As the earthquake of 2015 had destroyed and partially damaged over ninety percent monuments, temples and heritage sites of Patan Durbar Square, Rohit Ranjitkar, country director of Kathmandu Valley Preservation Trust (KVPT), a conservation architect, did not know where to start reconstruction as most of the major jewels, including Char Narayan, Hari Shanker and Manimandap, west wing of Sundari Chwok, had turned into rubble and statue of Yogendra Malla fallen. Krishna Mandir and Bhimsen Temple were badly damaged as were other temples.
Ranjitkar, a person with immense knowledge about the structures and monuments of Malla era, sketched a plan. Backed by vibrant heritage lovers and colleagues of KVPT Kanak Mani Dixit, Pratima Pande and Bhesh Narayan Dahal, then director General of Department of Archeology, Ranjitkar used his knowledge and expertise in the reconstruction in Patan Durbar Square for quality.
With the overwhelming participations of youths, local community, Army and police, Ranjitkar and other architects and heritage lovers selected, collected and stored all important artifacts of fallen temples with care in the nearby museum just within a day of earthquake.
“The KVPT and Department of Archeology coordinated the security aspect, rescuing artifacts and cleanup efforts in Patan Durbar Square immediately after the earthquakes, with Mangal Tole Sudhar Samiti, Patan Museum, LSMC and local residents and community. Remnants of the fallen monuments in the Patan Durbar Square were secured with the help of hundreds of volunteers, local stakeholders, the Nepal Army, the Armed Police and Nepal Police. All valuable historic building components were secured within the first ten days after the earthquake and stored in the Patan Museum compound. They were documented and sent into storage with labeling. Among these thousands of rescued pieces are intricately carved wooden elopements from the tired temples that collapsed in the square,” said Ranjitkar.
Four years after, on January 29,2020, Ranjitkar delivered welcome speech at the courtyard of recently reconstructed Char Narayan Temple restoring most of the temples and heritage sites to their old glory.
“Completion of reconstruction and reviving the rituals of temples is matter of great satisfaction. Following the completion of Char Narayan Temple, Patan Durbar Square is almost revived. As the reconstruction of Bhimsen Temple is in a full swing, Patan Durbar Square will come to its old shape,” said Ranjitkar addressing a gathering of heritage lovers, local community and high dignitaries including Minister of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Yogesh Bhattarai, secretary Kedar Bahadur Adhikari, US Ambassador to Nepal Randy Barry and representatives from Embassies of Germany and Japan.
Along with US Embassy, Himalayan Bank Ltd also provided financial contribution for the reconstruction of the temple. Attending the inaugural program, Chief Executive Officer of the Bank Ashoke Rana has shown the bank’s commitments towards preservation of temples like Char Narayan. Japan government provided support to restoration of Krishna Mandir and reconstruction of other temples. German Government also provided support in the process.
At a time when more than half of other major heritage sites and temples around the country as well as in Patan areas are still in the initial phase of reconstruction, local community and local people of Patan Durbar Square have shown how local community, Nepal’s foreign friends, financial institutions and government agencies working together made impossible things possible.
Funded by the Embassy of United States, which has been in forefront of supporting the preservation and restoration of Nepal’s heritage sites for long, Minister of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Bhattarai and Ambassador Barry jointly inaugurated the Char Narayan Temple.
Using all the traditional materials, with majority of artifacts of the temples, in reconstruction, Ranjit’s team has done an extraordinary work in Char Narayan Temple.
Although Bhaktapur Municipality has been reconstructing the structures in fast pace, conservationists criticized the move of municipality using the modern materials in many temples tampering the shapes.
Under earthquake response campaign of the projects, KVPT launched restoration of the monuments, which partially or fully collapsed, such as Char Narayan, Harishankar, Visveshvara and around 15 monuments in Patan Darbar are restored or rebuilt with 4 additional temples in Kathmandu Darbar Square including Gaddhi Baithak of Bashantapur.
Having experiences in reconstruction of eastern portion of Mulchwok, a major portion of Patan Durbar Square and other temples including Gaddhi Baithak of Hanumandhoka, KVPT team reconstructed Char Narayan Temple in time.
Coordinating with the local community and government agencies, the KVPT team has completed the reconstruction of the most precious sites of Patan Durbar Square. The generous financial support given by Nepal Investment Bank and its chairman Prthivi Bahadur Pande and Pratima Pande was immense. The role of Bhesh Narayan Dahal, then Director General of Department of Archeology, was memorable in the reconstruction of Patan.
For the completion of the project in reviving Patan, the role and support of honorary chair of KVPT die-hard conservationist Kanak Mani Dixit is highly significant.
The timely completion of Char Narayan Temple and other monuments is possible in Patan due to close partnership between community, government, development partners and organizations like KVPT.
“Nepal has one more accomplishment towards collective mission of earthquake damaged monuments,” said Minister Bhattarai. “We aim to complete reconstruction of all monuments within next two years.”
The same is not with all the monuments in Lalitpur. Even after five years, the reconstruction of a small portion of Kumbheshwor Temple is yet to complete. Similarly, only 30 percent of work of Jagat Narayan Temple in Sankhmul has completed in five years. Due to delay of contractor, the pace of Bungmti’s Machindranath Temple is yet to pick up. Although Government of Sri Lanaka has been providing financial support through Department of Archeology following government process, this system did not work.
Given the proven results of successful completion, KVPT's model should be replicated in other areas where reconstruction work fails to make progress. Instead of going through the government’s way, local community of Patan has already started the reconstruction of Bhimsen Temple.
All the reconstructions of heritage sites and temples awarded through the contract announcement, through Department of Archeology, have delayed due to the misuse of contractors in the loopholes in the Procurement Act. From Gorkha's Palace to Nuwakot, Sankhamul and Bungmati, the department is under the pressure of contractors.
Minister of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Yogesh Bhattarai said that 387 monuments are already completed and 389 are undergoing construction, out of 891 damaged monuments, during the earthquake. He said that the ministry is working to complete all the monuments within two years.
Addressing a program to mark the completion of Char Narayan Temple in Patan Durbar Square, minister Bhattarai said that the 17th Century’s Char Narayan Temple is as important for its religious purposes as it is for historical and archaeological reason. He said that the temple has been a center of attraction as great cultural heritage in Patan Durbar Square for ages.
Constructed with the lead support from the Embassy of United States of America and other many agencies, Kathmandu Valley Preservation Trust (KVPT) and Department of Archaeology jointly worked to rebuild the temple.
Addressing the program, ambassador of United States of America to Nepal Randy W. Barry expressed satisfaction over the reconstruction of the temples in schedule, keeping intact its original shape.
Honorary Chair of KVPT Kanak Mani Dixit gave vote of thanks highlighting the importance of Patan Durbar Square to represent the broader Nepali Culture.
Built in 1566, the shrine, the oldest of Patan Darbar, collapsed in earthquake 2015. The project restoration began within a few weeks of devastation.
The 16th century temple, one of the finest expressions of Newari architecture, collapsed from the 2015 earthquakes and required a complete restoration. Because the project utilized salvaged materials, while also incorporating international earthquake-resistant conservation norms, it is a model for future restoration projects.
U.S Support In Heritage Conservation
The United States Embassy, through the Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP), contributed $100,000 for the seismic strengthening and comprehensive restoration of the Malla-era Char Narayan Temple in Patan Durbar Square. The project, implemented by Kathmandu Valley Preservation Trust (KVPT), was also supported by the World Monument Fund (WMF), the Japanese Embassy, the German Embassy, and the South Asia Institute – Heidelberg.
The U.S remains a major development partner of Nepal supporting the reconstruction and restoration of various temples and monasteries in different parts of Nepal.
The Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation is the only U.S. government program that provides direct support for the preservation of cultural heritage in developing countries. Since 2003 AFCP has supported twenty-four projects and contributed $3.52 million in Nepal. AFCP has supported other projects in Patan, including the restoration of the Palace, Mul Chowk, Sundari Chowk, and 17th-century water architectures.
The historical structures of Kathmandu Valley not only define Nepal’s national heritage but they are recognized as important to all humankind. Among the built heritage, of the Valley, the Patan Durbar and plaza provide one of the finest preserved sites.
“I applaud the local community, including the youth, the Lalitpur Metropolitan, Lalitpur Chamber of Commerce, Mangal Tole Sudhar Sangh, the security forces and others who contributed to protecting Patan Durbar Square area after the earthquake,” said acting Director General of Department of Archeology. “The Department of Archeology is proud to work with you now for protection of our heritage.”
“KVPT, which has been collaborating with the Department of Archaeology since 1991, is a unique example of an international private charity in Nepal. With a specific mission which is to safeguard the Valley’s architectural heritage. The KVPT raises funds and implements projects on a turn-key basis, always in coordination with the Department. Their team of Nepalese professionals has preserved more than 60 monuments, many of them around here in Patan,” said former Director General Bhesh Narayan Dahal.
“KVPT’s Patan Durbar Earthquake Response Campaign is a model effort and I thank all those whose contribution has made so much of KVPT’s work possible. I applaud both Nepali citizens and international friends who have stood behind the KVPT in its vital work of preservation of our architectural heritage,” said Dahal, who led the initial period of heritage reconstruction.
Nepal Has Reconstructed 387 Temples And Monuments
Yogesh Bhattarai, Minister of Culture Tourism and Civil Aviation
we have one more important accomplishment towards our collective mission of reconstruction of earthquake damaged monuments. This very important temple, which had extremely suffered from the earthquake, and now it has come back to its original glory. This 17th century’s Char Narayan Temple is as important for its religious purpose as it is for historical and archeological reasons. It has been a center of attraction as a great cultural heritage in Patan Durbar Square for ages. I would like to extend my thanks and appreciations to Kathmandu Valley Preservation Trust and Department of Archeology for their strenuous work. As a non-profit making organization, KVPT has been working very hard in the conservation of cultural heritage of Nepal, especially in Patan and in Hanumandhokha area for many years. KVPT has done exemplary work in such initiatives and is doing on quite some project in the Kathmandu Valley.
Lalitpur is a heritage city in its own right and is traditionally renowned for fine arts. It has kept itself vibrant as a living museum due to its rich art, craft, architecture, historical and cultural treasure. Heritage is global and it needs to be handed over from one generation onto another. We had to take up this challenge in the middle of colossal tragedy that devastated a large number of historical monuments and claimed thousands of lives. The history has given us this responsibility to reconstruct and renovate these treasures. Out of 891 damaged monuments, 387 are already completed while 389 are undergoing reconstruction process. We aim to complete reconstruction of all monuments within next two years. We express our thanks to all who have supported us in this process.
I would like to thank Lalitpur Metropolitan City and local communities for putting their heart and soul in this project. My thanks are due to US Ambassador for Nepal for his continuous support in preserving cultural heritage of Nepal through Ambassador’ Fund. He is active in social media and is promoting Nepal on this platform. I thank him for this also.
I am happy to share with you that the trend of visitor’s arrival into Nepal is positive. Last year nearly 1.2 million tourists visited Nepal. With all the things in Nepal including the completion of reconstruction of heritage sites like Char Narayan Temple, we expect to meet to bring 2 million tourists in Nepal.
Char Narayan Consecration
It is my pleasure to welcome you all, on the occasion of completion of Char Narayan Temple, which had totally collapsed in 2015 earthquake, as well as leaving widespread destruction in the square. Which forced us to stay longer, not only on Palace sections but monuments in the square too. It also impaired the Valley’s wider cultural heritage, with damage deeply felt in the three town squares of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur, all World Heritage Sites fabled for their unique temples and historic houses.
KVPT and Department of Archeology (DoA) coordinated security, rescuing artifacts and cleanup efforts in Patan Darbar Square immediately after the EQ with Mangal Tole Sudhar Samiti, Patan Museum, Lalipur Municpal City, Lalitpur Chamber of Commerce and local residents and community. Remnants of the fallen monuments in the Patan Darbar Square were secured with the help of hundreds of volunteers, local stakeholders, the Nepal Army, the Armed Police Force and Nepal Police. All the valuable historic building components were secured within the first ten days after the earthquake and stored in the Patan Museum compound. There they were documented and sent into storage with leveling. Among these thousands of rescued pieces are intricately carved wooden elements from the tiered temples that collapsed in the square.
We are so proud that we were able to save all the elements from the rubble, even small pieces of carved elements. Of course, some of the elements were not reusable, but they served as evidence and references to make new replicas. Immediately after the earthquake, we have been repairing all those carved elements from completely collapsed temples, as preparation for rebuilding, which we can see now in their respective locations. This is all possible due to collaboration between everybody. This is a team work, individuals cannot do alone. I am sure this was the same when it was built a few hundred years ago.
Besides government agencies and local stakeholders, I want to thank our artist’s team of Woodcarvers & Carpenters, Stone carvers, Metalsmith, Goldsmith; without these groups of artist it is not possible to achieve to finish the quality work and bring the Patan Darbar Square back to its former glory, to how it was before the earthquake, in an even better, and safer form.
On behalf of the Board of Directors and on behalf of our loyal supporters both in Nepal and abroad and on behalf of the KVPT team, which includes our Architects & Engineers, Historians, administrative staff, and our craftsmen, -- I would like to thank all our donors -- The AFCP for the exceptional gift as well to all the donors for this temple rebuilding (particularly WMF, SAI, Japanese Embassy. German Embassy, Gerda Henkel Foundation, NIBL, HBL, UNESCO …), which helped us achieve the goal in one of the important conservation projects as possible in Patan Darbar Square.
We are very grateful to the DoA, as well DoA Maintenance Unit in Patan DS & LMC for continued collaboration. Once again welcome and Thank you all of you to joining this event today.
Ranjitkar is the Executive Director, Kathmandu Valley Preservation Trust