Part of our four-part blog series Piles of Bricks’ Priests: The Hindu, the Anglican, and the Ex-Shaman in which we talk about the film through the eyes of the priests in the film in their non-clerical roles - as earthquake survivors. Please excuse our presumption in sending these blogs at this difficult time. We understand the situation we all find ourselves in all over the world, and hope our blog, and the approaching April 25th anniversary of the 2015 Nepal quake. might offer a bit of some welcome distraction.
By Steve Richards
Meet Susan Kapali, 9th Priest of Bhimsen Temple, Patan Durbar Square. We are looking forward to introducing him and his temple in our upcoming Piles of Bricks (Revisited) being streamed for the first time on Saturday, April 25th from Lalitpur at 6 PM, and again that evening at 8 PM NYC time.
We first met Susan through Amit Nepali and in Dec 2016 as we were back for Christmas after our initial Nepal Project in 2015. He doesn’t strike you as a priest upon first meeting – but then he was the first Hindu priest I ever met. In fact, it wasn’t until I knew him some time that I found out he comes from a very long line of Hindu priests who serve as clerics for the monument which anchors the northern end of Patan Durbar Square, a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is not available to tourists and is an active temple even as it undergoes a complete renovation. The temple was built in 1680 and is Susan’s home.
TheoEco is all about the intersection of economics and theology and rarely is there a coming together of the two as we find with Bhimsen Temple. You see Patan Durbar Sq. is the ancient center of Patan (Lalitpur), formerly a kingdom unto its own as was Kathmandu (and Bhaktapur) until they were unified by the great Gorkha King Prithvi Narayan Shah in the 18th century.
It is a vibrant economic driver for the entire region, surrounded by artisans and many of their swanky shops, restaurants, hotels/guest houses, etc. Nearby is the Golden Temple and tourist mecca Thamel is a 20 minute cab ride, as is the airport. Amit and his family, as well as the Anglican church office are within walking distance. Many Buddhist monasteries and stupas, along with the Hindu shrines and temples, immerse the area. (To see the original 2015 mini-documentary Piles of Bricks - Patan/Lalitpur click here.)
Bhimsen’s is unique in that it is the businessmen’s god and temple. Bhimsen is the deity of commerce and industry, and of fortunes. So we see an especially obvious tie between theology and economics in a way that is so unapologetic as to seem almost outlandish to those of us in the west – though only in its honesty and true appreciation for the gifts this deity is thought to proffer. Christ being so openly open for business is hard to imagine.
Bhimsen Temple survived the earthquake, damaged but intact. In fact, it was damaged before the quakes and still stayed up!. The construction we see is a total tear down and restoration in which they are taking the temple apart brick by brick and then rebuilding from the foundation up. We have footage from our 2016 shoots showing work being done on the foundation even back then.
It’s taken this long to do the necessary research, planning, and fundraising to make this project happen, with the Kathmandu Valley Preservation Trust (KVPT) leading the project, but with funding that is largely local. Almost five years after the quakes, it is now its turn. They are in the middle of the dismantling with the community and parishioners leading the way with the business community and partners such as donors, embassies, academics and others. For more about what the KVPT is doing check out the interview with the KVPT’s Raju Roka as he discusses the restoration of Char Nayan Temple click here. We are also very fortunate to have several interviews with Raju over the years since the quakes. Suffice it to say the entire area would be far less along without their involvement. For more see our blog post: Five Years After the Nepal Quakes There’s Plenty Left to Do.
Click here for the previous instalment in this four part series: Piles of Bricks' Priests - The Hindu, The Anglican, and the Ex-Shaman
Click here for the next instalment in this four part series: Piles of Bricks' Priests - The Anglican