The main sanctum sanctorum of Shantipur temple in Swayambhunath, can only be opened by the priests, and no one else is allowed to enter. Even today no one really knows what is in there, except this young guy sitting around drinking tea, who comes from the priest clan, and whose grandfather, now 92, is still head priest of this temple. The temple has sustained damages during the quake and is now closed for worship: though devotees still worship the door outside – there is no stopping that.
I attend a small meeting at Swayambhunath in the morning and the discussion revolves around earthquake, recovery and traditions. Can a way be found to restore our heritage while still preserving the mystery of the main sanctum or should restoration take precedence over what tradition dictates?
An interesting solution is put forth and agreed upon. Wooden panel walls are to be constructed to keep the accessible area of the temple separate from the inaccessible area. The priest clan are to go inside and work on restoration and recovery of what the inner sanctum and the restoration work on the outside is to be done by other people. However, all of them need to be raised from the ground up together to keep the building stable and earthquake resistant. Later, someone laughs about how lucky we are that the earthquake happened after 86 years of the last one. If it was after a 100 years, everyone who had experience in restoration of these structures would be already dead!
Nepal is lucky in the sense this cycle of 80 odd years of earthquakes preserves ancient traditional skills – as the ARTISANS rise again, every time disaster strikes. I leave after drinking some really sweet tea and feeling a deep sense of pride – in our own ability to restore our heritage.
The above has been excerpted from an original blog post up on socialtours.blogspot.com with the author’s permission. Click the link below for the actual post :