In the name of love: The Rani Pokhari StoryChakrawatendra Malla, giddy, nervous, too young to understand the powers he had just acquired, tried to walk confidently towards the elephant stable. He had mentally prepared himself for this day for years.
July 7, 1668
Public Courtyard outside Hanumandhoka Palace
Chakrawatendra Malla giddy nervous too young to understand the powers he had just acquired tried to walk confidently towards the elephant stable. He had mentally prepared himself for this day for years. But now the day was here, and it was as if a dream.
I am the king of Nepal. Maharajadhiraj Nepaleswar Rajrajendra Sri Sri Jaya Cakrawartendra Malla Dev.
That is what the guru and purohits had called him yesterday during the coronation. But now he was unsure whether he could live up to the imposing title. He reached down and felt the royal sword on his side. The poetic majesty of Pratap Malla still lingered in the hilt. It gave him a small boost of confidence.
I could get used to this.
Imitating the elegant swagger with which his father walked even in retirement, Chakrawatendra strode into the royal stable. He picked out the chief elephant Gajananda easily... he had ridden him only yesterday during the coronation procession around Thaney and Kwaney. Today Gajananda swayed slightly from side to side. The chief mahut watched him closely, muttering soothing words at him. The mahut noticed the King and scurried up to him with a bundle of hay.
Maharaj. If it pleases your majesty... for Gajananda.
Chakrawatendra grabbed the hay with one hand, steadied his sword at the hilt with the other, and approached the swaying Gajananda. Gajananda put out a loud trumpet and started swaying violently, ears flapping, as if possessed by spirits. Chakrawatendra startled and stepped back. The disquiet within him returned. Nervously he went closer and offered Gajananda the bundle of hay. As he did so, his sword somehow got undone from his belt and fell on the hard stone floor with a series of lout metallic clangs. Overwhelmed, Chakrawatendra bent down with a jerky motion to pick up the sword, and tripped on the uneven stone paving. He fell clumsily right in front of Gajananda. Gajananda trumpeted loudly again, and raised his right foot.
Everyone in the stable the mahut the caretakers the royal guards all were concerned about the new King, very aware of the consequences of even a slight injury to his body, now inhabited by Vishnu. But amidst the exploding chaos their attention was focused on Gajananda, whom they were trying to calm down somehow. Only some of them saw what happened next. But all of them heard the sounds as Gajananda lowered his right leg swiftly onto Chakrawatendra’s chest. Yes they heard the crunch of Chakrawatendra’s ribs as they gave way rather easily to the sheer mass of elephant’s foot. They also heard the soft patta of his heart as it broke like a tender peapod.
The heart of a little boy of thirteen who was king but for a day.
A pool of blood gathered in the hollow cavity of Chakrawatendra’s chest and flowed away in a trickle down the stone slabs. Gajananda stepped back, still swaying slightly but fully aware of the enormity of his action. The royal minders were frozen in shock.
The news spread quickly through Kathmandu. That night, families huddled around warm hearths in the tols of Thaney and Kwaney and gossiped about the strange death of the new king. This is all because of Gyanananda... that tantric swami of Pratap Malla they said. The tantric had designed all sorts of strange symbols on the coronation coin of the new king they said. A tantric triangle... bow and arrow... yak tail fan ... all in an unholy arrangement... I heard there was even a noose and hook on the coin they said. Too much tuna muna is not good for anyone they said.
July 8, 1668
Queen Ananta Priya Devi’s Chambers
Mohan Chowk, Hanumandhoka Palace
Ananta Priya sat on the window ledge. She had been staring out the patternholes of the ga jhya into Mohan Chowk for the entire day. She was waiting for Chakrawatendra, her youngest child, her Kanchhamha to come bounding into the chowk below, waving at her yelling “Maa”, proud of his newly minted kingly attire. But he did not come. She knew that he would not come. But she could not pull her tired eyes off the chowk. For if she pulled her eyes away, her Kanchhamha would never ever come back.
The quiet desperate hope of someone unwilling to come to terms with love lost.
She noticed Pratap Malla’s presence in the room, and gazed at him with extinguished eyes dry of ears.
It pained him to see her eyes like this, those eyes into which he had disappeared so many times before. Eyes which had forgiven him after each one of his many debaucheries. But Pratap Malla had to bury his own sorrows for now. He had to be strong for his beloved Rani. He went over to the window and hugged her gently.
She looked up and pleaded desperately, weakened by grief:
My Kanchhamha! He was just a boy. He was just getting a line of moustache above his...
Ananta Priya could not continue. The sobbing choked her words. She gasped and looked helplessly at Pratap Malla.
Pratap Malla had nothing. He looked down.
She gazed through the ga jhya into Mohan Chowk again.
He is all I had!
She whimpered like an injured animal, tears running down her cheeks, nose dripping fluid, desperate, entirely crushed. Pratap Malla pulled himself together but ended up only with a weak response:
I am still here for you, Priye.
She looked up, suddenly transformed into a Devi. She rose menacingly. Her eyes were dry.
No. If you can’t heal this...
...She was thumping her chest with the palm of her hand...
... If you can’t make this pain go away, we can never go back to what we had. I can never do what I used to do to you. Fix this! Fix this pain for me! Otherwise I will die.
Pratap Malla believed her. But the supreme ruler of Kathmandu, the poetic genius who always found a way, felt defeated for the first time in his life. He could only blabber impotently:
What can I do, Priye? What can I do?
Her eyes scanned the room vacantly for answers with wide manic eyes of a person clutching at the last straw of hope. She grabbed the collars of Pratap Malla’s coat. Hair strewn. Trembling slightly. Barely coherent, she blurted out her request in a hoarse whisper between gasps of air.
Make me a ...a well...n..no...a garden... a pond! Make me a pond so beautiful that everytime I look at it, it will soothe my heart. A pond that makes me think of my Kanchhamha. Make the pond as beautiful as he was. A pond that... that makes me think of Narayana. Of Krishna. Pious thoughts. Anything... anything that heals this ache in my heart that won’t go away. It should have a temple... and serene... calm. It should be serene.
Pratap Malla looked at her eyes...those eyes which he had seen twenty years ago for the first time when she entered the darbar as a dola from Bihar. Large liquid eyes now brimming with tears. That bulge of the eyelids now swollen even more. The majestic sweeping eyebrows now arched into fearful frowns. The seductive gaajal now smeared by a mother’s tears.
Pratap Malla could bear no more. He hugged his Rani tightly once and turned away to fetch his horse. How would go to Pashupati himself and find Swami Gyananada.
Maharani Jagajjanani Ananta Priya Devi wanted to build the pond for the love of her son. But Pratap Malla resolved to build the pond for the love of his queen. So that he could have her back in his life. The way it used to be. So that she could heal all the wounds of kingship he had to bear silently. For a good king never shows his wounds to his people. He resolved to build the pond so that he could see the Devi light shine through his Priye’s eyes again.
Swami Gyanananda’s House
I want to make it the most beautiful thing in Nepal Valley. I want my Rani’s heart to be solaced every time she passes by the pond.
Gyanananda frowned in thought after hearing Pratap Malla out.
I understand, Maharaj. This will take a lot of work, but it must be done. I will do the needed shanti-swasthi and make sure the pond is ritually sacred. It must be shaped like a yantra. But... we will need to get waters from rivers and ponds in Nepal...and Ganga Ji in Varanashi...the Gandaki rivers...hmm..it would be most auspicious to get water from 51 sources.
It shall be so!
How big do you want to make the pond?
Big. Very big!
Of course you do, Maharaj.
Gyananda said quietly.
Pratap Malla missed the gentle irony of the Swami’s words. He continued planning in his head. Extravagant artistic projects always excited him. There is some land in Masavakhel right outside the city gate... we just freed it from the Kashmiri merchants...
We will need a lot of water if the pond is to be big. Hauling water from tirthas with porters won’t do.
Pratap Malla smiled, almost forgetting the loss of his youngest son.
I will draw canals from Sundarijal and elsewhere to the pond. We have always done it this way in Nepal. I will make a pond that surpasses everything I have done before in my life. There will be bathing ghats along the shores. And stone spouts for drawing water. An oasis of calm right outside the city gate which will shine like a jewel. I want the pond to remain the envy of Patan and Bhaktapur forever. I will make such a pond that five hundred years from now, our descendants will look at it and say: how did he do that?
Om obeisance to Sri Sri Sri Kaalika. Sri Sri Rajrajendra Kavindra Jaya Pratap Malla Dev, skilled in all knowledge, of arms, of scripture, of music, etc., the Sovereign of great kings, Lord of Nepal, Able, Bright Head-Jewel, Lord of the Assembly of all kings, has formally dedicated this land to be a site for Parameswar and Parameswari and Brahma. Now in the vernacular [Khas Bhasa]. Sri Sri Jaya Pratap Malla Dev, having himself read the scriptures, having seen in this act countless merits, having drawn forth water, having brought the water of various tirthas including the Ganga, has placed them in the lake which has been dug in the name of the Sovereign of great kings, Lord of Nepal, Rajrajendra Sri Sri Jaya Cakravartendra Malla Dev. Water of the Ganga at Sri Varanasi. Water of the Ganga at Sri Vaidyanath. Water of Sri Bagmati 10,641 loads. Water of Sri Sankhamul. Water of the confluence at the tirtha of Sri Panauti. Water of Sri Gandaki. Water of Sri Kausiki. Having caused water of Sri Sundarinadi to flow by canal he filled the lake. Water of Sri Nilkanth 63 loads. Water of Sri Visnumati. Having caused water of Sri Viswanatha to flow by canal, having himself made an oblation with it, he put the water in the lake. Water of Sri Tecapa. Water of Sri Vagewar. Water of Sri Manamati. Water of Sri Sankhadaha. Water of Sri Kageswar. Water of Sri Bagmatinabha. Water of Sri Sapanatirtha. Water of Sri Komati. Water of Sri Nahmutu. Water of Sri Valanikantha. Water of Sri Tyana. Water of Sri Masila. Water of Sri Thayapi. Water of Sri Sapatakausiki. Water of Sri Taudaha. Water of Sri Kvaduval. Water of Sri Matatirtha. Water of Sri Indradaha. Water of Sri Gokarna. Water of Sri Gyanavapi. Water of Sri Pasukunda. Water of Sri Sitakunda. Water of Sri Tekudobhan. Water of Sri Hanumantaghat. Water of Sri Golahitidaha. Water of Sri Jwalamukhi. Water of Sri Muktiksetra. Water of Sri Kaligandaki. Water of Sri Svetagandaki. Water of Sri Sarajuganga. Water of Sri Malika. Water of Sri Patalganga. Water of the triple confluence of the Ganga, Jamuna and Saraswati at Sri Prayag. Water of Sri Kamaleswari. Water of Sri Saptagandaki. Water of Sri Varahaksetra. Water of Sri Gangasagar. Water of Sri Samudra. Water of Sri Anantalinga. Water of Sri Sipadol. The waters of these tirthas are in the lake; the many rewards of each single tirtha are in the lake; for all these many tirthas are in the lake. Whosoever performs all the religious duties, such as oblation to the gods, oblation to his ancestors, and evening oblations, etc., after having taken his bath in this lake, will obtain the merits and rewards attaching to the performance of the duty of bathing in all these tirthas. South of the Jamala Dhwakacala, the field of the guthi which practices daily distribution of alms measured from the temple overlooking the reservoir outside the Tetana Dhoka; west of the reservoir of Sri Upadhya and of the children’s burial ground measured from the temple of Tusagala; north of the Masavakhel measured from the canal of the temple in Umade; east of Sri Kantipur measured from the temple on the open land by the side of the reservoir in Asan. No one is to commit any sin against the lake such as digging within any part of the precincts, the doing of madhyamaha dharnu, and suicide, etc. If anyone does commit such offenses the sins attaching to the entry into a crore of forbidden places, the eating of a crore of forbidden foods, the killing of a crore of Brahmins, the killing of a crore of cows, the killing of a crore of gurus, the killing of a crore of children, the killing of a crore of women, the destruction of a crore of Sivalingams; the sins attaching to all these tirthas; the sins attaching to the destruction of Parameswar and Parameswari who live in all these tirthas shall be upon his head. If anyone at any time obstinately persists in abiding within these limits and if another drags him away and ejects him, ties him up and tilyaa him, no penalty shall be exacted of him. In the presence of these witnesses: Sri Aditya, Sri Chandrama, Fire, Earth, Water, Sky, Wind, Breath, Death, Day, Night, Evening, Faith, five Sri Brahmins, five Pradhans, five Khas Magars. One the full moon of the bright half of Kartik in the Sri Saka era 1592. [Rest of inscription in Nepal Bhasa] If anyone destroys this if he moves the inscriptions, etc.here and there, if he conceals them, if he adds or erases one letter, the sins of murder mentioned and recorded above shall be upon him. If any one makes provision for this, if he repairs it, the merits mentioned above shall be upon him. The Nepali era 790, in the month of Ashwin, in the bright half on the day of the full moon, the constellation being uttarabhadra, in the conjunction dhruwa, the day being Monday. Written by Sri Krishnadeva Mi(shra). So may it be well.
Epilogue: Translation of the engraving on a stele (one of four) placed around Rani Pokhari by Pratap Malla, from The Rani Pokhri Inscription, Kathmandu by T. W. Clark (1957)
Image 1: Etching of Rani Pokhari from the narrative of Prince Waldemar’s visit to Nepal, Zur Erinnerung an die Reise des Prinzen Waldemar von Preussen nach Indien in den Jahren 1844-1846 (1853)
Image 2: Coronation mohar (silver coin) of King Chakrawatendra Malla.