Cultural Heritage Sites of Nepal
On April 25, 2015, a major earthquake struck Nepal, causing thousands of human casualties and widespread destruction of buildings and infrastructure. The earthquake was followed by hundreds of aftershocks in the subsequent weeks, and had a direct impact on a third of the country’s population, stimulating an international humanitarian response.
The earthquake’s impact on heritage places was extensive throughout the Kathmandu Valley, which is home to hundreds of sacred Buddhist and Hindu sites. The fusion between the two religions is a unique part of Nepalese history and culture, and its outstanding significance has been recognized by the inscription of seven groups of monuments in the Kathmandu Valley on the UNESCO World Heritage List. In the Durbar Squares of Hanuman Dhoka in Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhaktapur, many buildings collapsed completely, while others sustained major structural damage. Other religious sites, such as Swayambhunath temple, one of Buddhism’s most important shrines, were also damaged. Throughout the country, around 750 monuments were affected by the earthquake, according to Nepal’s Department of Archaeology.
Of the traditional brick masonry and timber frame structures, those that had not received professional attention in recent years suffered the most. Since 1991, the Kathmandu Valley Preservation Trust has labored to restore and retrofit many of the Kathmandu Valley’s architectural treasures. The aftermath of the 2015 earthquake revealed that out of 45 restored buildings in Kathmandu and Patan, only three suffered structural damage—major or minor.
A partnership to help restore Char Narayan Temple
Nepal is one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world, and its rich heritage would not have survived over the centuries were it not for painstaking reconstruction after these tragic incidents. Since the most recent earthquake, community members have once again been galvanized into action, while the 2016 World Monuments Watch called attention to the need for sustained international concern in the face of a daunting set of challenges.
Thanks to support from American Express, WMF is now working with the Kathmandu Valley Preservation Trust on the reconstruction of the Char Narayan Temple in the center of Patan’s Durbar Square. The sixteenth-century temple collapsed completely in the 2015 earthquake. In the aftermath of the collapse, the army and the police helped community members salvage and secure its fragments, including historic carved door and window frames, which currently await reassembly. The sacred site will be accurately reconstructed using these salvaged materials, while concealing carefully designed seismic reinforcement measures. Those range from enhanced timber joints and steel reinforcement through brick masonry layers to concealed beams that tie the structure together. The project will serve to demonstrate how design features like these can be appropriately integrated in the reconstruction process for other similar sites. This project and the 2016 World Monuments Watch will continue to honor the resilience of the Nepalese people while helping bring much-needed resources and skills to the challenge of rebuilding.