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The Repoussé Images from Pharping
By Kamal P. Malla

May 19, 2009

(click on the small image for full screen image with captions.)

I have tried to get at this most intimate of notions not by imagining myself some one else, a rice peasant or a tribal sheikh, and then seeing what I thought, but by searching out and  analyzing the symbolic forms—words, images, institutions, behaviors—in terms of which, in each place, people actually represented themselves to themselves and to one another.

Clifford Greetz, Local Knowledge. “From the Native’s Point of View: 
On the Nature of Anthropological Understanding.” 1983. p.58

A group of 13 repoussé images of the Navadurgā and attendant deities. (see details below)


This paper attempts to analyze a group of sacred images and objects as the images specifically made for festivities/Skt.utsavamūrtis of the Navadurgās made of gilt copper repoussé. It is focused on the social and cultural functions of these images, and as a historical context, a dated copperplate, (See Figs. 12-15, below) too is discussed. These are probably dedicated to the shrine of Jhaṃkeśvarī at the Dahu-Kvātha-āgama in Kvachu-tole, Pharping, an ancient Newar settlement 20 miles south-west of Kathmandu. Although this is not our primary and germane concern, both their iconography and aesthetic merits are briefly discussed. [1]

Prior to the inauguration of the Tribhuvan Rājpath in March 1956, this settlement was on the main route connecting the Nepal Valley with Indian plains. Just beyond the lower end of the Kathmandu Valley, the southern route of Pharping provides an alternative to that of Thānkot. On crossing Candrāgiri, the Thānkot route leads to the Tistung-Citlāng valley in the west, known until recent days as "Lahuri Nepal", i.e., smaller Nepal.

Pharping had been a settled community of villages at least since Licchavi King Gaṇadeva (ca. A.D. 558-563), if not much earlier. It houses many cultural sites, including śikhara-nārāyaṇa, one of the four ancient Vaiṣṇava sites, founded by Haridatta Varmā, a King who was mentioned as a fourth successor of Jaya Varmā (A.D. 185).

During the early medieval period, Pharping was ruled by a feudatory family of the Rāvuttas which claimed descent from the Solaṅkīs, or Chaulukyas of South India. That this was not a vain claim to Rājput pedigree, of “a Big Frog in a small Pond”, is supported by the historical fact that invading armies and their generals settled in the mountain fastness of the Himalayas and their foothills now and then. The most well-known one was Nānyadeva who founded a kingdom in the fort of Simarā-vana in A.D. 1097, which lasted until A.D. 1326, which –once ravaged by the Turks--left a lasting impact on the history and culture of the Kathmandu Valley so much so that the later Mallas claimed descent from “the Karṇāṭa Dynasty”!

The Solaṅkī Rulers of Pharping (ca. A.D. 1330s to 1480)

South India was a theatre of dynastic rivalries among several powerful contending centers of military and political powers to control the trade routes to the sea as well as to the uttarāpatha, the North. The Chaulakya Dynasty, founded in A.D. 642 by Pulakiśasen II in Kalyāṇī, it was in a permanent state of rivalry with other dynasties, such as Rāṣtrakūṭas. The last glorious king of the dynasty was Kumārapāla (A.D. 1144-1171). Their descendants seemed to have migrated to Nepal after the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate in 1206.

We begin to hear of the presence of the Rāvuttas in the Nepal Valley, for example, in the Gopālarājavaṃsāvali,  (GV), in the 14th-15th century colophons of the manuscripts copied in Pharping. Probably, the founder of this clan in Pharping, Mahārāvutta, Jaitasīha, died on August 11, 1337. These feudatory rulers of Pharping showed real or nominal allegiance to the paramount rulers in the Valley, depending on how weak or strong they were at any given moment. For example, in A.D. 1371 when the stupa of Svayambhū was repaired the mahārāvutta Jūtasiṃha, described as a nephew of Mahāpātra Rājaharṣa Malla Varman Bhalloka of Kelacheṃ, Kathmandu, owed allegiance to King Arjunadeva and his uparaja Sthirajamalla. In A.D 1453, he was dead but his brothers (?) agreed to Yakṣamalla’s terms by signing a four-party agreement (Patan, Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, and Pharping) to treat one another as “allies in consortium”. According to the colophon of the Dhanuśastra , a manuscript deposited in the National Archives, Catalogue No. I-1491, copied on January 14, 1468 in Pharping during the rule of the four Rāvutta brothers, the copy “was completed despite the fact that the four brothers were at war with śrīśrīśrī Jayayakṣamalladeva thākura.”. Hardly three years later, Yakṣamalla launched a “wipe-out campaign” against unruly Pharping on Kārttika śukla 15 NS 591 (October 26, A.D.1471), and tamed the unruly principality for good. [2]

The Copperplate, the Donor and the Donation

Fig. 1: The Copperplate from the
Jhaṃkeśvarī shrine

The copperplate (See Fig. 1, left) is dated Saṃvat 578 Kārttika Kṛṣṇa 5 (October 20, 1458. Click here to view translation). It records a donation of a tympanium/Skt.toraṇa to the shrine of Nevāneśvara (center), Nevāneśvarī (right) and Siddhimahālakṣamī (left)—the clan deity/Skt. Iṣṭadevatā/Iṣṭadevī of the donor, Thākura Iṣvarasiṃha, born in the House / Skt kula. of the Solaṅkīs. The outcome /Skt.phala of this donation is victory in battle(Skt. jayapratāpa)  by accomplishing the ritual of consecration of the Sword/Skt.khaḍgasisddhi. The donation was probably a tympanium/ Skt. toraṇa over a five panel door or window/ Skt. pañcadvāra. The meaning of the Newār phrase, chi adhika taṅana, by adding one more, is not so clear. However,. the donor is no longer even a sāmanta/viṣayapati, an effective local feudatory. He holds only the modest title “a thākura born in the Vaṃa of the Solaṅkī”. Secondly, whether the tympanium is a new one or an addition to the already existing ones is not clear, either. The family sanctuary was a Mahālakṣmī sanctuary/Skt.āgama, though locally called Jhaṃkeśvarī for reasons none too clear. [3] What is significant is that this cult image is also known as “Hariśaṅkarī”-- a śākta-Vaiṣṇava-śaiva syncretic cult popular in the late Malla period with elaborate ritual manuals/Skt. pūjā vidhi as well as iconography. There is an interesting list of names at the end of the copperplate who are said to have accomplished “these tasks”. Did they also include the craftsmen in wood, casting, and repoussé—there is, alas, no way to verify.

Our Family Connection with the Shrine

Most upper caste Newar families do not usually keep genealogical family trees any further back than a few  generations. Those who keep them do so mostly  for pitṛpakṣa śrāddha, i.e., Bhādra Kṛṣṇa Pakṣa,  or the dead manes' fortnight when one has to recall  the names of all known dead manes and offer them each a  separate piṇḍa, a share of ritual offering. Even recent attempts to trace back social histories of the Nhucheṃ Pradhāns, the Māskeys, and the Rājbhandārīs don't go deeper than the 17th century. The only exception are perhaps "the Dhoj Joshis of Madu" who have a painted family -tree going back to 32 generations right up to the  A.D.1330s. However, social scientists optimistically believe that by studying the patrilocalities such as  the nanis for the Jyāpū, the twāhs for some urbanized Jyāpū castes, the sāhs for the Mānandhars, the bāhās for śākyas/Vajrācāryas, āgamas, and the degu-dyahs for  the chatharīs syasyah one can trace the place of ancestral "origins" of a Newar family or a kin group.

For example, the earliest ancestor I can trace in historical documents now available with me is a landownership document/Nep.lālpurjā, dated A.D. 1775, granted to Lakṣmīsiṃha Thakula by King Pratap Siṃha Shaha, authorizing him to continue to enjoy the ancestral property rights to a colony of houses and land in Thahiti āgama complex, a large courtyard comprising half a dozen houses and a dilapidated complex [4]. Earlier than that document  there is an inscription, found in Bānsbāri Pāṭi, installed in A.D. 1758 by a śivabhakta Siṃha who calls himself “a descendant of the Suvarṇapraṇāli-Thahiti Mahāpatra kula”. As I have elaborately outlined the social-cultural relationships between the Mahāpātras of Upper Kathmandu and the shrine of Pharping in my 1980 monograph in the Newar language, I can merely refer to the fact that even now the ritual king, the one who presides over all religious and cultural events in Pharping, is my agnatic/New. Phuki uncle, Badri Raj Malla who has been in charge of this function since the death of his father in 1962 [5]

On 26th March 1950, immediately after my initiation/Skt. upanayana ceremony and admission to the family sanctuary, Thahiti āgama, which is said to be merely a replica of the one in Pharping, as a twice-born novice/Skt.vatuka, I was later taken to be admitted formally to this primary āgama of ours. I still remember seeing rows of bronze images, including a tall one of Mahālakṣmī with eighteen hands and three heads, each in three tiers, a fierce-looking goddess trampling upon her vehicles/Skt.vāhanas. I understand this image was stolen, but recovered later by the Police in 1969(?), and deposited in the National Museum. The Goddess is known by various names, including Mahāmāyā. Pal reproduces a stone sculpture from Pharping which he labels "Jhaṃkeśvarī" based on a stone inscription standing by the Devī's shrine in Kochu tole dated equivalent to A.D. 1407. [6] Like Mānesvari and the Mātrikās in Devapatan, this deity too may have derived her name from that of her donor.

The Phākhel Find and Our Trip


Fig. 2: A Map of the Kathmandu Valley,
showing the location of Pharping etc

In 1976, the Department of Archaeology, HMG/N gave a high profile publicity to a “find” in Phākhel Village Development Committee, then a part of Makwānpur District, about four and a half hour trail south-west from Pharping. A “hoard” of 16 images/objects of great archaeological significance was “discovered while digging the field for drinking water pipes.”(See Fig. 2, right). The exact field from where the images were dug out is known as “Purandi” [7]. Not long after this, a paper was published by Ramesh Jung Thapa, Director of the Department of Archaeology, HMG/N in Ancient Nepal, (Vol. 41-42, August-November, 1977, pp.15-25)—a quarterly publication of the Department. The paper, unfortunately, was a rush piece, poor in documentation as well in analysis and comparison, not to speak of its unhelpful photos. However, this made news everywhere for diverse reasons, including an attempted theft.

Inspired by this archaeological discovery, I went to visit Pharping in September 1978, accompanied by two of my esteemed University colleagues, the late epigraphist Dhanavajra Vajracharya and Professor Ram Niwas Pandey of the Department of Culture, Tribhuvan University where I was then Rector. We had the full cooperation of Thakujuju, Badri Raj Malla, and the Jimmāwāl, Ganesh Prasad Manandhar. The Jyāpū Guthiyārs and the Thakāli of the Jātrā Guṭhi were cleaning a set of images and objects with water mixed in  hathaṃ—a soapy nut traditionally used for cleaning sacred images. A few others were being cleaned with straw daubed with ashes. My colleagues interviewed all the inmates. I took some photos of the images  on Saturday September 9, 1978 at the Thakāli Purna Maharjan’s home. The copperplate comes from the temple of Jhaṃkesvrī before it collapsed in 1934.  It is now  in the safekeeping of the Jimmāwāl.  As I had exhausted my stock of colour film-rolls, I had only a black-and-white one left with me. Besides, I was certainly not the best photographer in the world—then or now!

The Connection between the Shrine and the Images

The Copperplate makes no specific mention of these images/objects that we are going to discuss, nor do they appear to have any connection with the shrine of the Devī. The images themselves contain no inscription. So we do not know who the donor was nor when they were commissioned.

However, the rituals and the context of situation—a term too frequently used by anthropologists/linguists trained in the “Functionalist” London School of Bronislow Malinowski and Raymond Firth -- make their historicity abundantly clear.   Classical Hindu texts, belonging to the śākta sects, enjoin that the images of the Mātṝkās be made and donated to be worshipped in private shrines as well as displayed in village courtyards to be publicly worshipped.  Such images are called utsavamūrti.   Most Newār settlements in the Kathmandu Valley have local festivals devoted to such images to be worshipped on festive occasions and to be displayed and carried about in portable temples/Skt. devakulikās/New. deghurī /deguli . This may very well be the origins of the Newār degupujā.   According to a written document, based on the Guthi donation paper, shown us by the Thakujuju, Guthiyārs as well as Jimmāwāl, these images are in the safe-keeping of a care-taker guthi consisting of four Maharjan members who have to worship these images daily, performing nitya-pūjā in the morning and ārati in the evening turn by turn. These images are locally known as "Bhoṃ Dya", i.e., the Goddesses from Banepā as they were the donations of King Jayabhīmadeva Malla (reign ca NS 381-393,  the founder of the House of Banepā, ruling the valley for 13 years and 7 months  according to the GV, folios 34b-36a and Petech, 1984 :94-95, 230).  These repoussé images were made later to cover the original ones carved on a single timber so that the images become portable for the Jātrā.

Located south of Pharping, by the side of Inā khel, there is  a water-tank/Skt. jaladroṇī / New.jarhuṃ , known locally as Bhīma Jarhuṃ because it was a  pious deed made  during the reign of King Jayabhīmadeva in NS 381.  It is from here that the Jātrā of these images begins,  and  it is here that  the inmates hold two guthi feasts, first on the Ghaṇtākarṇa Caturdaśī, śrāvaṇa Kṛṣṇa 14--the final day of the plantation season and then eight months later, on Pāhāṃcahrhe/Piśāca-Caturdaśī, Caitra Kṛṣṇa Caturdaśī, the 14th day of the dark half of the month of Caitra. On Caitra śukla 5, five days after the annual guthi feast, these images are carried on a portable temple to the Inā-khel where a pūjā is performed according to tantric rituals, including offerings of liquor on the bowl of human skull! With wax cloth umbrella/Skt.chattras decorated with the gilded finials, the portable temple containing these images is brought from this water-tank to the middle of the upper quarter, to the accompaniment of musical groups where it circles the Jhaṃkeśvarī temple.  The farmers are the principal members of this guthī /trust, with a tantric priest, a karmācārya who officiates at the sacrifice of  a dark "spotless" goat bought with the cash exchanged for the kuṭa/Skt. .for  harvest of the trust land. The temple is carried on human shoulders with the help of two long bamboo poles to the center of the settlement, the Dathukvātha āgama after the tantric pūjā. After circling round the shrine, it is taken back to the lower end /Kvathutwā  and finally back to the stone water tank where the festivities terminate.

Fig. 3: The Ināe Gaṇeśa

Fig. 4: Gopāleśvara

Barely a month later, the most important Jātrā of these images takes place on the day of Meṣa saṃkrānti, Vaiśākha 1st, when the Sun enters the zodiac Aries/Meṣa, the first point of Hindu solar calendar, probably coinciding with vernal equinox when Hindu calendar was originally constructed more than a millennium and a half ago. These images are taken all the way to the gorge of Kotwāl, miles along the banks of river Bāgmatī. The temple is brought back to the accompaniment of the beat of drums, cymbals, playing flute and blowing trumpets, paying homage, on its way home, to Gopāleśvara Mahādeva, (See Fig. 4, right), the central deity of Pharping's cultural geography and passing through the Ināe Gaṇeśa--a shrine containing one of the finest images in black polished stone of the elephant-headed god (See Fig. 3, left) Clearly, the festivities are governed by the cycle of seasons and plantations rites, tracing everything back to rainfall and the sources of water. The Navadurgās do not merely provide a cultural-religious veneer of the Great Tradition upon the cycle of seasons which dictate the life of this peasant society. They provide an occasion for the entire society to show its cultural unity and emotional solidarity by participating in it in full abandonment.

The Jyāpūs of Pharping know this group of images as “Bhoṃ dya”, the Goddesses from Banepā rather than as Navadurgā. These images are believed to have been brought as a dowry by a Princess from Banepā, wed to “the Lord of Pharping”—whoever he was! If this tradition has any historical weight behind it, the Princess may very well belong to the family of King Jayābhīmadevadeva Malla who ruled the Valley during A.D.1261-1273 — as the founder of the House of Banepā.

Fig. 5: Plinth area of the Navadurga

Fig. 6: Worship

Fig. 7: The Lāekū complex

Fig. 8: Umāmaheśvara panel

Prior to the Great Earthquake of January 1934, these images were housed in its own residence/New.Dya Cheṃ.  A  single-storied tile-roof brick  building, facing north, located to the west of the Lāekū complex, it measured 12 feet by 14 feet. Among the surviving dilapidated ruins of the complex, one can still see its plinth, including the elohaṃ or carved foundation stone, now conveniently used as a dias/New. Dabuli  (see Fig. 5, above). The complex with a rectangular water fountain/New. gāhhiti  stretches from east to west (See Fig. 6, above, for a ritual use of this sacred  space). As its drainage has long been blocked with a dense outgrowth of weeds, the stone fountains/Skt. Makara/ New. hiti-mangalas  are submerged and no longer visible  (See Fig. 7, above). However, inside the niche of its side brick-wall, there is a superb, though partly mutilated, sculpture of the Umāmaheśvara, (See Fig. 8, above) depicting the legend of the descent of River Gaṅgā on śiva's head!

The Iconography of the Devīs

There is no unanimity among the Hindu texts about the number, identity and attributes of the Mother Goddesses. Though the first six, i.e., Brahmāyaṇī, Vaiṣṇavī, Aindryī/Indrāyaṇī, Kumāriī/Kaumārī, and Vārāhī are common in most lists, Cāmuṇḍā is omitted after the Sapta-mātṛkā list, while in contemporary art as well as in the Mahābhārata, Narasiṃhī is omitted. The Vārāha Purāṇa names Yamī and Yogeśvarī as the Eighth Matṛkā. In Nepal, the Eighth Mātṛkā is called Mahālakṣmī. She is mentioned in place of Narasiṃhī. In the lists of the Nine Mātṛkās, the Devī Purāṇa mentions Gaṇanāyakī as well, the śakti of Gaṇeśa, characterized by her elephant- head and ability to remove obstacles. Mahābhairavī, in place of Narasiṃhī,  is included in the list. [8] Our artist, however, does not seem to care for or follow any of these canons strictly. At least, he ignores the texts which prescribe the shapes of the headdress for all the Devīs. Accompanied by the auspicious images of Gaṇeśa, Bhairava, Siṃhanī , and Vyāghṛanī, the Navadurgās, as images used for festivities/Skt.utsavamūrtis, comprise Rudrāyaṇī, MahāSaraśavtī, Indrāyanī, Cāmuṇḍā, Kaumārī, Mahākālī, Vārāhī, Mahālakshṃī/Vaiṣṇavī and Brahmāynī.

The group of repoussé images also consists of three auspicious Kalaśa (See Fig. 9, below); which represent, as explained by the officiating tantric priest, the three Eternal Essences—the Tamas, the Rajas, the Satva.   There are three finials for crowning the rotating umbrellas to accompany the portable temples carrying these images in their ritual journey around the city (see Fig. 10, below). While the pair of cymbals (See, Fig. 11, below) is played with other instruments, the bowl /Skt. pātra, made from a human skull wrapped in a repoussé sheet, is used only in the pujā at Inākhel as well as in secret worship in the āgama.

Fig. 9: The three Kalaśas

Fig. 10: Umbrella Finials and the Skull-bowl

Fig.11: Skull-bowl and a Pair of Cymbals

The original images are all stolen in 1980, and as the chief witnesses of these photos, too, are almost gone, except for the trustees, the Thakujuju, and the Jimmāwāl who is now more than 80, the black-and-white photos do much less than justice to the original splendour and impression of these images and the level of their accomplished craftsmanship. In order to analyze their merit, one can look at them in three separate groups. 1. the cymbals, the skull bowl and the finials as one group which does not merit much critical attention; 2. the three Kalaśas, and then 3.Vārāhī, Siṃhanī, and Vyāghṛnī. The Kalaśas are, on the whole, products of not too serious and devoted workmanship though each of the three is quite distinct object on its own. The central one is by far the best of the three as it comes out in bold relief, with the top rim and the floral design done with closer attention to details.

Fig. 12: Siṃhinī, Vārāhī and Vyāghṛnī

When one reviews the three images of the Vārāhī flanked by Siṃhinī and Vyāghṛnī (See Fig.12, left) the artistic abilities of the craftsman who worked on these images  can immediately be sensed. All of these three images form a unity of impression, yet each is so distinct, not only in the shape and size of their snout but also in the live expressiveness of their eyes and the knit of their eyebrows. The flow and the wavy patterns of their hair, their hair-do, as it were too, are different. On closer examination,  the crest of each is distinct, too, though they may look alike. Their crowns do not, however, follow any iconographic manual.


Fig. 13: Gaṇeśa, Cāmuṇḍā and Kaumārī

This marvelous ability of the craftsman can so easily be assessed if we group together strongly contrasting figures of Gaṇeśa, Kumāra/Kaumārī flanking Cāmuṇḍā’s emaciated mask(See Fig. 13, right). It is not so much the crowns which distinguish these three images: it is the expressiveness of their faces, the curves in their lips and their corners which tell what emotions they represent, what rasas they are made of.  Even the image of Gaṇeśa, if one leaves out the trunk, is uniquely expressive with a rounded forehead of its own kind.

Fig. 14: Mahālakṣmī, Bhairavī and

The next group that may be considered is that of Bhairavī flanked by Mahāsaraśvatī and Mahālakṣmī (See Fig. 14, left). The round and bulging nature of all the three eyes on the one hand and the laughing brutality of the mouth as well as the short, flat, and thick nose intensify the ferocity of the central figure. The fierce and standing hair and the five crests with skull-studded bottom-line all reinforce the impression of terror just as the rectangular composition of the whole mask does it. All these are in a striking contrast with the serenity of Mahāsaraśvatī’s and the composure of Mahālakṣmī’s face. The expressions in the face of each of these masks are different in their own way. Whereas one has an oval-angular face with a smile in control the other is circular with a small set of lips with a puck on each side of the cheeks. The third eye on the forehead, too, is faint but not as prominent as in the first one.


Fig. 15: Indrāyaṇī, Brahmāyanī,
Rudrāyanī and Vaiṣṇavī

The last group of four sacred images (See  Fig. 15, right) is the most complex one in execution and visible skills of the artist at work. This group consists of Indrāyaṇī, Brahmāyanī, Rudrāyanī and Vaiṣṇavī. The expression in the face of the third one is, of course, vividly distinct. It is akin to Bhairava’s but not identical with it. There are similarities in the roundness of the eyes and the flatness of the nose.  However, in place of the brutal laughter in the mouth of Bhairava, we have a feminine “grace” in the curves of her lips as well in the protruding chin as against the near straight chin of ferocious Bhairava. The faces of Indrāyanī, Brahmāyanī and Vaiṣṇavi, each reflects the qualities of her consort’s—the kingly, the fatherly and the protective serenity.

The masterly unity in the diversity of all these sacred images leaves little room for doubt that these  are  executed with a firm grip on the unified aesthetic perception as well as a deep understanding of underlying conceptual framework of Navadurgā as an iconic manifestation of the Great Mother. As he is working on a limited space, the artist is severely handicapped: he was working only within the single compass available to him—the human face, without other aids such as the attributes held in hand, and yet with an imaginative and creative play on the limited configuration of the different elements of the eyes, the eye-brows, the nose, the lips, and the chin he succeeds fully in capturing all the nine different maternal personalities.

Historicity of the Images

Though chronology is the backbone of history, it is not so easy to assign a date to any art piece from Nepal. This is so, not only because the art skills and crafts are socially limited to selected families or localities, but also because these are transmitted informally. Family traditions, unlike the traditions of trade guilds, tend to be restrictive and conservative. Unless an art piece is inscribed, which is very rare in Nepal, art-historians assign a date by “relative chronology” based on “evaluative,” if not inspired, guess- work relating to ”stylistic considerations”. In the absence of explicit aesthetic canons, at times these judgments are wide off the mark.  Nepalese art history is full of such accidents that happened to great men. In the case of the group of images we are reviewing, the cult of Jhaṃkeśvarī/Hariśaṅkarī / Siddhi-Mahālakṣmī as well as the rise  and the fall of the Rāvuttas/Rājaputras of Pharping (A.D. 1330s) and its final subjugation in A.D. 1471 set the latest possible date for the donation of these images.


Unlike the Department of Archaeology, we do not make any claims for the archaeological value of this group of images. Since they do not contain any inscriptions, they probably are of less value to art- historians, particularly in their higher quest, evidently not too fruitful, for analyzing trends on stylistic considerations or for identifying periods and schools in Nepali art forms. Nor are we trying vainly to date these sacred images on any verifiable criteria—stylistic, artistic, iconographic or pseudo-chronological considerations. They come from a marginal medieval Newār settlement, and from one of its central historically attested places of worship, and they still had a verifiable ritual role in its cultural life until they were stolen recently. We do not know who donated them, nor those who commissioned them, much less who worked at them and when. However, as works of accomplished craftsmanship they are neither lifeless and formless “shoddy pieces”, the products of unsure and shaky workmanship, nor are they “functionless”. By integrating the private worship of the elite with the public worship of the mass in major cultural events of the township, these images were pious, wise, and thoughtful investments their donors made in bringing the local society together in the service of the Great Mother.



1. The average height of the images discussed in this paper varies marginally between 10 to 12 inches, and the depth of relief from 1.5 to 3.5 inches. Gilt coating on copper surface survives unevenly from  feature to feature , from contour to contour as well as from image to image.

2. See a note at the end of the Amarakośa, Siglium A4, folio 88a in the online Classical Newari Lexicon at The translation of the postcolophon remarks on Yakṣamalla's campaign against the Pharping is not included in the Lexicon glosses, but the original page can be viewed at:

3. Buhnemann, Gudrun. 2006. “The Goddess Harisankari/Jankesvari:The Composite Form of the Consorts of Visnu and Siva from Nepal.” In Vanamāla: Festschrift A.J. Gail, edited by Gerd J.R. Mevissen and Klaus Bruhn.   Weidler Buchverlag. pp. 48-53

4. Malla, Kamal P. 1983.“Four Documents Relating to a Family History.” Rolamba Vol.3 No 1 (March ). pp 16-22

5. Malla, Kamal P. 1980. Remembering the Ancestors. Kantipur. (In Newārī).

6. Pal, Pratapaditya. 1974. The Arts of Nepal. Part I: Sculpture. Leiden: Brill. plate 36, pp 35-134.

7. “Purandi” is the name of the field/site in the Phākhel VDC, Makwānpur where the Department of Archaeology, HMG/N found a hoard of images in 1976. It is on a four and a half hour trail to south of Pharping. Where the images actually came from is uncertain. Slusser, Mary Shepherd. 1996. “The Purandi Hoard: Eleventh-century Metal Work from Nepal.” Artibus Asiae, Vol. 56.Nos. ½, pp.95-146.  Reprinted in Art and Culture of Nepal: Selected Papers.  Kathmandu: Mandala Publications, 2005, pp. 203 doesn’t identify Pinrā, located north of Pharping in the finial inscription of the NS 140, with Purandi. Some useful information on presentday Pharping municipality is available at website

8. Pal,Pratapaditya. 1997. “The Mother Goddesses According to the Devipurana.” In Narendra Kumar Singh, Editor, Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Delhi: Anmol Publications, pp. 1844-1846.



For giving  me an opportunity to study the trust papers  and photograph the images which have  since been stolen in the thick of political instability in 1980 I am grateful to the Thakāli of the Bhoṃ-Dya Guthi, Purna Maharjan of Tipi Tole, now over 80, and other guthiyārs, especially to ātāchā Maharjan and Shirimān  Maharjan  who are so proud of their culture and keen in its preservation

I am equally grateful to Jimmāwāl Ganesh Prasad Manandhar, now over 80, yet an effective leader and coordinator of all local cultural activities, for showing me the copperplate, now in his safekeeping. From Sri Badri Raj Malla, my uncle, I have, of course, yet to learn more about our heritage.

This paper won't have been written, much less published, but for Mary Shepherd Slusser's encouragement and Ian Alsop's hospitality in his online publication. Their perceptive papers on Newar metal crafts, image casting and repoussé have been a source of inspiration for writing it. My grateful thanks are also due to Professor Gudrun Buhnemann (Wisconsin) for kindly sending me her learned papers on the iconography of Jhaṃkeśvarī.

Alsop, Ian.  1986. “Repoussé in Nepal.” Orientations  17, No 7, (July), pp. 14-27. 

Buhnemann, Gudrun. 2006. “The Goddess Harisankari/Jankesvari:The Composite Form of the Consorts of Visnu and Siva from Nepal.” In Vanamāla: Festschrift A.J. Gail, edited by Gerd J.R. Mevissen and Klaus Bruhn.   Weidler Buchverlag. pp. 48-53

Firth, Raymond. 1973.  Symbols: Public and Private.  London:  Allen and Unwin.

Gourdiaan, T.  and Sanjukta Gupta. 1981. Hindu Tantric and śākta Literature. A History of Indian Literature.  Vol. 2 Fascicle 2, edited by Jan Gonda Wiesbaden: Otto Harrasowitz.

Malinowski, Bronislaw.  1954.  Magic, Science and Religion.  New York:  Doubleday  

Malla, Kamal P. 1980 . Remembering the Ancestors. Kantipur. (In Newārī).

Malla, Kamal P. 1983.“Four Documents Relating to a Family History.” Rolamba Vol.3 No 1 (March ). pp 16-22

Pal, Pratapaditya. .1974 and 1978. The Arts of Nepal. Part I: Sculpture and Part II: Painting. Leiden: Brill.

Pal,Pratapaditya. 1997. “The Mother Goddesses According to the Devipurana.” In Narendra Kumar Singh, Editor, Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Delhi: Anmol Publications, pp. 1844-1846.

Petech, Luciano. 1984. Mediaeval History of Nepal ca. 750-1480. Rome: Instituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente.

Slusser, Mary Shepherd. 1996. “The Purandi Hoard : Eleventh-century Metal Work from Nepal.” Artibus Asiae, Vol. 56. Nos. ½,  pp. 95-146.  Reprinted in Art and Culture of Nepal: Selected Papers.  Kathmandu:  Mandala Publications, 2005, pp. 157-255. 

Slusser, Mary Shepherd, Nutan Sharma, and James A. Giambrone.  1999. “Metamorphosis: Sheet Metal to Sacred Image in Nepal.” Artibus Asiae, Vol. 58, Nos. ¾ , pp. 215-232.

Srivastav, M.C.P. 1979. Mother Goddess in Indian Art, Archaeology and Literature. Delhi: Agama Kala Prakashan.

Thapa, Ramesh Jung. 1977. “Metal Images Discovered at Phākhel.” Ancient Nepal , Nos. 41-42, (August-November), pp. 15-25. (In Nepali).

Vajrācārya, Dhanavajra and Kamal P. Malla, Editors. 1985. The Gopālarājavamśāvalī:  A Facsimile Edition.  Wiesbaden:  Franz Steiner Verlag. | articles