Inventing Tradition in Bhaktapur, Nepal: The Trajectories of Lime in Heritage Reconstruction



Arora V (2023) Inventing Tradition in Bhaktapur, Nepal: The Trajectories of Lime in Heritage Reconstruction. Change Over Time.

First paragraph: In the years that have followed the widespread devastation of the 2015 Gorkha Earthquake, built heritage has emerged as a key sector in the post-disaster recovery landscape of Nepal, receiving funding and expertise through both national and international sources. Most international attention has been directed toward reconstruction of built heritage in the Kathmandu Valley, which along with being the political and economic center of the country is also home to some of the most globally recognized heritage and tourism destinations in Nepal. In particular, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Kathmandu Valley, a series of seven monument zones, namely the Durbar Squares in the historic capital cities of Kathmandu, Patan (Lalitpur), and Bhaktapur, as well as the religious ensembles of Swayambhu, Bauddhanath, Pashupati, and Changu Narayan, has been at the center of debates over the post-disaster reconstruction of built heritage. Heritage conservation practitioners, both within Nepal and internationally have engaged in extensive debates surrounding issues of material and historic authenticity, as well as the appropriateness of materials, building technologies, and construction systems used in reconstruction. Considerable attention has also been paid to recurring practices of reconstruction (and other forms of heritage restoration and repair) that have led to substantial change in building form and style over time. Amid these ongoing debates, a recurring point of contention of practitioners working in Kathmandu Valley has been the use of lime mortars and plasters as a replacement for mud- (or clay-) based mortars. This paper traces the evolution of the discourse over the past several decades that has legitimized lime as a “traditional” building material in ongoing heritage reconstruction and the conflicts that have arisen surrounding its usage in the aftermath of the 2015 Gorkha Earthquake. We argue that the Department of Archaeology (DoA) narratives and associated local policies promoting lime for the conservation and reconstruction of built heritage in the Kathmandu Valley functions as an “invented tradition.” We analyze how lime has been simultaneously classified as traditional and modern, vernacular and foreign by engaging with previous restoration projects as well as recent reconstruction of built heritage in the Bhaktapur Durbar Square.

Output Status: Forthcoming

Change Over Time

Date accepted by journal27/07/2023

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Dr Vanicka Arora

Dr Vanicka Arora

Lecturer in Heritage, History

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