By LB THAPA in Bhopal, India, FOR ONTOTHEROAD.COM

With the establishment of Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) in 1956, throngs of Nepali people began to arrive in Bhopal, India. The BHEL is the largest engineering and manufacturing enterprise, which was inaugurated by Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru. Being the largest engineering enterprise in the country, it required many skilled and non skilled workers. The BHEL welcomed Nepalese people, willing to join in the industry. They were employed as per their skill and education.

Today there are over 10,000 Nepalese live in Bhopal who work in offices, factories, hotels & restaurants; and a few in the government jobs as well. Many Nepalese workers, after the retirement from the BHEL, have preferred to settle down in Bhopal, most of them have their own houses.

Nepali Community of Bhopal has built Lord Pashupatinath Temple in Bhopal, India. Photo: LB Thapa
Diwakar Aryal, past president of Shree Pashupatinath Nepali Samaj. Photo: LB Thapa

Unlike many Nepalese people, who live almost in every part of India, are not as united and well organized as in Bhopal. An effort of getting united of all Nepali in Bhopal had begun right over three decades ago. After having made a few unsuccessful attempts, under the leadership of Sak Bahadur Pun, a retired Indian Gurkha Rifle, hailed from Baglung district, succeeded in forming an organization.

Later, it was decided to establish a temple of Lord Pashupatinath, because they thought that their organization can only survive if a temple of Lord Pashupatinath is built there. It was also true that the temple would bring Indian Hindus and the Nepalese under one roof.

The first formal meeting to form an organization was held on 28 May 1978. This meeting was attended by Shanta Bahadur Gurung, Man Bahadur Gurung, Karna Bahadur Rana, Baburam Sharma, Ram Prasad, Dhan Bahadur Aryal, Ram Bahadur Gaire, Bhim Bahadur Thakuri, Jay Bahadur Khadka, Mohan Lal Sharma Ghimire, Balaram Sharma, Man Bahadur Thapa, Ram Lal Sharma, Tap Prasad Sharma, Durga Bahadur Thapa, Kaman Singh Chhetri, Devi Lal Sharma, Dev Bahadur Rana, and Bishnu Prasad Ghimire.

This meeting was crucial because it appointed Sak Bahadur Pun, the president of Shree Pashupatinath Nepali Samaj. Finally Shree Pashupatinath Nepali Samaj got registered in the registrar’s office of Bhopal on 4th April 1978.

Once Shree Pashupatinath Nepali Samaj got registered, the next task, rather more challenging, was to find a piece of land to construct the temple of Lord Pashupatinath. Much effort was made to acquire a piece of land from the state government of Madhya Pradesh but it brought no success. Finally, the committee members of Shree Pashupatinath Nepali Samaj turned to the management of BHEL.

A large number of workers of the BHEL supported the effort of Nepalese people to set up a temple of Lord Pashupatinath. As it is a well known fact that Lord Pashupatinath temple in Kathamndu, Nepal, is equally very popular among the Indian pilgrims. Every year hundreds of thousands of Indian pilgrims visit Kathmandu and worship lord Pashupatinath with much devotion.

Under intense pressure finally the BHEL management agreed to allot a piece of land to construct the temple. The temple of Lord Pashupatinath in Bhopal is the replica of the original temple of Lord Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu. The main idol of Lord Pashupatinath was made by the skilled sculptors of Jaipur, Rajasthan.

The idol is 3 feet tall, 6 feet girth and weighs 300kg. A religious ceremony was followed to place the idol in the temple on 16th June 1980. The temple was inaugurated by the then state minister Kumari Bimala Verma on 11th February 1983.

Speaking with Diwakar Aryal, the past president of Shree Pashupatinath Nepali Samaj said “We had struggled hard to translate our dream into reality. Shree Pashupatinath Mandir Nepali Samaj has made every Nepali living here proud and dignified. I must say that it was the wish of Lord Pashupatinath that we succeeded in the end”.  

When asked him that what was the most frustrating time for him? He said, “There was a time when the evils of political grouping began spreading its roots among the members of the Nepali Samaj in Bhopal. I didn’t overlook the political grouping. I visited several members and convinced them that we must not bring politics in religious matter. Finally, my efforts were appreciated and many prominent Nepali Samaaj members boycotted Nepali political grouping in Bhopal”.

The Pashupatinath Nepali Samaj has earned a good name by doing religious and social activities in Bhopal. Every year, on the pious day of Shiva Ratri, the Nepali Samaj organizes a grand puja, which is attended by large number of Nepalese and Indians devotees. On that day food is served free to everyone who comes to receive the grace of Lord Pashupatinath. It is believed that over 10,000 people take food on the very day of Shiva Ratri.

Every year the Nepali Samaj provides scholarships to poor and intelligent students so that they can continue their studies. Sick and old people get medical aide. The Nepali Samaj makes efforts to find suitable jobs for the children of their members. Every so often Nepali cultural programmes are performed before large audiences.

The Nepali Samaj has maintained a very good rapport in the Indian Hindu society. It is an undeniable fact that Indian Hindus have always played key role in the running of the temple with such a grand manner.

Although Srhee Pashupatinath Nepali Samaj has nothing to do with politics, the Nepali Samaj has maintained a healthy relationship with Shiva Shena, Bajrang Dal, and other political organizations. These political parties have admired the role of the Nepali Samaj for cementing the friendly relationship between India and Nepal.   

Dolraj Gaire is the present president of Shree Pashupatinath Nepali Samaj. Besides his religious activities, Mr.Gaire does run a chain of restaurants in Bhopal. The restaurants he runs in Bhopal are distinct. At present he runs five restaurants where work about 125 employees. He provides them better salary and other facilities. On every Sunday, a big crowd of hungry customers can be seen at his restaurants. He has made several Nepali cuisines popular in Bhopal.

“There are about 125 employees in my restaurants and all of them are Nepali. I give them training and good salary but I also demand honesty and hard work from them. There is no place for dishonest and lazy people in my restaurants. The secret mantra of my success, which I did follow all my life, is honesty and hard work”, said Gaire confidently.

He has been helping the Nepalese and also doing great work for the development of Shree Pashupatinath Nepali Samaj. However, Mr.Gaire revealed a secret of his life that surprised this scribe. He said that until a decade ago he was a poor man, selling soup and pickles on his bicycle. He worked in all weather conditions.

He did not mind the chilly cold of winter or scorching heat of summer, but he worked relentlessly. When his soup and pickles became very famous, he thought of starting a restaurant. The Indian and Nepali foods that he served at his restaurant soon won the hearts of many food aficionados in Bhopal. After the initial success, he did not look back. He started opening more restaurants.

Sona Devi, 70, is a devotee of Lord Pashupatinath. A rich woman but chose to live a simple life. She distributed most of her property among her family members. She has kept only a little sum of money on her account in the bank so that she can travel to pilgrimages. Sona Devi never married. She has devoted her life to religious activities. She spends most of her time in meditation and worshiping the Lord Pashupatinath.

She told me that it was the blessing of Shree Pashupatinath that even at her 70s, she has never taken a single pill. She prefers to do her pilgrimages mostly on foot. She takes trains or buses for the long distance journey, but most of the time she loves to walk with a stick. I was surprised when she told me that she had walked all the way from Nayapul to Muktinath on foot. Now she has planned to take a dip in the holy pond of Kailash Mansarobar.

May god fulfill her wish! She fears none. “If you truly love others, they can’t harm you. Trust me. This is an eternal truth. People trouble you only because you don’t love them” added Sona Devi. I felt myself blessed to have met such a pious lady. She is definitely on the path of enlightenment.

My visit to Bhopal made me feel proud because the work Shree Pashupatinath Nepali Samaj is doing in Bhopal is a remarkable feat of success. Their good work will also encourage other Nepali people to make their presence felt.

The blogger receives blessings from Sona Devi, 70, a devotee of Lord Pashupatinath temple. Photo: LB Thapa

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I am a travel blogger.

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