History has been witness to the fact that nothing man-made can stand against the atrocities of nature. The recent catastrophe in Nepal has served testimony to the very same fact as it has truly lost its architectural treasure to the most ferocious earthquake ever faced by mankind.
The Nepal Earthquake of 25th April, 2015 not only killed millions of people but also resulted in the destruction of World Heritage Sites. The monuments, held in high esteem and belief by the people, have reduced to bits and pieces. Nepal is a home to 8 UNESCO World Heritage sights, 60% of which has been destroyed by the massive 2015 earthquake. Two of these significant sites include the Kathmandu Durbar Square and the Boudhanath Stupa.
The Kathmandu Durbar Square built by the Malla Kings in the 16th century was designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979. It was the heart of the old town of Kathmandu and was the square where the king of the city was crowned and constituted. Many temples dedicated to Hindu gods were built here. The major attraction here was the Taleju temple- a three tier temple which is a holy shrine for both Jains and Hindus. The Hanuman Dhoka Palace (Gateway of Hanuman) dedicated to the Monkey God or Hanuman which is regarded as the Durbar’s protector and the Jagannath Temple known for its exquisite wood carvings which adorn its doors etc. The Durbar Square is known for its huge courtyards and the Kashtamandapa from where the city got its name. The grand palaces from where the royalty ruled has history like no other. However, the grandeur of the Kathmandu Darbar Square could not withstand the deadly earthquake that demolished some of the most important sites of this place.
A plaza in front of the old royal palace known for its exclusive architecture by the Newar artists has been severely damaged, and people could be seen picking up tiles and ornate that came crumbling down. The Hanuman Dhoka Palace too has collapsed and the sight of the rubble is heart-breaking.
Similar was the case with the Boudhanath Stupa which is the oldest and the largest stupa in the world. It has been an important centre for Tibetan culture and a holy shrine for Buddhist monks who come here to meditate. It is located in the town of Boudha and was built in 14thcentury. The splendour of the Boudinath Stupa is unbeatable, for a lot of gold has been used for its construction. It has been a revered destination for Buddhist pilgrims and tourists from the world over. Although reports have shown that the damages suffered by this 1500 year old stupa are relativey minor, the spire is reported to have cracks and many coatings too have fallen off making it frail. The Tibetan monasteries, dwellings and a whole culture that had sprung in and around the stupa have suffered major damages.
The Durbar Square and the Boudhanath Stupa was a daily centre for millions of Nepalese. A portal of hope that connected the mortals to the immortals,a serene environment destructed by the chaos of nature and when, the very source of hope gets demolished, then people are only left questioning their purpose in life.
All questions have answers and all problems have solutions, hence UNESCO along with the government has pledged to reconstruct the affected heritage sights. According to Christian Manhart, head of the Nepalese department of UNESCO in Kathmandu, the reconstruction process is being carried out in three phases. In Phase 1, surveys were carried out to determine the destruction. Phase 2 includes solidifying the fragile monuments and the phase 3 includes the actual restoration of the demolished sights. He also mentioned that detailed archaeological and survey plans have been made. UNESCO on 1st June, 2015 also issued a warning to all the civilians and tourists to stay away from these sights, for they were still fragile. The complete reconstruction programme might require funds amounting to 50 million according to a UNESCO report.
The Nepal Earthquake of 2015 has taken away Nepal’s pride. The 7.8 magnitude earthquake almost felt like an apocalypse for all of Nepal as it left the most marvelous of architecture evidences, spiritual centers and a gamut of culture into crumbles. The only hope that people have is UNESCO’s efforts to reconstruct the world heritage sights but the damage has been done and the restoration process will come with huge price and gargantuan efforts.
For every catastrophe witnessed, there will be lots of inputs to integrate all the sources and restore the sites. Despite the heart wrenching natural terror, the spirit for culture and heritage never dies and this has been witnessed even in Nepal.
Sources – link, link, link, link, link, link, link
Article by – Devyani Nighoskar