Heritage reconstruction pleases Patan locals

Aashish Mishra

Lalitpur, Apr. 16: It is nearly four years since the devastating 2015 earthquake shook Nepal to the core. The quake killed nearly 9,000 people and destroyed over 80,000 buildings. Lalitpur was one of the districts severely affected by the earthquake which levelled its historic Patan Durbar Square – also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Nearly all the monuments that define Patan Durbar Square were either completely or partially damaged. But four years on, many of them like the Krishna Temple, the stone pillars and Bahadur Shah Bhawan have come to their old splendour and Biswanath Temple and Char Narayan Temple are to be completed soon.
But the value of any monument lies with the people. It is the people’s perception and makes any monument a heritage. Local people saddened by the destruction four years ago now look excited when the reconstruction of the heritages has reached the final stage.
Mohan Maiya Jha, a priestess of the Char Narayan and Bhai Dega temples of the square, lauded the process. “Although the reconstruction began a bit slowly, it is picking up pace now and it is nice to see our beloved temples rising up again,” she said.
Both these monuments are being constructed by the Kathmandu Valley Preservation Trust (KVPT).
But Chitra Bahadur Shrestha who is 68 years old and has lived in Patan his whole life, was rather critical, “It is nearly four years and the construction of some temples hasn’t even begun yet.” The temples Shrestha was referring to are of the Degutaleju and Bhimsen.
Bipin Bajracharya, official of the One Door Tourism Fee Management and Implementation Committee (ODTFM-IC) ,which is stationed at the Patan Museum and manages the flow of tourists in the square, said that the varying pace of reconstruction among the monuments was because different agencies were in-charge of different buildings.
The Department of Archaeology, Lalitpur Metropolitan City and KVPT with financial support from various foreign governments and donor agencies are reconstructing different monuments inside the Durbar Square.
While many people remarked that the reconstruction took a long time to begin and is also moving forward at a snail’s pace, Rajendra Manandhar said it was justified. “The immediate priority after the earthquake was rescue and recovery. The first year was spent on rescuing people and helping them cope with the disaster,” he said adding, “It is but natural that everybody’s focus was on getting aid to the most vulnerable people instead of rebuilding the temples.”
Manandhar, who himself lost his house in the quake, further stated, “The government could get the stakeholders together and think about reconstruction only after the 2017 elections.”
This sentiment is also reflected by another local Anju Basnet. “Patan Durbar Square is a historically and culturally sensitive site and rebuilding it requires a great amount of delicacy.”
She stressed, “It is not like building a house. The monuments need to meet international standards and require a high level of craftsmanship, which naturally will take time.”
The worry expressed by some people is that the slow reconstruction will affect tourism. But ODTFM-IC data shows encouraging tourist numbers. More than 100 thousand foreigners have already visited the area in the first eight months of the current fiscal year, with the reconstruction itself also becoming a sort of attraction.
Anne Dwight, a tourist from the United Kingdom, stated, “It is nice to see the reconstruction process; not just the monuments but to know how they are built with centuries old techniques and such simple tools.”
She said that it was astounding to see how such rudimentary methods could create such fantastic and elegant buildings that last for centuries. 

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