Differences hamper efforts to renovate Ashoka Stupa

Lalitpur, June 7:

Differences of opinion between locals and the Department of Archaeology have hampered a bid to renovate the 2,700-year-old Ashoka Stupa at Imadol-5, Lalitpur.

Emperor Ashoka is believed to have built the stupa during his visit. “We are ready to provide funds for the renovation,” say the locals, accusing the government of not showing interest to renovate the stupa.

However, the DoA says it has barred the locals from renovating the historic monument, fearing that they may alter its original structure.

Says Chir Kaji Maharjan, a local living near the stupa, “The DoA neither renovates the stupa itself nor does it allow people to renovate it on their own.”

“The DoA has been halting the renovation initiated by the public, saying the stupa should be renovated in line with its original style. It neither renovates the stupa nor provides us with the blueprint of the original stupa. We can renovate the stupa with the help of local donors if the DoA provides us with the original blueprint.”

Nanda Raj Bajracharya, chairman of the ‘Shree Ashok Stupa Renovation Committee’, formed in 2006 to renovate the stupa with the help of local donors, says, “We were worried after thieves started taking valuables off the stupa.”

“We tried to prevent these thefts by repairing the stupa, but the DoA stopped us, saying renovation carried out without proper guidance will ruin the beauty of the monument.”

According to Bajracharya, over one lakh devotees and tourists visit the stupa during festivals like Buddha Purnima and Matiha, a festival of the Newar community.

None of the government bodies have shown interest in renovating the stupa or to keep the surroundings clean, charges Suna Maya Sunwar, a local. However, Saraswoti Singh, chief of the DoA’s Monuments Conservation and Office of the Caretaker of Palace Area (MCOCPA), Patan, says, “The DoA stopped renovation works as locals were changing the original structure of the stupa in the name of renovation.”

“The MCOCPA has passed an emergency budget to demolish the structure that does not resemble the original.”

According to her, “Locals threatened the MCOCPA officers when they were trying to demolish the renovated part of the Stupa.”

“We will demolish the odd part of the stupa and rebuild it by sticking to the blueprint.”