World

Before And After: Earthquake Destroys Kathmandu’s Centuries-Old Landmarks

CREDIT: AP

A Nepalese woman walks past a collapsed temple in Bhaktapur Durbar Square after an earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal, Sunday, April 26, 2015.

The catastrophically powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal on Saturday has so far killed more than 2,300. The death toll continues to rise amid rescue efforts and persistent aftershocks.

Amid so much destruction, many in the country’s capital, Kathmandu, are taking stock of the city’s historical sites, many of which were reduced to rubble by the most severe earthquake to hit Nepal in more than 80 years. Four of the historical sites deemed by UNESCO to be World Heritage Sites were badly damaged by the earthquake.

According to UNESCO, the architecture which was developed over the past two millennia “boasts of one of the most highly developed craftsmanship of brick, stone, timber and bronze in the world.”

UNESCO has pledged to help rebuild the sites. For now, however, efforts in the country are focused on saving as many of those trapped beneath fallen buildings as possible.

A vendor sells tea at Patan Durbar Square, a world heritage site, in Lalitpur, Nepal, Wednesday, May 15, 2013.

A vendor sells tea at Patan Durbar Square, a world heritage site, in Lalitpur, Nepal, Wednesday, May 15, 2013.

CREDIT: AP

Founded in the third century, Patan Darbar Square included an amalgamation of temples in several different styles, including what some believe to be the best example of stone architecture in Nepal.



A sprawling temple complex that was once home to royalty, Bakhtapur Durbar Square originally boasted 99 courtyards. Severely damaged by an 8.0-magnitude earthquake that hit Nepal in 1934, now only six of the original courtyards remain.

Tourists visited the Bhaktapar Durber Square in droves before the earthquake.

Tourists visited the Bhaktapar Durber Square in droves before the earthquake.

CREDIT: Wikimedia Commons

A Nepalese woman walks past a collapsed temple in Bhaktapur Durbar Square after an earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal, Sunday, April 26, 2015.

A Nepalese woman walks past a collapsed temple in Bhaktapur Durbar Square after an earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal, Sunday, April 26, 2015.

CREDIT: AP

Basantapur Durbar Square was the residence of Nepal’s royal family until the 19th century. According to the Nepali news site Ekantipur, 80 percent of the temples located there were destroyed by the initial earthquake and it’s aftershocks: “Several temples, including Kasthamandap, Panchtale temple, the nine-storey Basantapur Durbar, the Dasa Avtar temple, Krishna Mandir and two dewals located behind the Shiva Parvati temple, were demolished by the quake.”

A view of Basantapur Durbar Square, a former royal residence, before the earthquake struck.

A view of the religious site Basantapur Durbar Square before the earthquake struck.

CREDIT: Wikimedia Commons

A Nepalese policeman stands atop of a rubble at Basantapur Durbar Square that was damaged in Saturday’'s earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal.

A Nepalese policeman stands atop of a rubble at Basantapur Durbar Square that was damaged in Saturday’’s earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal.

CREDIT: AP

Pigeons fly around Boudhanath Stupa, a world heritage site, as devotees perform rituals on the last day of Tibetan Losar, or New Year, in Kathmandu, Nepal, in March 2014.

Pigeons fly around Boudhanath Stupa, a world heritage site, as devotees perform rituals on the last day of Tibetan Losar, or New Year, in Kathmandu, Nepal, in March 2014.



Amongst the most immediately noticeable losses is the toppling of the Dharahara Tower, a nine story tower that offered visitors who braved its spiral staircase a magnificent view of Kathmandu. Built to honor the queen of Nepal in 1832, the Tower had recently been re-opened after renovations. On Saturday, local police said that rescue workers had pulled 180 dead bodies from amidst its broken bits, but that several people remained trapped under the debris.

“I was here yesterday, I was here the day before yesterday, and it was there,” Kashish Das Shrestha, a photographer and writer, told the New York Times. “Today it’s just gone. Last night, from my terrace, I was looking at the tower. And today I was at the tower — and there is no tower.”

A photo of the 9-story Dharahara Tower from before the earthquake hit.

A photo of the 9-story Dharahara Tower from before the earthquake hit.

CREDIT: Wikimedia Commons

Volunteers work to remove debris at the historic Dharahara tower, a city landmark, leveled by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake  that shook much of Nepal on April 25, 2015.

Volunteers work to remove debris at the historic Dharahara tower, a city landmark, leveled by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake that shook much of Nepal on April 25, 2015.

CREDIT: AP

The top segments of the Tower fell in the 1934 earthquake, but was subsequently rebuilt.


Rebuilding the historical sites this time around — especially the older ones — will be no easy task as Nepal in the face of a horrific loss of life and significant damage to more basic infrastructure.

Prushottam Lochan Shrestha, a historian, said the sites may well be lost forever, given the technical and monetary challenge of rebuilding them.

“We have lost most of the monuments that had been designated as World Heritage Sites,” he said. “They cannot be restored to their original states.”