For Erich Theophile, co-founder of the Kathmandu Valley Preservation Trust (KVPT), it was a very emotional moment when he stood at a podium to present the long saga of reconstruction and establishment of an organization to preserve and protect the heritage sites of Kathmandu valley.
When they realized the need for an organization to preserve and protect the temples and monuments of Kathmandu Valley back in 1991, they hardly perceived that they have to work from ground zero clearing the rubble of the temples.
The 7.8 magnitudes of the earthquake on April 15 turned many temples into rubble and Nepal was in a desperate situation. Here comes KVPT’s role. KVPT’s Nepal Office in Patan under the leadership of country director Dr. Rohit Ranjitcar mobilized local communities and security personnel to collect all the artifacts from the ruble and stored them in a safe place.
As KVPT completes its objective of reconstructing temples, monuments and heritage sites, it organized a celebration of the Success of the Earthquake Response Campaign 2015-2022 with a Gala Luncheon and Book Party in the Patan Palace Royal Garden.
This was a part of honoring Pratima Pande, Preservation activist and Board member of KVPT, Esteemed Donor to the campaign, Master craftsmen of KVPT projects and Dr. Niels Gutschow, chief advisor and team leader.
Lalitpur Metropolitan City and the Department of Archeology backed and supported KVPT in the entire process. “It is a great pleasure and matter of satisfaction for LMC to back and support the KVPT team led by Dr. Ranjitkar to complete the reconstruction of our temples. “ As a mayor of Lalitpur Metropolitan City LMC, I will announce a further Rs.50 million for the reconstruction work,” said Mayor Maharjan. He thanked the U.S. Japan, India and European Union are lending support to reconstruct the heritage sites and temples in the Lalitpur Metropolitan City area.
Director General of the Department of Archeology Damodar Gautama holds the view that working in collaboration with KVPT helped them to learn how to work with the community and donors.
“KVPT and DoA coordinated security, rescuing artifacts and cleanup efforts in Patan Durbar Square immediately after the EQ with Mangal Tole Sudhar Sangha, Patan Museum, LMC, Lalitpur Chamber of Commerce 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 Force and the Nepal Police. All 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,” said Dr. Rohit Ranjitkar, KVPT Nepal Director.
In the words of Erich, Co-Founder and Executive Director, they did a miracle in reconstructing temples, heritage sites and monuments in the seven years period.
For him, the last seven years period since the earthquake in 2015 remains a time of pain and challenges. As he mentioned, it is a miracle for KVPT to achieve success to rebuild and restoring 30 monuments in Kathmandu and Patan.
Backed by Nepal Director Dr. Ranjitkar, who has dedicated all his time to guiding and supervising to rebuild of the monuments and temples of Patan and Kathmandu in the last seven years and the roles and contributions of board member Pratima Pande, a dedicated heritage conservationist and honorary counselor of Italy to Nepal, the reconstructions geared up.
“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 will serve 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 teamwork, an individual cannot do alone. I am sure this was the same when it was built a few hundred years ago. So we are very thankful and want to appreciate our Nepali artisan team, so plz allow me to switch to the Nepali language,” said Dr.Ranjitkar.
Pande, who is also president of Nepal Britain Society, welcomed Prince Harry at the earthquake reconstruction sites during his visit to Nepal in 2016. Prince Harry’s visit to Nepal raised the issue at the global level.
With the support and dedication of the Honorary chair of KVPT Kanak Mani Dixit, the support given by the Director Generals of the Department of Archeology, the mayor of Lalitpur Municipality Chiri Babu Maharjan and community leaders and others, KVPT has rebuilt and restored the monuments also contributed to achieving the mission to complete the reconstruction and revive the life.
“This has been a collaborative effort. I am happy to say that seven years after the earthquake is a successful period for the reconstruction,” said Eric in his emotional speech.
Since its establishment 30 years ago, KVPT remains a leader in Nepal to support the reconstruction and revival of temples and heritage sites. Having world-renowned scholars on Chaitya and temples of Kathmandu Valley Niels Gutschow, a professor of Heidelberg University, as a senior advisor, KVPT does have pools of experts.
“As a director, I feel privileged to be associated with such a dynamic organization and to be working with Eric, Rohit, Raju and the other Board members for two years. I have visited New York many times for KVPT programs and also London, where KVPT was recognized by His Majesty King Charles III for our work. We all are invited to Clarence House for lunch to be encouraged by His Majesty for the hard work that KVPT has tirelessly done since 1991 in Nepal,” said Pande.
Supporting Nepal for all-around development for the last 75 years, the Government of the United States provided much-needed financial assistance under U.S. Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation to rebuild the monuments in Patan and Kathmandu. With financial support from the US Embassy, KVPT rebuilt and renovated Basantapur Gaddhi Baithak in a matter of just 3 years.
Attending the program Earthquake Response Campaign 2015-2022 with his spouse, U.S. Ambassador to Nepal Dean Thompson has shown solidarity and support for Nepal’s heritage and monument preservation work.
Japan is one of the main supporters of rebuilding earthquake-destroyed monuments, temples and heritage sites. Japanese ambassador to Nepal Kikuta Yukata also attended the program. India has also been supporting to reconstruction and rebuilds Buddhist monasteries and Chaityas. Indian Embassy sent a head of the reconstruction division to attend the program.
Although Niels Gutschow did not attend due to health conditions, KVPT board members and friends of Nepal Peter Burleigh and Michael Doyle came from the United States of America for the events and to visit Nepal.
Similarly, the Gerda Henkel Foundation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Germany, Institute of Conservation University Applied Arts Vienna Prince Clause Fund for Culture Development and World Monuments Fund through support from American Express is chief sponsors.
Supporting heritage conservation and restoration, Himalayan Bank Ltd also provided funds and was recorded as a chief sponsor. Chief Executive Officer of Himalayan Bank Ltd Ashoke SJB Rana showed his commitment to conservation by attending the program. However, CEO Rana prefers to be a silent spectator.
Honorary co-chair Kanak Mani Dixit explained the reconstruction period and the challenges faced by them during the entire process. He said that the completion of the reconstruction of tangible things like temples and monuments also revived intangible things like traditional dances.
Founded by Dr. Eduard F. Sekler and Erick Theophile with the mission to safeguard the extraordinary and threatened architectural heritage of the Kathmandu Valley in 1991, KVPT has established itself as a rebuilder of monuments and heritage of Kathmandu Valley.
Since 1991, the trust has saved 85 historic buildings including temples, monasteries, palaces, step-wells and private residences. A number of these projects were part of KVPT’s previous campaigns including Buddhist Kathmandu (1995-1998), the Kathmandu Durbar Initiative (1998-2006) and the Patan Royal Palace Complex and Architectural Galleries (2004-2014).
Under Niels Gutschow’s leadership, KVPT has published more than 14 books in the field of Nepalese architecture and preservation.
As KVPT organized a program Earthquake Response Campaign (2015-2022) at Patan Durbar square to commemorate the successful completion of reconstructing important monuments through in collaborating partnership, Himalaya Bahadur Pande, a well-known conservationist remain in low profile, reminded how then U.S Ambassador Julia Chang Bloch called a meeting of Nepal’s imminent persons to raise the fund for the restoration of heritage sites.
“Only a few Nepali imminent persons donated for the first meeting for the preservation of heritage sites,” told Himalaya B. Pande to New Spotlight. I was convinced of the idea and donated for the purpose.
Today, his brother Prithvi Bahadur Pande, chairman of Investment Bank Ltd and sister-in-law Pratima Pande established themselves as big financial donors for Nepal’s heritage rebuilding and conservation. His niece Sophia L Pande, who is one of the benefit co-chairs of KVPT, has been actively working in the conservation and reconstruction areas.
Although Prithvi Pande has been a lover of the heritage, culture and temples of Kathmandu contributing a large amount of money for the restoration of temples and heritage sites sponsored by the program, he remains a silent spectator not boasting about his own work.
In his half, hour speech, Erich Theophile, who came to Nepal as a student in the 1980s, could not control his passion in explaining a lifetime miracle to serve to protect, revive and preserve the heritage sites of Kathmandu Valley.
Falling in love with the heritage, temples and monuments of Kathmandu Valley, Erich has been actively working in New York to promote Nepal’s heritage and temples.
Mentally shocked by the unbelievable destruction and devastation by an earthquake in 2015, Erich was emotional at the garden when KVPT is able to provide support to reconstruct those temples and give life.
Kanak Mani Dixit, an honorary co-chair, explained how the completion of the construction of tangible things revived intangible things and life in Patan durbar square as a miracle. Dixit, who reached Patan Durbar square just a moment after the earthquake saw rubbles and destruction, and recalled the Patan Durbar Square with rubble. He narrated how revived Dunbar Square has been attracting youth again.
Established as a small organization with support from renowned German Niel Gutschow, who is now senior advisor, in New York to support the Kathmandu Valley’s Heritage Conservation, Erich Theophile, co-founder of KVPT’s emotional statements has a reason. This is a great day for all particularly Erich.
“We Were Able To Save All The Elements From The Rubble”
Dr. Rohit Ranjitkar, KVPT Nepal Director,
It is my pleasure to welcome you all, on the occasion of the announcement of completing the EQ reconstruction campaign, which KVPT committed. We all know the 2015 earthquake which left widespread destruction in the square. Which forced us to stay longer, not only in Palace sections but monuments in the square too. It also impaired the Valley’s wider cultural heritage, with damages 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 DoA coordinated security, rescuing artifacts and cleanup efforts in Patan Durbar Square immediately after the EQ with MangalToleSudhar Sangha, Patan Museum, LMC, Lalitpur Chamber of Commerce 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 Force and the Nepal Police. All 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 will serve as evidence and references to make new replicas. Immediately after the earthquake, we have been repairing all those carved elements from completely collapsed temples, in preparation for rebuilding. Which we can see now in their respective locations. This is all possible due to collaboration between everybody. This is teamwork, an individual cannot do it alone. I am sure this was the same when it was built a few hundred years ago.
So we are very thankful and want to appreciate our Nepali artisan team, so plz allow me to switch to in the Nepali language.