The iconic central stupa, with its gazing eyes of the Buddha at Kathmandu’s iconic Swayambhunath temple still stands tall at the hilltop, but the surrounding structures inside this famed Buddhist temple complex has been reduced to rubble.
The devastating earthquake that rocked Nepal on April 25, has not only led to the loss of human life, it has also damaged several unique cultural sites that have been drawing tourists for decades.
The seven-member Unesco team is assessing the damage, with priority being given to prevent looting of artefacts from the destroyed site.
“We are doing an inventory of stones and terracotta objects that have crumbled due to the earthquake. The first concern for us is to prevent the objects from looting and for this we are trying to get keys of one of the stores at the temple so that we can store these objects,” David Andolfatto, Unesco consultant, told IANS.
“Right now we are not thinking of restoration because for that we need money and restoration can be done only when we have rescued the objects. At the moment, we are doing the rescue work,” he added.
Swayambhunath temple, considered among the oldest religious sites in Nepal, is revered by both Buddhists and Hindus.
After completing the work here, they will head to Kathmandu’s Durbar Square and Kasthamandap Temple for rescue operations.
Even though the magnificent stupa of the Swayambhunath temple is intact with only one side of it partially damaged, the curio shops, huts and religious monuments inside the complex have been destroyed in the quake that killed over 6,000 people and left over 10,000 injured and millions displaced.
This religious complex situated on a lofty hilltop is popularly known as the “Monkey Temple” as many monkeys surround the temple premises. The monkeys are still their, moving amidst the destruction.
According to Unesco, there are seven monument zones in Kathmandu which include three Durbar squares in the three cities of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan and four religious sites: Swayambhunath and Bauddhanath and Hindu temple complex at Pashupatinath and Changu Narayan.
The team, consisting of officials and volunteers, is planning to involve the local community and archaeologists when they start reconstruction process. It also plans to train the local community in basic iconography.
While recovering the artefacts, these conservators have also laid hands on around 1,000 clay objects which they claim have been discovered for the first time.
“Right now we are making a list of objects we have found and then we will compare it with the inventory list. That should give us an idea about the damage and lost objects,” concluded France-based Andolfatto.