Professor Michael Hutt (SOAS University of London)

Date: 22 March 2017Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 22 March 2017Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: B102

Type of Event: Seminar

Abstract

In April and May 2015 the east-central districts of Nepal were struck by  earthquakes which killed over 8000 people and displaced 2.8 million.  The destructive force of these quakes impacted not only on hill districts, but also on Kathmandu.   The first online photographs on 25 April showed heaps of rubble in the southern quarter of the Kathmandu Darbar Square. This gave the impression of very extensive devastation in the capital and led to an early international media focus on the loss of heritage buildings in the Kathmandu Valley.

In the immediate aftermath of the 25 April quake, much coverage was given to the collapse of the Dharhara, the tower established by Bhimsen Thapa in 1825/6 to mark ‘national independence, unity, Gorkhali pride, progress and advancement’. Architecturally, the tower was unremarkable, and its historical and political salience for contemporary Nepal might be expected to be contested.  However, for many Nepalis the Dharhara is still the pre-eminent symbol of the city’s identity. Indeed, for many Nepalis it became a symbol of national resilience and pride: in summer 2015 many young people could be seen wearing Dharhara T-shirts, some bearing the slogan ‘we will rise again’.

This paper will ask why it was that the Dharhara tower loomed so large in the Nepali imagination in the immediate aftermath of the 2015 earthquakes, and why it came for so many to symbolise the country’s lost heritage, to a much greater extent than the temples and palaces of Nepal’s World Heritage sites.

Organiser: SOAS South Asia Institute

Contact email: ssai@soas.ac.uk

Contact Tel: +44 (0)20 7898 4390

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