Buddhist-Hindu shrine to rise again
As Nepal marks the first year of the devastating
April 2015 earthquake, Sri Lanka begins rebuilding the historic
Machchendranath temple, home of Bungadeva, the guardian deity of the
Architectural gem reduced
to rubble by the ’quake.
A year ago, this landmark temple stood in the centre of the square in
a picturesque Newar village named Bungamati. The village is referred to
by the popular travellers’ guide, Lonely Planet, as “A classic medieval
village - one of the prettiest in the Valley.”
Located in Nepal’s District of Lalitpur, the village and its once
iconic Machchendranath temple are yet to rise from the very ashes of the
devastating earthquake that hit Nepal a year ago, on 25 April.
Bungamati was once an awe-inspiring sight but a year later, it still
largely lies in heaps of rubble, a site of devastation and displacement
despite serious community efforts to restore the village. The temple
restoration is now formally undertaken by the Sri Lankan Government
under the supervision of the Nepali Department of Archaeology.
Though impacted by the April 2015 earthquake, Bungamati was fortunate
enough not to lose lives though the reality is that what was lost last
April may never be recovered. While the structures may be rebuilt
resembling the original form, what was lost –some 805 original buildings
and homes - also signified the loss of Nepal’s architectural history.
“It is our history that lies in a rubbled state in Bungamati, buried
and broken,” said Kunda Dixit, Editor of Nepali Times, who counts
himself among the thousands of Nepalis who are unhappy about the
reconstruction process – specially its speed.
“Around 80% of Bungamati’s identity got destroyed. It was an
architectural beauty which was an important place of study for students
of arts and architecture,” noted Dixit, a well-known political analyst.
Machchendranath: Before the
Villagers, who have been volunteering their time to clear the site,
agree with Dixit’s words. They know that the quake had taken so much
away from them, including their gods and their dwellings. Today, they
are restless and unhappy about the speed at which rehabilitation and
resettlement work is progressing – with the official process commencing
on in mid January 2016.
“In this country, everything is slow. People have been living in hope
for one full year,” said Tara Bandari, a young mother from Bungamati.
While eagerly awaiting for the reconstruction work to commence, she also
lamented the loss of her patron deity Machchendranath’s home.
Amidst the heartbreaking rubble lies the temple where Bandari and
many others offer their daily prayers - the magnificent Machhendranath
temple. Constructed in the 16th Century, it stood as a tribute to
Nepal’s unique craftsmanship. A year later, it is still difficult for
the local people to accept that their temple, dedicated to the Valley’s
patron deity, could suffer such destruction.
The devastated temple is home to Machchendranath for six months a
year. The other six are spent in Patan.
The annual procession carrying the deity’s heavy metal image from one
temple to the other is popularly known as Rato Machchendranath (or
Bungadeva), is considered among the most spectacular annual festivals in
For the Hindus, Machchendranath is the reincarnation of Lord Shiva,
while for the Buddhists, he is the reincarnation of Avalokiteshvara, the
aspiring Buddha. His unique status among the Nepali people makes him a
unifying deity, worshipped by all.
When the Nepal Government called for assistance to rebuild their
identified sites last year, Colombo immediately offered to reconstruct
this architectural masterpiece, in accordance with the UNESCO guidelines
and under the supervision of the Nepal Department of Archaeology. In the
immediate aftermath of the earthquake, Sri Lanka pledged assistance
worth Rs. 250 million and undertook the reconstruction of the Rato
Machchindranath temple in Lalitpur and the Anandakuti Vihar in Swayambhu.
Seven UNESCO-declared World Heritage Sites located in the Katmandu
Valley suffered significant damage due to the earthquake. These sites
include the Swayambhunath stupa, Changu Narayan temple and the Durbar
Squares of Patan, Basantapur and Bhaktapur. The other two heritage sites
- Boudhanath stupa and Pashupatinath temple have been spared the ravages
of the quake.
According to Narayan Dahal, Head of the Department of Archaeology in
Nepal, the plan is to restore the sites within the next five years. ‘It
won’t be easy. These are not mere buildings but pieces of history. Our
loss cannot be recovered, even after rebuilding them,” he said.
According to archaeological estimates, 750 historical, cultural and
religious monuments in 20 districts were quake-struck.
Among the 750 documented sites, 133 have been completely destroyed
while 617 have sustained partial damage. Nepali Rs.20.56 billion was the
first estimate for the mammoth reconstruction initiative, according to
Nepal’s Post-Disaster Needs Assessment report by the country’s National
Meanwhile, the reconstruction work of the devastated abode of the
Valley’s patron deity is finally ready start.
(Photos by Bikash Karki in Katmandu)
[Sri Lanka’s reconstruction project]
Amidst protest by local communities about the slow progress in
rebuilding the ravaged structures in quake-affected Nepal,
reconstruction work formally commenced on January 17, with the Himalayan
State’s National Authority for Reconstruction (NAR) declaring a
three-month long campaign to rehabilitate destroyed sites.
Official work commenced with Nepal President Bidhya Devi Bandari
laying a foundation stone for the reconstruction of Ranipokhari – the
fabled queen’s pond in Katmandu and Nepali Prime Minister Khadga Prasad
Sharma Oli, inaugurating the reconstruction and resettlement scheme in
one of the most ancient settlements – Bungamati – to be restored to its
former glory with Sri Lankan assistance.
Tomorrow (25), Nepal will launch a five-year reconstruction plan,
aiming to restore all private and public structures within three and
five years at a total cost of Nepali Rs. 74 billion.
Nepal’s Director General of the Department of Archaeology (DOA), Vesh
Dayal told the Sunday Observer that reconstruction work of sites
requiring urgent attention has commenced and out of the 104 devastated
sites, 42 were identified as priority projects.
To facilitate the urgent reconstruction of the Machhendranath temple
and Anandkuti Bihar, the two countries have already signed a Memorandum
of Understanding (MOU).
“The sites need care and skillful rebuilding. The universal value of
these sites and their architectural elegance cannot be compromised in
any form,” Dahal said, adding that new reconstruction guidelines have
been prepared on the use of technique and materials.