The silversmith of Paknajol

From crafting jewelries for the Ranas, to having his own little establishment, Sitaram Silwal has come a long way with his life's work.

Anushka Nepal

  • Read Time 2 min.

Kathmandu: Down the busy streets of Paknajol is a small, dusty shop where Sitaram Silwal spends his day cutting metals, creating ornaments. For many strollers, it might be just another shop but for Silwal, it is a workshop, a haven, and a home. He has spent a significant part of his life here, devoting himself to the art of bringing metals to life.

Silwal was born into a family that had been in the jewelry business for generations. Originally from Benaras, his ancestors migrated to Gorkha during the regime of Prithivi Narayan Shah. The family later relocated to Sunar Gaun, a small village near Kalanki, in Kathmandu. His ancestors have been into smithing the jewelry since then. Generations later, Silwal carries on his family legacy.

Since his childhood, Silwal had seen and learned the ways of crafting jewelry. He spent his time watching his family crafting the ornaments. His father and grandfather have catered to the jewelry needs of commoners as well as the royal families of Nepal.

“We were brought here by the royal family, and in the early days my elders’ main work would be crafting the ornaments for them,” Silwal said.

Silwal officially started his work as a jewelry smith from the year 1987. He reminisces about the time when he was given orders that would later be sent to the Ranas. His work started during the Panchayat regime, and most of his works were dedicated for the Ranas.

“The feeling was very different when we were to craft the jewelry for Ranas,” he said. “It was the combination of excitement and pride, to be able to handcraft the jewelry myself for the royal family.”

Although well known among the royal family, Silwal’s little shop has had its share of struggles. Silwal knew his craftsmanship, but he still had to establish himself outside of his family business.

One thing that attracts many customers to his shop is that the jewelry he sells are way less costly than the ones found in the showrooms. “I don’t keep a lot of profit when people here come to order personally,” Silwal said.

To further hone his craft, Silwal spent a year in Lhasa, Tibet, near the famous Pagoda Palace, where he learned several ways of smithing that he lacked before. “I have learnt more than I could imagine from that training,” he said. 

He started his training in the year 2012 and came back to Kathmandu after a year. After completion of his training, he established his own shop in 2014. It is not easy to find Silwal since many people usually visit the showrooms and not the manufacturer. But once people come across him, they become his regular customers. The main attraction for many is that everything one gets there will be custom-made. “Many celebrities have found this place and have come here since,” he said excitedly, as he brandished the orders the celebrities made.

One thing that attracts many customers to his shop is that the jewelry he sells are way less costly than the ones found in the showrooms. “I don’t keep a lot of profit when people here come to order personally,” Silwal said.

Now, more than 3 decades into his work, Silwal remains satisfied with the work he has done. Although his legacy ends here, since his offspring are not invested in his life’s work, he is not disheartened. “My whole life I have done something I have loved,” he concluded. “And I am content with what I have achieved with my life.”

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