Photo: Jan Møller Hansen
Photo: Jan Møller Hansen

Conserving continuity

Reconstructing monuments of cultural heritage in Nepal will need community involvement.

(This article is a part of the web-exclusive series from our latest issue 'Disaster Politics'. More from the print quarterly here.)

The very first images of the 25 April earthquake circulating on social media in Nepal were of monuments in the Kathmandu Valley, many of which collapsed spectacularly in the violent tremors. Subsequent information reflected the enormous human tragedy, but also made clear that the loss of heritage is more than just the structural failure of historic buildings. Most monuments in Nepal are an integral part of people's living culture and the survival of this relationship will depend on the resilience of the people.

Today, millions of people have settled in the Himalaya, which was formed as a result of tectonic forces. The settlers built houses using locally available material. The resources were always scarce, but by taking into account the cultural determinants and ways of life, the settlers adapted to their physical setting. Numerous factors such as site conditions, shelter design, available material, craftsmanship and religious beliefs created the diversity of architecture along the Himalaya. It was through recurring tests of endurance throughout history that communities learnt to made adaptations to their cultural expressions and create a resilient living environment.

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Himal Southasian