After the Quake – Part 3

I spent most of my last year in Nepal opening a library. (Post to come on that one.) I would arrive at the building in Teku every week for months and would always notice three Hindu temple towers in the near distance. I had no idea what to expect, but wanted to find some time to go over and explore. It was just a few minutes walk away, but work schedules never allowed the time until one weekend –prior to the earthquake– I supervised a cleaning crew before our soft opening. At lunch time the crew headed out to get something to eat, and Kalpana and I went out to explore. Partnered with a Nepali, I got a little braver at snooping around. We struggled at first to find a way in through the locked gate, but we learnt that entrance was long forgotten and another path took us into the heart of the temple. It was a fascinating combination of cared for and unkempt, and clearly was in need of funds for renovation. The main temple was boxed in by traditional out houses, laid in a square. I’ve seen them used as meeting halls, schools and storage spaces. Covered verandas were piled high with old carved beams, stone cornerstones and salvaged religious artifacts. Dog sat caged and barking in one corner and we watched chickens run around in another.

Outside the main temple, lanes ran off to the right and left. Overgrown paths led to dirt tracks. Exploring further, we pushed open gates blocked by weeds or broken hinges and what we found was an amazing labyrinth of temples – small and large, ramshackle homes with laundry hanging outside, and inhabited homes and forgotten buildings…all jumbled together. Some buildings were so tenuously standing that they appears to held together with just one beam. It was like a secret, forgotten place.

Among all of this were signs written in Nepali. I asked Kalpana what they said. “They’re donations”, she said. “People donated money. But I don’t understand. Where did all the money go?”

It did seem extraordinary that such a significant site that was clearly of important religious significance had been left to such extensive neglect. Anywhere else in the developed world it would be repaired, groomed and open to the public, the gardens would be kept and visitors would stroll through them with a guide, and locals would sell coffee and trinkets to the tourists. But here the site sat lonely and unnoticed, just five minutes walk away from every day life.

Bagmati river temples

It was amazing wandering around the area where everyday life and ancient temples mixed.

Tin Deval temple

The surrounding courtyard buildings of Tin Deval housed salvaged artifacts, kenneled dogs and chickens. At least half of these buildings are now piles of rubble.

bagmati river temples

More everyday life among the temples. This corner was also overgrown and felt like a secret garden

bagmati river sacred temples

Dozens of small temples were tucked around every corner

Tin Deval temples

We wandered around, exploring all the nooks and crannies.


Each one with its own special carvings and detail work….

Hindu wood carving

…like this one for example! Where are they now? Buried under a pile of rubble?

I very much doubt that this building is still standing.

I very much doubt that this building is still standing.

Tin Deval Temple, Teku

Going…going…gone. Tin Deval before the earthquake

Tin Deval Temple, Teku

…and after. How precarious that middle cap looks! How unsalvagable with no crane or equipment! It’s doomed to break.

Tin Deval Temple, Teku

After the second quake. The third temple was clearly damaged also. These were taken down before they fell.

Even though I was in Teku daily during my last month in Nepal, opening the library to the public, I never went back to the site. It was just too scary. The aftershocks meant that it was foolish to wander around in ruins. There was nowhere safe to run. A part of me didn’t want to see extensive damage to a site that I knew would never receive the funding attention that Kathmandu’s famous squares will receive, but I would have gone in the end…just out of respect. I am sure very much of it is gone and it won’t be recovered. I am so glad I at least got to take photos and have captured a little of it here.

6 thoughts on “After the Quake – Part 3

  1. Fascinating little corner in that big city … sorry it ended so sadly. Your feelings about leaving Kathmandu must be that much more jumbled up after the earthquake.


  2. Hi Caroline. I’ve walked around Tin Deval. It was years ago and I was with a Nepali. I haven’t seen Kathmandu since the earthquakes so I must be in for many shocks.


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