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Friday, 15 May 2015

Current condition of temples and buildings at World Heritage Sites in Kathmandu Valley following April 2015 earthquake in Nepal

On April 25th 2015 there was 7.8 Richter scale earthquake in Nepal resulting in 9,000 fatalities and 19,000 injuries mainly in Gorkha, Dhading, Lamjung, Rasuwa (Langtang), Sindupalchok and Dolaka districts. Beyond the human cost, there was a huge amount of destruction to property resulting in over 500,000 houses being destroyed throughout the country and, as widely reported in the press, a lot of damage to the World heritage Sites of Kathmandu Valley.

After the earthquake the media reports focused on the destruction at the World Heritage Sites however I was curious to find out which temples and buildings were still standing. As I was in Kathmandu I decided to inspect and to take photographs of these temples and historical buildings to find out their condition after the earthquake.

On May 12th and 13th I visited six out of the seven World Heritage Sites of Kathmandu Valley: Bhaktapur Durbar Square, Pashupatinath Temple, Boudhanath Stupa, Kathmandu Durbar Square, Swayambhunath Temple and Patan Durbar Square. I did not get the chance to have a look the seventh World Heritage site at Changu Narayan Temple.

It is incredibly sad to see many temples damaged and destroyed however I was surprised to also discover many were still standing and hardly affected by the earthquake. As my visit was more than two weeks after the main earthquake a lot of the debris had been cleared up by the army, police and many volunteer helpers.

From seeing these places after the earthquake I have come to the conclusion it is certainly still well worth visiting the World Heritage Sites of Kathmandu Valley. Pashupatinath Temple was barely affected; in Patan and Bhaktapur most of the temples are still standing. I was very relieved to see both Boudhanath and Swayambhunath Buddhist stupas had survived too. It seems that Kathmandu Durbar Square was worst affected by the earthquake.

I have listed below the condition of World Heritage Sites of Kathmandu Valley, please get in touch if you have any further information or changes since my visits.

Kathmandu Durbar Square

The good news is that Taleju temple known as tallest in Kathmandu survived, this is located at the north end of Durbar Square. In this area, the Jagannath Temple as well as the nearby Vishnu and Indrapur temples are also intact. The large stone image of Kala Bhairab, a manifestation of Shiva, known as God of wrath and terror is still standing.

Photo: Taleju temple after 2015 earthquake
Photo: entry to north side of Durbar Square

Over on the south side of Durbar Square the Kumari House sustained only minor damage, this is where a girl known as Kumar revered as the living goddess, lives.  Other surviving temples and buildings include Bimaheshwor Temple, Kabindradpur Sattal, House of the Priest, Mahhendreshwar Temple and Kabindra. The Shiva Parvati temple house where the Hindu gods Shiva and his consort Parvati take shelter has also survived.

Photo: Gaddi Durbar (heavily cracked) and empty plinth from destroyed Trailoka Narayan temple
Photo: rubble and debris from destroyed Kasthamandap temple 
Sadly the temples of Kasthamandap and nearby Biseshwori Mahadev as well as the tall pagoda style temples of Maju Dewal and Narayan that used to dominate Durbar Square all have completely collapsed. Trailoyka Narayan temple has been destroyed and and the large statue of Garuda, the mount of Lord Vishnu, has toppled. The nine-storey Basantapur tower overlooking Basantapur square has partially collapsed. The old royal palace at Hanuman Dhoka and also the large white palace at Gaddi Burbar has been badly damaged. The statue of King Pratap Malla in front of Hanuman Dhoka has toppled over.

Photo: Basantapur tower has partially collapsed after 2015 earthquake

Bhaktapur Durbar Square

Bhaktapur Durbar Square is believed to be the oldest city in the valley dating back to Licchavi period 350 to 740 AD. The good news is that most of the temples survived however many of the older private houses collapsed around the main squares.  Fortunately the famous Pashupatinath, Nyatapola and Dattatraya temples all still standing. 

Photo: Chyasilin and Pashupatinath temples after 2015 earthquake
The Royal Palace, the magnificent Golden Gate and the palace of fifty- five windows all survived. The Statue of King Bhupatindra Malla seen on a column facing the palace is still standing as well as the nearby Chyasilin Temple rebuild recently after 1936 earthquake.

Photo: Palace of 55 windows after earthquake
Photo: Nyatapola temple after 2015 earthquake
Vatsala Durga temple between Chyaslin and Pashupatinath collapsed and Siddhi Lakshmi shikara is damaged although still standing.

Patan Durbar Square

Luckily the magnificent Royal Palace survived the earthquake and its tall pagoda of Degutale. The main temples in Durbar Square Chyasin Dega, Krishna and Bhimsen survived too. However unfortunately Hari Shankar and Char Narain temples have completely collapsed. I heard Kwa Bahal monastery complex often know as Golden Temple and Machchhendranath Temple also are still standing. 

North of Durbar Square in Swotha Square the three-tiered pagoda temple dedicated to Radha-Krishna has collapsed (I climbed onto the stone plinth during the second earthquake on May 12th).

Photo: Royal Palace and Degutale pagoda
Photo: Krishna temple to left with Garuda on pillar facing temple
Photo: Bhimsen (merchant) temple

Photo: Vishwanath temple
Boudhanath stupa

The Buddhist stupa of Boudhanath has survived the earthquake intact, some of the golden sections at the top have been dislodged however these should be repairable. I noticed one one of the smaller stupas on north -east side has collapsed.

Photo: Boudhanath stupa after 2015 earthquake

Swayambunath stupa

The Buddhist stupa of Swayambunath has survived although many of the buildings, monasteries and temples around the main stupa have been damaged and collapsed. 

Photo: Syambunath stupa after 2015 earthquake
Photo: Harati temple (Hindu)
Photo: Anantapur shikhara temple destroyed in 2015 earhquake
Photo: Karmaraj Mahavihar monastery badly damaged


There has been very little damage at Pashupatinath temple complex located on the banks of the holy Bagmati river. Sadly the ghats have been busy with cremations for the many people killed during 2015 earthquake. 

Photo: Pashupatinath temple
Photo: ghats with cremations on holy Bagmati river

The best way to help Nepal to recover from this devastating disaster is to come and visit later in the year. As you can see from these photos many of the temples and buildings of the World Heritage Sites of the Kathmandu Valley are still standing and not affected by the earthquake. There is no doubt Nepal with assistance from UNESCO and international community will rebuild many of the destroyed and damaged temples.

Please support Nepal by coming to visit for holiday this Autumn season. Most of the trekking areas in Nepal will be open apart from areas like Gorka and Langtang most severely affected, I will write an article on TMC blog with more information about where it is possible to trek once we have more information.

Please get in touch if you have any further information or updates on the current condition of these places or if you have any corrections on this blog. Thanks!

Roland Hunter

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