Reconstruction drive: Artisans’ role


Several cultural heritage sites and tangible heritage turned to rubble in the earthquake on April 25, 2015 and the resulting aftershocks. The fate of Patan Durbar Square was no different. Char Narayan and Harishankar temples located within this Square collapsed then. However, the remains of these temples such as the doors and windows, wooden frames were salvaged from the rubble and kept in the Bhandarkhal Garden as were those from Manimandap and Bishweshwor temples. These carved items are a legacy of a bygone craftsmanship, and hence a tangible heritage of the country’s rich cultural and religious history.

With an aim to preserve these items of historical, religious and cultural importance, a group of carvers are working each day to restore the beauty of these items under the aegis of the Kathmandu Valley Preservation Trust (KVPT) in conjunction with the Department of Archaeology.

The salvaged wood items are arranged neatly inside a temporary room inside the Bhandarkhal Garden. These items were collected immediately after the earthquake. “We separated all the items and catalogued them so that they can be placed easily in their original places during the reconstruction of the temples. All these items have been photographed,” informed Bijay Basukala, Conservation Architect at KVPT.

As one walks around the Bhandarkhal Garden in Patan Durbar Square, one can see a group of wood carvers busy working with their carving tools on pieces of wood, while an old man sporting a pair of glasses is working on stone at the Krishna Mandir premises. All these artisans are working in the reconstruction of this cultural heritage site damaged in the earthquake.

Demand for carvers

After the earthquake two years ago, the demand for stone and wood carvers shot up. Those working here today had been carrying on with their ancestral profession and hence, this reconstruction campaign became an opportunity to show their skills to best preserve the ages old art, culture and history of the country.

Whatever their knowledge, this has become a good source of income for those with skills.

“Many of my friends have gone abroad to work, but as I am earning pretty well here, I don’t feel like going to a foreign land for employment. There is so much demand for us (artisans) nowadays that I am unable to go everywhere that I am called,” shared Surya Bahadur.

And looking at the demand for persons with such skills in the country, he wants his child too to learn the skills but also feels that the child should profess an interest in it.

Opportunity to learn

These artisans aren’t only showing their skills but are also learning at the same time. As they learnt the skills from their ancestors they knew only about the designs that were in demand in the market, but working here has given them the opportunity to see and understand what the ancient art and craftsmanship were all about. “We are learning new designs and patterns as we are working. If we don’t know how to copy the designs, as a team we share our ideas and learn. We are also learning to carve the faces of deities which was quite difficult as they have different styles and details in them,” shared Krishna Ram.

Surya Bahadur, the stone carver, too is happy working in the restoration campaign. “I came to know about how the stones are attached with clips,” he added.

And learning of these skills is “sure to help in the days to come”, said Krishna Ram.