‘Im­mense’ cul­tural losses

Los Angeles Times - - EARTHQUAKE IN NEPAL - By Bhrikuti Rai and Jonathan Kaiman jonathan.kaiman @la­times.com Spe­cial cor­re­spon­dent Rai re­ported from Kat­mandu and Times staff writer Kaiman from New York. Staff writer Alexan­dra Zavis in Los An­ge­les con­trib­uted to this re­port.

KAT­MANDU, Nepal — The gates of Dhara­hara, an an­cient nine-story tower over­look­ing the city sky­line, were locked Mon­day, its ticket booth shut­tered.

Yet hun­dreds of res­i­dents clam­bered over its low walls to climb the rub­ble heap where it once stood and snap pho­to­graphs. Some left hold­ing still-or­nate pieces of the an­cient struc­ture.

In Kat­mandu Dur­bar Square, only a few hun­dred yards west of Dhara­hara, mounds of brick and splin­tered wood marked the for­mer site of two an­cient tem­ples, one of which, ac­cord­ing to leg­end, was built with wood from a sin­gle tree.

Bal­ram Kha­tri, 22, lamented the loss: “Th­ese are very im­por­tant sym­bols for Nepalese,” he said, “and for the whole world as well.”

Two days af­ter Nepal’s cap­i­tal, Kat­mandu, was rocked by its worst earth­quake in 80 years, res­i­dents have been heart­bro­ken to find that many of its best­known his­tor­i­cal sites — cen­turies-old tem­ples, palaces and mon­u­ments, sym­bols of the city’s rich cul­tural and re­li­gious life, have been re­duced to rub­ble.

In some places, the dev­as­ta­tion has been whole­sale. Be­fore the mag­ni­tude 7.8 earth­quake struck Satur­day, killing thou­sands of peo­ple, the Kat­mandu Dur­bar Square, Bhak­ta­pur Dur­bar Square and Patan Dur­bar Square were an­cient royal com­plexes, all clas­si­fied as World Her­itage sites by the United Na­tions’ cul­tural or­ga­ni­za­tion UNESCO. Within min­utes of the quake, they were piles of tim­ber, stone and dust.

Kat­mandu’s his­tor­i­cal sites were not uni­formly razed — the an­cient Shiva Bhairav­nath Tem­ple is still stand­ing, ac­cord­ing to Bri­tain’s Daily Tele­graph news­pa­per. Although the Krishna Mandir, built of solid stone, with­stood the shock, ad­ja­cent tem­ples were de­stroyed by the tem­blor.

Gary Shaye, the hu­man­i­tar­ian af­fairs co­or­di­na­tor for Save the Chil­dren, who once led the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s op­er­a­tions in Nepal, said the sites were not sim­ply old mon­u­ments and tourist at­trac­tions — they were vi­brant com­mu­nity cen­ters.

“Th­ese are living tem­ples,” he said. “Peo­ple pray there all the time. So the cul­tural loss is also im­mense.”

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