Nepal Woodcarvers Inspired to Restore Quake-toppled Temples

In the rubble of Nepal’s 2015 earthquake, a team of dedicated woodworkers is finding inspiration to re-create what was lost.

The centuries-old Char Narayan and Hari Shankara temples were destroyed by the massive April 2015 earthquake that shook the Himalayan nation, killing nearly 9,000 people. The temples were the jewel of Patan Durbar Square, which is thronged by thousands of tourists and local visitors every day. The structures were crumpled by the force of the tremor, and the carved doors, roof and brick structure lie in ruins.

A team of dedicated woodworkers is now trying to restore Nepal’s heritage. They have been working six days a week, for nearly two years, repairing the beautifully hand-carved wooden doors and windows.

The broken wooden beams are being replaced by new ones, but the workers are trying to use the salvaged portions as much as possible.

The “Silpakars” — as woodworkers from the Newar ethnic community are known — have passed down their craft and skills for generations.

“I am proud to continue my ancestral trade and help restore a big part of Nepal’s history that was destroyed by the earthquake,” said Shyam Krishna, chiseling away the wood pieces.

He and his fellow workers are paid only about $15 a day each, which is much less than they would earn as building furnishers.

“It is not about the money. We might make less money, but this is a moment of pride for us to be able to restore the heritage of our country,” he said.

Already two years at work, they will likely need another year to just get the windows, doors and beams ready.

Nepal faces criticism from the international community for slow progress in reconstruction work despite a $4.1 billion international pledge.