Recent articles from National Geographic, the Independent, and other publications have chronicled the state of Nepal’s most iconic historic sites. In an effort to provide cultural and historical context to the sites seen in these images, we’ve paired them with works from our collection, some dating as far back as the 18th century, that depict these landmarks.
Through this comparison, we hope to highlight the significance of the structures that are still in tact and pay tribute to the legacy of those destroyed by the earthquake.
The presence of Manjushri at middle left and the monkey at the bottom left likely identifies thie structure on the right as the famous Swayambhu Stupa. Manjushri permeates Nepalese society and rituals, in this case the depiction of the Chariot Ritual (bhimarata), the birthday celebration for a Nepalese elder of Kathmandu. The ritual is practiced by both Hindus and Buddhists and celebrated when an elder reaches the ripe age of 77 years, 7 months, 7 days, 7 hours, and 7 minutes. The stupa survived the earthquake. However, the 7th-century temple adjacent to it collapsed.
Rato Macchendranath Temple
The monumental 1950 painting on the right, one of the largest Nepalese scroll paintings (paubha) in the world, depicts the temple of Rato Macchendranath in present-day Patan in the Kathmandu Valley. The temple showcases the typically Nepalese architectural style, featuring eaves that look similar to a pagoda, topped by a stupa. The Rato Macchendranath temple, which was constructed in 16th century, has been reduced to rubble. The image on the left shows the devastation of the town of Bungamati, where a second temple dedicated to Rato Macchendranath was also destroyed.
National Geographic reports that the 5th-century AD Boudhanath stupa has sustained little damage from the earthquake. This 19th-century embroidery depicting the stupa comes from Buryatia, a region in eastern Russia near Mongolia. Buryat people practice Tibetan Buddhism and, like Tibetans, travel to India and Nepal as pilgrims to visit sites such as this one. A Tibetan inscription on the back references the Boudhanath stupa in Kathmandu, which was rediscovered and renovated by Tibetans in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and became a famous site in Nepal for Tibetan Buddhists.