During the 2015 earthquakes, Kathmandu Valley was especially touched and suffered great losses, including a lot of temples and monuments. While the renovations started almost right after the catastrophe, some are still unfinished today. According to inventories done after 2015, around 3000 monuments were damaged or destroyed. These consequences can still be observed in Patan, Kathmandu and Bhaktapur Durbar squares, but a lot has been done to recover this cultural heritage.
After the two most devastating earthquakes of April 25th and May 12th, 2015, thousands of lives were lost and the houses and cultural monuments of Kathmandu Valley were in bad shape, some completely destroyed. According to The Digital Archaeology Foundation, 20% of Nepal’s temples, buildings, etc., were shattered, and 80% were damaged. Another inventory done by KVPT (Kathmandu Valley Preservation Trust) showed that 510 UNESCO World Heritage Site Monuments were lost to the earthquakes and aftermaths.
Almost immediately after the earthquakes, Nepal received international aid from around the world, especially India, which sent around 5.8 billion groupies to rebuild Seto Machhindranath Temple, to mention only one. After tending to the victims and their families, the government set out to renovate the Nepalese heritage. Some temples, having been destroyed by the precedent earthquake of 1934, like the Bhaidega Temple in Patan, had been in the process of being rebuilt when 2015 happened, and everything had to begin again from scratch. Generally, in every place, they started the group effort by salvaging the wooden work like window frames and sculptures to reuse them, scrubbing off the old paints and repairing what was usable. Communities, NGOs and volunteers were very involved in the process, and funds were found from international, private, institutional companies, benefactors and private individuals. But for the inhabitants of Nepal, right after the earthquake, heritage was a luxury for those who had lost all their possessions. And so, the renovations took time but step by step, temple by temple, Nepal is slowly showing off its architectural beauty again.
Today, some temples are still in the process of being rebuilt, but in some cases, you can’t even see the damages anymore. For example, the Monkey Temple (Swayambhunath) and even Boudhanath Stupa are as magnificent as the pictures show them to be before 2015. From a foreign point of view, you wouldn’t know the disasters that took place. Kathmandu Durbar square still has not fully recovered, just like Patan Durbar square, but the renovated part are a wonderful work of art. Of course, for the more damaged ones, it takes a lot of time to find the money, to craft all the new pieces with the ancient methods, and rebuild the temples in their entirety. Declared a World Heritage Site in 1979, Bhaktapur is just now restoring all its past glory and its Durbar Square is a sight for sore eyes. The renovations really showcase the incredible work done by craftsmen and craftswomen. Now the monuments are being rebuilt with anti-seismic systems cleverly hidden in the structures of the temples. There is, of course, some tension regarding the use of these new methods from those who view them as degrading to the original art of the monuments. However, some temples were already reinforced with these systems before 2015 and they were only partially impacted, sometimes even in perfect shape, after the earthquakes, so this idea proves to be a good one.
Even though after 2015, families will never get back to their relatives, renovating the common heritage of Nepal helps people remember that all is never really lost and that Nepal’s legacy lives and will live on despite everything else.
She is an intern from France