Nearly 40 years later, the stolen god of Patko Tole makes a historic and triumphant return
Ashish DhakalDecember 4, 2021
Ahuge crowd gathered around the two-tiered temple of Laxmi-Narayan in Patko Tole on this historic day as the sounds of jhyalijhyamta filled the air.
70-year-old Chandraprava Shakya, standing next to the temple with a huge smile on her face, said: “Laxmi-Narayan travelled to America, but he missed being home.”
On Saturday, the 800-year-old stele of Laxmi-Narayan, stolen in 1984, was finally reinstated to its original plinth. At 11, the Patan Museum courtyard was packed to the walls as devotees and attendees witnessed the handing-over of the statue from the Museum to the residents of Patko Tole.
As the 85cm x 48.9cm statue was brought out of the gallery, people rushed to offer their devotion. Laxmi-Narayan was then placed inside a palanquin with gilded roof, and carried around the Darbar Square accompanied by chants of “Laxmi-Narayan ki jay!” When the procession reached Patko Tole, it made three turns of the temple before the god was interred inside.
Read also: The enigma of arrival of Nepal’s gods, Ashish Dhakal
Bimal Lal Shrestha, whose ancestors originally built the temple centuries ago, sat outside with his family and the priest to perform the kshyama puja, the ritual yagya between them. “Kshyama puja is done to ask forgiveness for any sin committed during rituals,” said the priest, Basudev Jwalananda Rajopaddhyaya. “And today was chosen because it is aunsi which is auspicious to Laxmi.”
Shrestha’s family has also been carrying the tradition of worshipping the deity on Nirjala Ekadashi (which falls in June-July) every year.
A new wooden door has been fitted to the temple, and CCTV and motion sensors have been installed inside to prevent further theft. The returned statue stands in between the replica on the left and the original stone inscription eroded with age on the right.
A special garment and ornaments of copper with traces of gold and silver, which have been in Bimal Lal Shrestha’s family for generations, were fitted to the statue at the end of the puja. He remarked: “We had been unable to use them all these years since they didn’t fit the replica.”
Now, back home after 38 years, Laxmi Narayan looks beautiful – content and complete, smiling at last.