Its long overdue restoration
KATHMANDU, AUG 14 -
The Simha (Singha) Sattal, popularly known as Silyan Sattal because it is believed to have been built from the timber leftover from building Kasthamandap or Maru Sattal, has recently been selected for restoration, as revealed by daily newspapers. Although the legend of its build stands, there is no inscriptional or material evidence that it was built with Kasthamandap. While Kasthamandap was built in the 12th century, the rectangular architectural pattern of the Simha Sattal suggests that it is a structure of the 16th century.
For this reason alone, while restoring this monument, the architect or archaeologist must be very careful and should scientifically check every piece of material discovered there.
There is every possibility of finding ancient inscriptions and other evidence which could be helpful in proving its antiquity. It is also said that the Sattal stands on pillars but at present, these pillars are not visible. In order to study this building thoroughly, those conducting the restoration should maintain a daily diary of works and findings.
The restoration of the Simha Sattal, one of the most unique monuments in the Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Square, will be jointly conducted by the Kathmandu Metropolitan City and the Guthi Sansthan. Around Rs 20 million has been earmarked for this enterprise.
In the four-story building, the second floor is the most important as it contains a sanctum, a prayer hall and has an open wooden verandah all around. The edifice has a traditional Nepali roof with a gilded pinnacle covered by a gilded floral garland arising out of the middle. However, presently, the monument is in terrible shape and could collapse any moment. Its vulnerability is enhanced by the fact that the open verandah of the ground floor is being used by shopkeepers as their place of business. There are also four bronze Simha Sharduls or leaping griffins, erected by one Jog Maya Manandhar in 1929, that could be the reason for the Sattal’s name.
The gateway to the main hall is guarded by a seven-headed serpent on top. The entire chamber is made of gilded bronze screens with floral designs. In the eastern part of the main hall is the inner sanctum where a bronze statue of Krishna resides on a gilded bronze throne, heavily decorated by garlands of bronze. The six-handed deity is carrying a sankha (conch), a chakra, a gadha (mace) and a padma (lotus) in each of his four hands and playing the flute with his other two. The sculpture itself is about two and half feet high. According to legend, the sculpture of Krishna was discovered by one Dharma Narayan Salmi (or Manandhar) when digging a foundation for his house. As images of Laxmi and Harihara are popular, but not those of Hari Krishna, in Vaisnava iconography, this sculpture of Krishna is probably rare in Nepal.
In front of the statue is a stone Garud, the god’s vehicle, sitting in the Namaskar mudra on a decorated bronze throne in the western part of the main hall. There are also many other small bronze statues of various deities and devotees in the sanctum.
Long ago, this building must have served as a rest stop for weary travellers and pilgrims. With no hostels or lodges, such rest houses were very important for those coming in from outside. As Hanuman Dhokha was the centre of administration and commerce, many people from different parts of the country visited here. Only during the late Rana period was this monument used for commercial purposes and the ground floor of the Sattal turned into shops.
Every year, a lot of people visit this monument to get a glimpse of the god Hari Krishna, particularly on his Janmasthami (birth anniversary). Its open verandahs often serve as platforms for women and children to observe various religious and cultural festivals and rites like Gai Jatra and Indra Jatra. Until recently, devotees would also use the main hall for bhajans during the mornings and evenings but now all these religious activities have been abandoned because of the Sattal’s deteriorating condition.
Records show that this building was restored twice, in 1885 and after the great earthquake in 1933. Since then, minor repairs have been periodically conducted but extensive restoration has yet to be done. For many years, this building was under the supervision and care of the family members of Dharma Narayan Manandhar. Reportedly, some guthis were responsible for its maintenance and care but at present have all vanished.
Posted on: 2012-08-14 08:31