A group of locals put a padlock at the entrance of the construction site of Trailokya Narayan Temple at Basantapur Tuesday demanding their direct involvement in the reconstruction.
KATHMANDU, Jan 25: Locals at Basatapur on Tuesday obstructed ongoing reconstruction work at the Trailokya Narayan Temple inside Kathmandu Durbar Square Area. The temple had collapsed in the April 2015 earthquake.
Locals protested against the reconstruction work, accusing the Department of Archaeology (DoA) of keeping them in the dark about the work and excluding them from involvement in the reconstruction of the historic temple in their own locality.
Construction company Prakritik-Sanu Suwal-LP JV, which has been carrying out the reconstruction work, closed off the area with corrugated iron sheets. Locals accuse the authorities of erecting the sheet fence so that the locals would not be able to know what was going on inside. They said this move forced them to padlock the boundary gate, demanding their direct involvement in the reconstruction.
“In the past we were repeatedly told that reconstruction of the heritage sites in our locality would take place with our direct involvement but the DoA hasn’t bothered about our participation,” Deepak Shrestha, a priest at the temple, told Republica. “Heritage sites are our property. So, we blocked the reconstruction to ensure our involvement in the process.”
The temple is one of the major historical monuments of Kathmandu Durbar Square, an area which is in the list of Kathmandu Valley World Heritage Sites. There are six other such monument zones inside the Valley.
“Community involvement in heritage rebuilding has been practiced for long in this area and it has been a great experience for both locals as well as the construction authorities,” said Shrestha. “This time however, the DoA didn’t consult us at all.”
The locals were irate also because the DoA didn’t offer a Kshyama Puja, the practice of worshipping the deities of the temple and offering an apology before touching the temple, which is the property of the deities. “We need to perform Kshyama Puja before touching the soil of the deities and we believe the deities will allow us to touch the ritual site only after performing the Puja,” he said.
Ganapati Lal Shrestha, another local, claimed that officials at the DoA had earlier promised them there would be local participation during the reconstruction of the temple. “But we were taken by surprise when we saw that the reconstruction work had already started inside the fencing, without the knowledge of the locals.”
He said that the step taken by the DoA has also generated doubts about the quality of the reconstruction. He further argued that local participation in heritage rebuilding would ensure the originality of heritage sites.
“Involving the community in the reconstruction of heritage in the Bhaktapur Durbar Square Area, another monument zone in the Valley, has worked wonders and helped in completing the monuments in time,” he said. “The local community in Bhaktapur played a major role in the reconstruction of the ancient monuments there. We should also adopt the same policy.”
Bhesh Narayan Dahal, director general at the DoA, said they will hold discussions with the locals and address the issue soon. The DoA had signed the contract with the company in June 2016 and the project cost is estimated at Rs 37.5 million.