UNESCO has commissioned post-disaster rescue excavations at two earthquake-damaged monuments in the Kathmandu Valley World Heritage Site, continuing a mission initiated last year to restore Nepal’s cultural heritage.
UNESCO, working with a team of experts from Nepal’s archaeology department and Durham University of UK, is undertaking excavations at the Jagannath and Gopinath temples in Hanumandhoka Durbar Square to have a better understanding of their history and the condition of their foundations.
The two monuments are popular touristic attractions in Kathmandu valley and were severally damaged by last year’s massive quakes.
Christian Manhart, the UNESCO representative for Nepal, said the archaeological investigation of subsurface heritage and evaluation of the foundations of the monuments are a key part of the rehabilitation of the Kathmandu valley World Heritage Site’s monuments in advance of reconstruction.
“Unesco welcomes this project that brings together archaeologists from Nepal and around the world to provide insights for architects and engineers in the rebuilding of this unique cultural heritage,” he said.
The earthquakes were a human and cultural catastrophe that devastated lives and livelihoods across Nepal. They also damaged or destroyed much of Nepal’s unique cultural heritage, including monuments in the Kathmandu valley.
Due to the economic and social values of Nepal’s sites, which lie at the crossroads of ancient civilisations of Asia, UNESCO has intensified its efforts for reconstruction and rehabilitation of iconic monuments, including the Jagannath and Gopinath temples.
Last year, UNESCO led a team from the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties in Tokyo that undertook architectural evaluations of the two-tiered Jagannath temple. Built for Vishnu as the ”Lord of the Universe”, with its outer shrines dedicated to Surya, Siva, Ganesh and Bhagavati, some historians believe it to be one of the oldest temples in Hanumandhoka.
The installation of an inscription by Mahendra Malla on its eastern base records the date as 1563 AD. Currently, less is known about the Gopinath temple, which is positioned directly to the north.
Kosh Prasad Acharya, project co-director and former director general of the archaeology department, said, “Unesco-sponsored pilot excavations in 2015 illustrated the potential of multi-disciplinary investigations prior to reconstruction of monuments in the Kathmandu Valley. Building on this earlier research, these excavations will provide evidence of the origins and development of these monuments and lead to new information that will safeguard these monuments for future generations.”