged to visit the White Pagoda, constructed by a great Nepali son, and the great monastery inside its premises. In fact, the Nepali delegation had been pleased by the sight of the great White Stupa, devised by Araniko. On returning to Nepal, I wrote an essay on the title, “Nepali Sculptor Araniko and His Artistry” which was published in a book titled Puratatv: Ek Rochak Katha—Archeology: An Interesting Story. Since then, I developed more curiosity for additional information and research on Araniko. Later, due to the immense generosity of poet Kedar Man ‘Byathit’, I was sent to Peking, once again. I would like to express my deep thankfulness to poet ‘Byathit’. I was assigned to teach Nepali language to Chinese students at the Kwamposuyena (Peking Broadcasting Institute). But, after a few months, when the great proleteriate revolution of China attained an unprecedented momentum and started massive arrest, the Myauying Sha Monastery inside the White Pagoda was closed right from the gate. As a result, during my stay in Peking for four years (1965-69), I could not conduct any study and research about the White Pagoda. I collected immense pleasure, merely by gazing repeatedly at the big interior of the White Pagoda, the golden steeple with high-roofed Trayodash Hall, in the fashion of Swayambhunath and Bauddhanath in Kathmandu. I returned to Kathmandu soon after.

In 2037, I was again invited to Peking to help in the broadcasting of Nepali program from Radio Peking. The Chinese students, whom I had taught Nepali, were busy in their own tasks. Some were working with Radio Peking, while others were in South Asian Study Centre. Some were in foreign language study centers, some in foreign services, some in Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu, and some others in Chinese projects running in Nepal. By then, the ten-year long People’s Revolution in China had ended, and the entire nation was experiencing a feel of enthusiasm. 

To everyone’s great luck, the Xinhua one day aired the news that the White Pagoda, constructed by Aranako, had been opened for tourists. The announcement came on Jury 2, 1900. So, along with Chinese patrons, I and my wife Radha Devi started visiting the Pagoda almost every day. People also started conducting special worship of Buddha on the eighth day of the lunar fortnight, and on full moon days. Along with it, a private project had been started to fulfill my long-standing desire to conduct more researches on the White Pagoda, constructed by the great Nepali artist Araniko.

Chang Hwai Lan (Nepali name ‘Sushila), who procured for me the book Swaelouchi, a manuscript about Aranko placed in the library of Peking University, and Lu Chan Hwa (Nepali name Ram Man), who interpreted the book for me, deserve special thanks from my side for their invaluable contribution. Both of them, my students, are employed in Nepal studies and research project under the Social Science Department of Peking University. Another friend of mine, Associate Professor Wang Hong We, also from the same department, rendered immense help in my study. Colleagues at Radio Peking, Lu Chhin Min Yi, Sui, Wai, Suhau, Chau, Soon, Wang, Cya, Yu Phung, Lyu Hong Syang too have been of immense help to me.”

During his research on Araniko, Satya Mohan Joshi once reached the White Pagoda too. There, he was disheartened to read the notice, “No Entry.” But when his students introduced Joshi with the authority and explained his missions, he was allowed to enter. His wife Radha Devi too was with him. Inside the Pagoda, the couple performed a puja. In fact, Joshi had continued such worship and prayer at his home right from his babyhood days. In China too, he gave continuity to the practice. 

Visitors were not allowed to take the photograph of the Padoga, however. Yet, Joshi asked permissions from the authority to take a few photographs. When he explained the nature of his work, he was granted the permission. 

It was Satya Mohan Joshi, who played the major role in influencing the government of Nepal to announce Araniko as a national luminary. After his return to Nepal from China, he engaged himself in disseminating knowledge about Araniko. Only then, the postal department issues a stamp with Araniko’s name and picture.  The context that resulted into the issuance of the stamp has a story. In 2040, when Chinese President Li Siyan Niyan made an official visit of Nepal, he had gifted a book to King Birendra. The book was named Satdharma Sutra. King Birendra had liked the gift very much. It was, in fact a work, originally written in Bhoomibal script of the Newari language, which was carried to Tibet, and then to Peking. Joshi later informed that the book had been preserved among the scriptures of Chinese minorities. The President had gifted the King a book prepared from the photographs of the original book. 

After the Chinese President visited Nepal, Nepali King Birendra too made a visit to China. His visit too was an official one, at the invitation of the Chinese President. Krishna Chandra Singh Pradhan, who was the Managing Director at Sajha Prakashan, came to know of the King’s desire to carry a gift for the Chinese President. So, he told Satya Mohan Joshi, “You have been writing extensively about Araniko. If you compile your writings into a book, King Birendra will able to gift it to Chinese President on his visit.”

On the request of Krishna Chandra Singh Pradhan, Satya Mohan Joshi worked day in and day out, and made the book ready in the stipulated time. Joshi’s Kalakar Araniko was initially scheduled to be published from Sajha Publication, because, it was a very important work. Gajananda Baidhya, another friend of Joshi, somehow came to know that the King was carrying the book to China as a state gift. So, he offered to sponsor the publication cost. In fact, the work was prepared in a very limited time. Krishna Chandra Singh Pradhan made arrangements for its distribution. The color photographs included in it were printed in Bangkok, and the cost was borne by Gajananda Baidhya. Because of the active initiative of Mr. Baidhya, the book was published in time. 

When Kalakar Araniko was ready, its author Satya Mohan Joshi broke the information to the King’s personal secretary Narayan Prasad Shrestha. Shrestha asked Joshi to make the book available to him that very day. Joshi, without delay, gave the book to Shrestha. Shrestha was extremely delighted to receive the book. The book was carried to China during the King’s visit, and duly gifted it to the President of China. 

Satya Mohan Joshi’s Kalakar Araniko was announced the best book of the year 2044 in the annual book exhibition. The book was exhibited in the world book exhibition held in Germany too. It was appreciated there as well. 

While he stayed in China, Satya Mohan Joshi also prepared an epic on Sheli Pagoda, another monument of Araniko’s artistry. It is written in Nepal Bhasha, Joshi’s mother tongue. This work too gained a lot of fame. 

Satya Mohan Joshi concentrated on various aspects of Aranko’s life and work and furnished wonderful information about him, and this fact became known to everyone, from the King to the ordinary citizens. Finally, the government announced Araniko as a national luminary. It was Joshi who made this historic task possible.

Additional Research on Bhrikuti and Araniko

Nepal-China Cultural Council was once invited to China. A program was made to visit Lhasa of China, under the leadership of the Councils’ chairman Maniharsha Jyoti. As a member of the Council, Satya Mohan Joshi too was included in the team. 

The members of the delegation reached Khasa along Kodari Highway. From Khasa, they took up a train to Lhasa. That was the first time Satya Mohan Joshi had reached Lhasa. 

In fact, Joshi had been willing to visit Lhasa for quite as long time, because he knew that Araniko had reached Peking along the same route through Tibet. Joshi had been waiting for such a chance to make additional research about Araniko’s move and works. So, this tour was a dream-come-true for Joshi. 

While his stay in Tibet, Araniko constructed a pagoda there too. The pagoda became famous in a short period of time. Joshi visited the pagoda, while other members of the delegation enjoyed in their own accords. For Joshi, nothing world be more pleasing than finding newer details about master artist Araniko. He remarked during the tour, “My visit has been extremely fruitful.”

On reaching Tibet, Satya Mohan Joshi concentrated on Princess Bhrikuti’s life. He also came to know of a monastery decreed by Bhrikuti. In fact, the monastery and its premises had pleased Joshi’s heart from its core. On the first floor of the monastery, he also saw a grand and attractive statue. On one side was the statue of Bhrikuti, and on its two sides were statues of Sangchang Gampo and an attractive Chinese princess. Joshi was both astounded and pleased by the spectacle. 

The Tibetans called Bhrikuti ‘Harit Tara’— the green star. Joshi also came to know that the people of Tibet worshiped Bhrikuti like a goddess. The discovery made Joshi proud of the fact that he was a Nepali, a kinsmen of Bhrikuti. 

During his stay in Tibet, Satya Mohan Joshi visited the Shayka Pagoda too. He had to bear a lot of trouble to reach there. When he expressed his desire to go there, the Chinese advised him not to. But he was determined to make the visit. The place was just fifty miles away from the Mount Everest, which he discovered only after he reached there. 

Pasapa was the guru of the Chinese Emperor Kublai Khan. The relation too has an interesting story. During his reign, eighty Nepali sculptors had visited China and constructed many pagodas, monasteries and statues. The first work of Araniko was none but Shakya Pagoda. The work pleased Pasapa, the Emperor’s guru. So, he invited Araniko to see the Emperor.

Satya Mohan Joshi saw that the Shakya Pagoda had many rare books, inside. These included many books in Sanskrit language. The Emperor had ordered the translation of these Sanskrit texts into Chinese, and managed them in a huge library. The library too had many books of other cultures. 

Satya Mohan Joshi wanted to take photographs of the monasteries made by Araniko. But, photography was not allowed there. So, he regretted his inability to take snapshots. In the meantime, the guides prepared to return from the place, with other members of the delegation. After walking for a short distance, Joshi feigned an act with the guide. He said, “God, I happened to leave my diary at the monastery.” He rushed back to the monastery and took a photograph. He carefully hid the camera, and joined his company. 

Joshi brought this rare film to Nepal. He went to a photo studio to process the film. But the man happened to damage the film during the act of processing it into a picture. The information shocked Joshi to the core of his heart. That very day, Joshi— an enthusiast of photography—threw away his camera. But he still has the damaged film. We can still see a dim image of the Pagoda in it. 

Araniko died in 1306, while he was still in China. He was 63 years old at the time. The Chinese government posthumously conferred upon him the title of ‘Lyang Ko Kong’, a title equivalent to that of the chief official. But Satya Mohan Joshi claims that while he was still alive, Araniko had been give the title “Kwang Lu Tai Phoo” equivalent to that of a minister.  

Translation: Mahesh Paudyal

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Nepali KalaSahitya Dot Com Pratisthan

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SP Koirala

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Mohan Bdr. Kayastha
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Rajendra Shalabh
Kapil Dev Thapa
Samir Jung Shah
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Momila Joshi

Transcreator :
Mahesh Paudyal 'Prarambha'
Kumar Nagarkoti
Suresh Hachekali
Keshab Sigdel

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