BHAKTAPUR, March 2
Five years after Bhagirathi Thapa opened a shop offering religious knickknacks near the Doleshwar Kedarnath temple in Sipadole, she has been able to depend on the income from the business, thanks to the publicity the place gained in the last six months.
Forty-three years old Bhagirathi recalls the days when she used to wait throughout the day for customers and get disappointed when no one turned up.
But these days she is quite busy dealing with customers the whole day and normally earns up to Rs 1000 per day, says Bhagirathi.
Encouraged by her flourishing business, Bhagirathi´s brother-in-law Jay Ram Thapa also opened a hotel in the vicinity just two months ago.
A laidback village, Sipadol suddenly hugged limelight in 2009 after Jagat Guru Bhimashankar Linga Shivacharya Mahaswami declared the idol inside the Doleshwar Temple as the head part of the Kedarnath Temple in India. He is the head priest of the Kedarnath Temple.
However, the such an important declaration failed to get proper attention because of the political turmoil in the country, says advocate Bharat Jangam. “We must understand that this place as the great potential to become a major destination for religious tourists,” Jangam says.
In July last year, the chief priest of Kedarnath came here for special worshipping as the devotees couldn´t reach the Indian temple after the area was hit by a massive natural disaster.
Gyanendra Rajthala, 43, who opened a hotel serving few varieties of fast food and snacks near the temple just four months ago, says that the place has proven lucky for him.
“Who had expected a few years ago that I would someday make Rs 40,000 per day from my small hotel here?” says Rajthala, talking about his income during festive seasons associated with Lord Shiva. His wife Chameli said the couple earns at least 2000 rupees during off-season when there is no special occasion.
For many people who wish to visit Kedarnath Temple in India but are unable to go there, the temple in Bhaktapur is dream come true. But 65 years old Mana Thapa considers herself the most fortunate one among those who have benefited from the expanding market in Sipadole.
Mana, who supports herself and her 90 year old bedridden husband, sits right at the temple´s entrance and asks every visitor to buy the fresh leafy vegetables grown in her kitchen garden.
“As the area is bustling with increasing movement of people, I am now able to run my livelihood by selling green leaves,” Mana says. Earlier, she had to go to Suryabinayak Temple paying Rs 50 every day.
Dense bushes growing around and the desolate surrounding gave a feeling only six months ago that the temple would see few visitors. No one came here even though the main priest offered morning and evening prayer every day.
Today, one can sense the change from 4 km away where the pathway to temple separates from Araniko Highway in Jagati. The entrance gate has been built there on the way to Sipadole so that the visitors do not get confused. Around a dozen of shops selling the offerings such as flowers and religious items and hotels have been established in front of the temple within a few months.
The government´s master plan has also been initiated in the last few months. Bal Hari Chalise, coordinator of the temple conservation committee, who expressed his dissatisfaction over the authority´s ignorance to develop the area few months ago now, says happily, “You will notice some changes every time you visit; the government is rapidly working to develop the temple area now.”
The authority first time paid attention to the place when the then Chief Secretary Madhav Ghimire came here two years ago. Realizing the religious importance, Ghimire immediately coordinated with other government offices for overall development.
The initial research has shown that the temple was built in a pagoda style as the stone sculpture of the King Bhupatindra Malla recovered from the temple premises mentions so. The earthquake in 1933 BS destroyed the real structure and a small temple was built later.
Temple premises to get facelift
With the devotees increasing, the temple is also being gradually transformed. Several corporate houses have started working under the corporate social responsibility. A stone spout has been built at southern side of the temple managing the water for all the season from the nearest resources. The temple management authority cherish that the thousands of devotees offered worshipping without facing any difficulty.
Currently, the construction work is being done at an estimated cost of Rs 15 million, whereas an estimated cost of Rs 2.5 million each would be spent for erecting four other temples on the premises. The remaining amount would be spent for construction of a dharmashala, water and sanitation facilities for the visitors, among others. The temple conservation committee roughly estimates that it would cost around Rs 120 million to renovate the temple.
The committee is currently looking for the right place to build a bus stop and vehicle parking so that the area remains pollution free in the long run.
Land prices soar up
Unlike rest of the areas in the valley, Sipadole has seen an exceptional rise in the land price, the locals say. The locality where lands were purchased and sold at Rs 200,000 per ropani just a few years ago is seeing the prices soar to Rs 400,000 to 500,000 per ana recently, claimed Gyanendra Rajthala.