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Restoring a Quake Damaged Temple

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

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The catastrophic earthquake that struck Nepal in April 2015 left 9,000 casualties and widespread destruction to as many as 691 treasured monuments and buildings.

One structure that stood in the World Heritage site of Kathmandu Valley, in particular, has inspired a British architect to embark on an emotional restoration, the Associated Press reports.

Changu Narayan
Wikimedia Commons / Dhilung Kirat / CC S.A. 2.0

The Changu Narayan is one of the heritage sites that was severely damaged in the April 2015 earthquake. The temple is shown here in 2009, according to the photo details.

The Changu Narayan, a 5th Century two-tiered Hindu temple to Lord Vishnu, was severely damaged in the 7.8-magnitude temblor. The temple is thought to be the oldest Hindu place of worship in the country, featuring wooden walls intricately carved with hundreds of deities, perched atop a steep hill overlooking the Kathmandu Valley, the report notes.

At the foothills of the Himalayas, temples in the area are mostly made of fired brick with mud mortar and timber, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

“The roofs are covered with small overlapping terracotta tiles, with gilded brass ornamentation,” UNESCO said, adding that windows, doorways and roof struts have rich decorative carvings.

The stupas have simple but powerful forms with massive, whitewashed hemispheres supporting gilded cubes with the all-seeing eternal Buddha eyes, UNESCO notes.

‘A Little Temple’

"Sure, it's peanuts, a little temple, so why is it so special?" architect John Sanday told the Associated Press. "The detail. The grace. It's one of the few World Heritage Sites that hasn't been completely destroyed by development."

Sanday has been living and working in Nepal for over 40 years, reports say.

World Monuments Fund

The devastating earthquake damaged or destroyed 691 historic buildings in 16 districts, according to UNESCO.

According to the Associated Press, the people who lived in the village inspired him to step into the role as technical adviser of the restoration.

He said that following the earthquake, the community came together, wielding picks and brushes to clean ancient and exotic carved brackets and facades so that they could continue to worship in the sacred temple.

Sanday is looking to raise $300,000 to complete the restoration work. So far, he has been able to repair and restore a smaller shrine a few yards away with the help of $30,000 from Germany, the report says.

Restoring Hope

The architect is no stranger to ancient restoration and conservation; he directed the World Monuments Fund restoration of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat, the Associated Press adds.

In a statement issued last August, Christian Manhart, director of UNESCO’s Kathmandu Office, said, “The rehabilitation of Nepal’s museums and historical buildings following the 2015 earthquake has a deep, positive impact on the economic and social development of the country.

“There is a tremendous sense of identity, determination and hope that comes with the reopening of museums and the restoration of temples.”


Tagged categories: Architecture; Conservation; Historic Preservation; Historic Structures; Maintenance + Renovation; Restoration

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