Reconstruction of Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu Nears Completion
Restoration work on Kathmandu’s iconic Boudhanath Stupa, which was among numerous historic heritage sites in Nepal to suffer serious damage during the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake in April 2015, is entering its final stages. With the newly repainted eyes of the Buddha returned to their rightful place, their watchful gaze restored, the stupa is expected to reopen to the public later this month, an occasion that will be marked with a special Buddhist ceremony.
“We are aiming [to] open Boudhanath Stupa for the public on 22 November, after completing all the reconstruction works,” said Chakra Jit Moktan, a member of the Boudhanath Area Development Committee (BADC), which is overseeing the work and has raised US$2.1 million towards the restoration of the monument. Of the funds raised by the BADC, US$1.41 million was reportedly spent on gold for the stupa’s spire and pinnacle. (The Kathmandu Post)
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, Boudhanath is one of the largest stupas in the world, with a height of some 36 meters. It is generally believed to have been founded by King Shivadeva (c. 590–604), although some chronicles date it to the reign of King Manadeva (464–505). Boudhanath lies on an ancient trade route from Tibet that enters the Kathmandu Valley through the village of Sankhu, to the northeast of the stupa. Today, it remains a center of Nepal’s Tibetan community, which has constructed more than 50 monasteries around the stupa, most of which also suffered significant damage during the quakes.
As with many cultural and heritage sites damaged by the earthquakes, reconstruction work on Boudhanath was delayed for several months, said BADC chairperson Sampurna Kumar Lama. “But the commitment from the locals and Buddhist religious leaders to restore Boudhanath Stupa came as an encouragement for us to work to complete the reconstruction works on time,” he said. “Considering its importance from [a] religious and touristic point of view, we did not want to wait for the government support and started working on our own. Support from the local community and organisations has been overwhelming.” (The Kathmandu Post)
The massive earthquake that hit Nepal on 25 April and the violent aftershock on 12 May killed nearly 9,000 people and destroyed thousands of houses and other structures, displacing millions. The physical devastation also extended to hundreds of ancient monuments, monasteries, and temples. According to a preliminary assessment by Nepal’s Department of Archaeology, more than 400 historic sites in the Kathmandu Valley were damaged, of which 35—in six of the area’s seven UNESCO World Heritage sites—collapsed entirely. At a national level, government estimates put the number of destroyed and damaged sites of religious and cultural significance at around 2,900.
Boudhanath Stupa’s spire and massive dome sustained major cracks during the quake and, as a result, the entire structure above the dome had to be dismantled and the religious relics within temporarily removed. Rebuilding work is being carried out using traditional construction materials such as brick, limestone, and surkhi mortar*. The Department of Archeology (DOA) has extended technical support, while various national and international donors and organizations, including religious leaders, have provided funding for the project.
“[The reconstruction] . . . was possible with the support from various Buddhist organizations both from Nepal and abroad,” noted the BADC’s Lama, adding, “Had we waited for the government, the reconstruction would have taken years.” (Latin American Herald Tribune)
The cultural history of the Kathmandu Valley is the result of a confluence of Asian religions, cultures, fed by trade routes that led to a mix of Indian and Tibetan architectural styles with Hindu and Buddhist iconography. UNESCO lists seven World Heritage monuments in the area including the Boudhanath Buddhist stupa complex—Kathmandu Durbar Square, Patan Durbar Square, Bhaktapur Durbar Square, the Changu Narayan Hindu temple, Swayambhunath Buddhist stupa, and Pashupati Nath Hindu temple.
* Made by grinding burnt bricks or clay into a powder.
Boudhanath rebuilding nears completion (The Kathmandu Post)
30 kg gold used for Boudhanath Stupa reconstruction (myRepublica)
Buddha’s Three Eyes to See Again after 2015 Nepal Earthquake (Latin American Herald Tribune)
Image of Asia: Reconstruction of the Boudhanath Stupa (The Seattle Times)
Nepal Moves to Rebuild Earthquake-damaged Heritage Sites (Buddhistdoor Global)
One Year On: Restoring Quake-damaged Heritage Sites in Nepal (Buddhistdoor Global)