Wednesday, October 10, 2001

A private project to renovate three temples at Hanumandhoka

By Razen Manandhar

KATHMANDU, Oct 8 - While government bodies are working in a snail’s pace to preserve the city’s cultural heritage, a non-government organisation has taken the responsibility to renovate three ancient temples at the Hanumandhoka Durbar Square.

The Kathmandu Valley Preservation Trust (KVPT), an NGO working in the field of heritage conservation, has received the permission to renovate the temples of Jagannath, Indrapur and Narayan and beautify the Durbar Square maintaining its archaeological importance. KVPT is spending over Rs. 20 million from different national and international donors.

Among them is the 438-year-old temple of Jagannath, known for its beautiful struts with erotic carvings. Constructed by King Mahendra Malla in 1563, this temple is considered to be the oldest structure that remains intact in the area. Pratap Malla introduced Indian style idols of Jagannath, Subhadra and Balaram in the eastern doorframe of the inner quadrangle of the temple.

King Pratap Malla constructed the temple of Indrapur in 1650 while the temple of Narayan was added in the late 17th century as mentioned in history books.

KVPT had to wait for almost 18 months to get permission from the Department of Archaeology, the prime government body that controls and preserves historic monuments.

It finally got the permission to renovate three major temples of the World Heritage Site a month ago but the Trust waited till the Indrajatra to begin the field works, said Rohit Ranjitkar, an architect of KVPT.

Now that the running around for government permission has finished, the project has already begun its works. And it will take some four years to complete the project, according to Ranjitkar.

"We will do our best to maintain their historical values when we replace the ruined parts with new ones," said Ranjitkar. "Though it will increase the cost by more than two times, we will let the history live in the temples."

Ranjitkar said the project would not bring the whole structures down, as it will only ruin its original beauty.

Most of the temples and buildings of the 12th-century-palace collapsed during the 1934 earthquake and the then Rana Prime Minister Juddha Shumshere painstakingly renovated them from the national treasure.

Pictures taken before the earthquake shows that the Narayan temple collapsed to the foundation whereas only the first floors of other two temples fell down due to the 8 rector scale earthquake, according to Ranjitkar.

He said the barandah of Indrapur, the third floor of Narayan temple and the doorsteps of Jagannath temples are different from the pre-earthquake pictures. "The renovation will try to bring back the shapes of pre-earthquake monuments by using old pictures," said Ranjitkar.

The trust has spent more than a year in documentation of the temples of the Hanumandhoka area. "Such detail documents will be useful even to reconstruct such temples in future and let people understand their value," Ranjitkar said.

KVPT intends to uplift the archaeological environment of the Hanumandhoka Durbar Square - from cleaning to raising awareness for the locals and erecting an information stall either for the tourists or for the locals.

KVPT has the experience of renovating Radhakrishna temple, Kwalakhu Pati, Patukwa Aganchhen, Lakhe Aganchhen and Kulima Narayan temple in the Patan area.