Jeevaratna Shakya, at present, the senior most artist in Nepal is a master of fine arts and sculpture. He had started his career in arts at the very young age of 15. He was the first student of the first Art School of Nepal, which was started in 1935 AD on the ground floor of Ghantaghar which was named Juddha Kala Pathashala in 1940 AD. He cleared and passed "Kala Kushal" examination of Fine Arts in first division in the year 1942 AD. After that he passed the examination of "Kala Pravin" in Fine Arts as well in first division in the year 1944 AD. In 1945 he joined the same school, not as a student but as an Art Master and started his profession as teaching arts as well as sculpture. Since then he spent more than 25 years lecturing, instructing and practicing fine arts and sculpture to many students from different parts of Nepal. Later from among the students of Master Jeevaratna Shakya, some have became well known artists, some became members of Royal Nepal Academy, some became members of Nepal Association of Fine Arts advisory board and some became even Campus Chief of Lalit Kala Campus affiliated to Tribhuvan University. He remained solely dedicated and devoted to painting and sculpture at his own pace even after taking a voluntary retirement from art education service even though the first art school was brought under the Tribhuvan University as Lalit Kala Mahavidhyalaya. He became very popular among the students, teachers and artists and he was respectfully called and known as "Jeevaratna Mastershaheb" in the community of fine arts lovers in Nepal.
Master Jeevaratna Shakya, son of late Shree Ratnaman and late Shreemati Jnana Shobha Shakya, was born on the fourth day of the bright moon in the month of Magha 1978 Bikram Samvat (1922 AD) at Kirtipunya Mahavihar (Lagan Bahal) of Lagan Tole in Kathmandu. From the very early age of childhood he was keenly interested in drawing figures of birds and animals. In the very tender age of his first decade, artist Jeevaratna Shakya was keenly interested in drawing pictures of ducks and sketches of different stages of still life. In this connection I think it is quite relevant to mention how Master Jeevaratna Shakya got so much inspiration to be involved deeply in the field of painting, art and sculpture.
One fine morning, one of his best friends came to him with a nice drawing. Showing the drawing to him, his friend said that he had drawn it himself. It was really a very nice picture so he became very happy looking at the art work of his best friend. He appreciated his friend’s drawing ability very much. He watched the drawing very closely and carefully once again but all of a sudden he noticed something wrong with the drawing. He was very much surprised by finding the reality. He was shocked too. His eyes filled with tears when he found the drawing was not real but only a traced out copy. Why one of his friends lied to him, he began to think about the drawing once again. Then all of a sudden an idea came to his mind, "Why not he himself try to draw that picture?" He at once took a sheet of drawing paper and a drawing pencil. He clipped the paper on the board and started to draw the picture by looking at his friend’s drawing over and over again. To his surprise, he found his drawing same as that of his friend. It was the drawing of a duck. It was the first drawing in his life. The picture of the duck was really very nice and looked like a real duck. He showed that drawing to his father, who was very happy to see the interest and ability of art in his son, so to encourage his son he searched and found an art teacher for him. The art teacher was no other than late master Chatura Ratna who was very happy to teach him art. So he learned the art of drawing and painting from his art teacher. With the development of confidence in his mind, he promised himself to devote his time in the creation of original paintings only.
Master Jeevaratna Shakya has maintained a collection of more than 70 of his lovely many paintings of Mahayana Buddhist Gods and Goddesses, portraits of kings, renowned personalities as well as landscape paintings of shrines and old temples. In 1956, on the occasion of the 4th International Conference of World Fellowship of Buddhists, which was the first International Conference of Nepal, a painting show by the name of Nepal Art Exhibition was organized by Nepal Art Society. In the very show, the painting of "Saraswati - the goddess of learning" was highly appreciated by late king Mahendra. And his late majesty personally bought the painting of Goddess Saraswati on that occasion. That honour really left a deep impression on the artist, which inspired Master Jeevaratna Shakya to be involved continuously in the field of creating original art pieces. He sculptured many bronze and clay figures as well as glass paintings. Some of his glass paintings are still spreading charm in Rana residences. In 1970, he voluntarily retired from education service after sincerely endeavouring for more than a quarter of a century lecturing, instructing and practicing fine art and sculpture. After that he started giving education on art and sculpture privately at home to many students of different parts of Nepal.
Master Jeevaratna Shakya was a Buddhist by birth and so he preferred to do something for the propagation of Buddhism in Nepal for all the people in this world so he started bringing into life, the life history of Shakyamuni Buddha and the events of Buddha dharma in the form of water colour paintings. Now-a-days he is wholeheartedly and enthusiastically dedicated in painting the whole life history of Lord Buddha in a consecutive series of paintings. He hopes to receive support and recognition from different people as well as different organizations engaged in propagating Buddhism throughout the world. His successful completion of this zeal will be no doubt a great achievement for the Buddhists of Nepal as well as foreigners. From among the master piece series of the life of Shakyamuni Buddha, I would like to introduce four paintings that represent the major events in the life of the Buddha i.e. the birth, the enlightenment, the first sermon and the pari-nirvana.
One day, Shakyamuni Buddha had preached to Ananda Bhikshu, "O! Ananda! Man of belief will visit with faithful curiosity and devotion the four places …where I was born,…attained enlightenment,….gave the first sermon,…and where I pass into pari-nirvana." That was the forecast made by the Buddha. These four places are very holy and pious places for the Buddhists of not only Nepal and India but all the Buddhists of the world since his time to the present day. These places are known as Bauddha Char Dhama i.e. the Four Buddhist Holy Sites. These are:
• Lumbini - the fragrant garden of flowers and sal trees where Gautama Buddha was born as a Sakya Prince in 623 BC.
• Buddhagaya - the shade of big pipal tree where Prince Siddhartha as a sage attained the enlightenment and became the Buddha.
• Mrigadavana - the park of deer where Lord Buddha for the first time gave his holy sermon to five major disciples, the Panchabhaddia.
• Kushinara – where Buddha attained the pari-nirvana and passed away and relieved himself from the cycle of death and rebirth.
These painting are really worth viewing in which paintings one can clearly see Master Jeevaratna Shakya`s hidden airmanship in water colour. These painting had been exhibited many times in different cities of Japan years back and I am very hopeful to get a golden chance to see here in Nepal where Shakyamuni Buddha was born, in the years to come.
It is really a matter of great pleasure that an artist who has spent almost all his life in creating art and sculpture was felicitated wholeheartedly on the 29th day of Bhadra 2057 Bikram Samvat (14th of September, 2000 AD) at the Nepal Association of Fine Arts Auditorium, Naxal, by Lalit Kala Samikshak Samaj, a group of expert writers and art critics formed in Nepal with the aims and objectives of up-lifting and bringing into light the hidden personalities that are contributing to the field of fine art but still left neglected. Similarly, the Shakya Foundation, Nepal as well as The Water Colour Society has so daringly organized a reception ceremony to honour and felicitated the well known artist who has made so big e contribution to the field of painting and sculpture in Nepal.
It is really a matter of great encouragement that very recently the Society of Modern Art (SOMA) honored two senior most artists - Master Jeevaratna Shakya and artist Karna Narsingha Rana - with "Lainsinha Bangdel Smriti Samman 2068" on Monday the 25th of Baishaka 2069 at Nepal Art Council, Babar Mahal amidst a functoin. I am very happy with the encouraging and very thankful activities done by SOMA and I would also like to express my respect to the senior most artists of Nepal.