The 7.8 magnitude earthquake that battered Nepal in 2015 killed nearly 9000 people and damaged hundreds of thousands of buildings – including what many consider to be the country’s oldest Hindu temple in Changu Village. Slowly locals are rebuilding their beloved Changu Narayan temple with help from a British architect, who also helped restore Angkor Wat in Cambodia through the World Monuments Fund.
Locals say the Hindu god Vishnu once appeared at Changu Narayan, the fifth century temple dedicated to the deity. Only priests ever entered the intricately carved wooden structure before the earthquake. When locals witnessed the devastation inflicted on the World Heritage Site by the natural disaster, they felt their lives had ended. But they didn’t give up hope, and began to rebuild. 61-year-old Gyan Bahadur Bhadal, who is one of a group of villagers maintaining the temple, told The Associated Press (AP), “I see now our world coming back alive.”
Architect John Sanday has loved Changu Narayan for decades, and told the AP he was very emotional visiting the site after the devastating earthquake, which damaged 600 historical monuments, palaces, and temples in Nepal. Out of those 600, Sanday decided he’d take on the temple as a project, and became a technical adviser for locals. He told the AP, “Sure, it’s peanuts, a little temple, so why is it so special? The detail. The grace. It’s one of the few World Heritage Sites that hasn’t been completely destroyed by development.”
So far locals have painstakingly cleaned and made some repairs to the temple, but there’s still work to be done. The community needs to raise around $300,000 to complete the restoration initiative. Inspired by locals’ dedication, Sanday has already helped rebuild a guardhouse-sized shrine. Now he’s looking beyond the shrine to the temple, convinced the ancient building can be saved.