‘Immense’ cultural losses
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.”