Bouddhnatah-The first UNESCO heritage to stand tall
Bouddhnatah Stupa, one of the UNESCO world Heritage sites and the holiest Buddhist shrines. It was in ruins by the 2015 earthquakes. The golden spire above the dome was severely damaged. The inspection of the ancient steeple by engineers showed structural cracks running deep into the superstructure. It meant that the steeple had to be dismantled. It was a sad scene for the locals and the tourists visiting the place since then. But not anymore; renovation has restored the Boudhanath’s previous glory.
The initiative was taken by the Boudhanath Area Development Committee (BADC). The committee had collected Rs 30 million from its members and Rs 142.2 million from domestic as well as foreign donors. The Stupa that stands t now has already increased tourism activities in the Boudhanath area.
Boudhanath Stupa is probably the first quake-hit heritage sites to have been at renovated. It was renovated by donations from Buddhist groups and with the help of volunteers. Boudhanath’s renovation has piled pressure on the government to rebuild other damaged heritage sites with great urgency. This is important to preserve culture, tradition and the aesthetic value of Nepal. It also to help rejuvenate the tourism sector which is one of the largest foreign currency earners for the country.
Local and foreign donors contributed more than US$ 2 million for renovation the renovation. Donors also gave 31 kilograms of gold which has been used in the structure’s pinnacle, including 13 steps that represent the Buddhist path to enlightenment. Under the supervision of the Department of Archaeology, every step of the restoration has employed traditional construction techniques to ensure that the new parts of the Stupa are indistinguishable from the old. Even the mortar holding the bricks together has been prepared in the traditional way, by burning old bricks and grinding them into powder.
After the renovation of the ancient stupa, purification rituals were carried out for four days. The inaugural ceremony was attended by religious leaders and ambassadors of various countries. Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal inaugurated the renovated Stupa November 22. Earlier on November 20, the Prana-Prathistha — infusion of life — rituals were carried out at the stupa. People believe that ritual gives life to the Stupa to emanate the holy energy in the place. People also believe that energy to bless the people who go around the dome.
Jigmi said that the renovation of Boudhanath is an epic example of coming together and rising from where we fell. He also pointed out that there is a very strong connection between the life of Nepali people and Boudhanath. Both saw peaceful times, both had to see the crisis, then peaceful time again, face earthquake and rise back again.
While the Boudhanath now stands tall, many other heritage sites are still in ruins. The Boudhanath Area Development Committee has also set another example by working in the sites themselves instead of just being there for the inauguration. According to Bhujel, there is spiritual and architectural aspect to the Boudhanath Stupa. Tourists visit this place to get closer to themselves, to revere lord Buddha, as well as admire the stunning architectural peace. The Stupa is so complex that it is very difficult to apprehend its architecture. A good thing that came out of the reconstruction is that, the committee has now documented everything. The pictures to the way of making the stupa, which will make it easier for the coming generations to take care of the stupa.
The loss made the beauty of the Boudhanath ever so prominent with increased interest in its structure as well. The Boudhanath Stupa consists of the Mandela at the base which is the mansion of Buddha. A dome with 108 Buddhist deities follows this. The dome is the Symbol of Universe or the Vase of Great Treasure. The Harmika above the dome is the symbol of eight novel paths. The kunjika, or the nose is the symbol of Nirvana and the two eyes are the symbol of method and wisdom.
The 13 steps in its architecture are the 13 states of Bodhisattva which is ground for the complete enlightenment. The thirteen Bodhisattva stage are Pramudita — The Joyful One, Vimala — The Stainless One,Prabhakari – The lluminating One, Archismati — The Flaming One, Sudurjay — The One Difficult to Conquer, Durangama — The One Which Goes Far, Achala — The Unshakable One, Sadhumati — The One of Good Discrimination, Dharmamegha — The Cloud of Dharma, Samantaprabha — A Pervasive Light, Nirupma — The Incomparable One and Gyanvati The Diamond Throne.
The peace after the reconstruction reverberates from all corners of the Stupa and highlights the importance of all our heritage sites even more. The Boudhanath has a very strong cultural and religious significance and it showcases our culture. The same is true for all our cultural sites. Our heritage is what represents us and our culture to the world and to have so many of them lying in ruins is completely deplorable.
The fallen temples and so many heritage sites still supported by lumber diminish the cultural value of the place. As tourists visiting Nepal come for the very e purpose of seeing the culture, any delay in the reconstruction process means delaying tourism recovery.
The renovation of Boudhanath stands as an example of the success and a quick response to destruction, our reconstruction of other heritage sites should also be quick and effective.
Text-Image Nepal Magazine