This past week, my thoughts have been with Nepal and its people, who are now in crisis after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit the country on Saturday.
The catastrophic disaster has so far killed more than 5,200 and injured 9,200. It has been the most severe earthquake to hit the country in over 80 years. Thousands of people have been left homeless and stranded without food. Many of Kathmandu’s historical sites including four UNESCO World Heritage Sites have also been reduced to rubble. These treasured landmarks, some of them dating back to the 16th century, were a testament of the city’s rich history. Sadly they were destroyed in just a matter of seconds.
I spent some time in Nepal two years ago and fell in love with Kathmandu. The city exploded with so much energy and personality, it didn’t take long for me to fall under its spell. Whether I was weaving through the old town on a rickshaw, people watching from the pagodas of Durbar Square or meeting monks in the holy temples, Kathmandu was captivating. It stirred up emotions in me that I never knew existed.
It’s heartbreaking to watch the news and see pictures of its amazing historical sites being reduced to rubble. I remember standing at the base of the Boudhanath Stupa, the largest stupa in Nepal and the holiest Tibetan Buddhist temple outside Tibet, awestruck by just how stunning the architecture was. Looking at the photos of the stupa after the earthquake, the tower has toppled and it’s been completely reduced to ruins.
Another place I remember clearly is the Basantapur Durbar Square, where many locals meet in the evenings for prayers. The Nepali news site Ekantipur says that 80 percent of the temples located there were destroyed by the initial earthquake and it’s aftershocks. The ancient town of Bhaktapur was also severely affected, with several monuments, including the Fasi Deva temple, the Chardham temple and the 17th century Vatsala Durga Temple, fully or partially collapsed.
Rebuilding the historical sites this time around — especially the older ones — will be no easy task as Nepal in the face of a horrific loss of life and significant damage to more basic infrastructure.
UNESCO has pledged to help rebuild the sites, but according to historian Prushottam Lochan Shrestha, “We have lost most of the monuments that had been designated as World Heritage Sites,” he said. “They cannot be restored to their original states.”
For now, I can only look back on the beautiful memories I have of these amazing historical sites, and keep them in my heart.
Colorful Tibetan flags fly high at the UNESCO site Swayambhunath Temple, that has destroyed by the earthquake.
The top of the Swayambhunath stupa
Stupas at the Swayambhunath Temple
One of the most popular landmarks in the city – Kathmandu’s Durbar Square – on a Saturday evening when locals gather.
This tower has sadly collapsed now.
Bhaktapur’s Durbar Square, another important historical site, was also partially destroyed by the earthquake.
In this article, you can see pictures of this exact spot after the earthquake.
Many of the temples in Bhaktapur were not built to withstand such severe shocks.
Pagodas like this wouldn’t have survived the earthquake.
Kathmandu Valley as seen from the Swayambhunath Temple – from this video, you can see the contrast between then and now.