The Krishna Temple, a World Heritage Monument, situated in the Patan Darbar Square in Nepal, was built by King Siddhinarasimba Malla in 1630 AD and belongs to the Newar style of architecture. It is built completely of ashlar masonry, using local stones. Most buildings in Nepal are built of bricks and timber. One can see a distinct departure from the North Indian shikhara style of temples and one can safely assume that Indian craftsmen were employed for its construction.
Project Name: Krishna Temple
Architect: Neeta Das
Conservation Architect: Dr. Neeta Das
Client: The Kathmandu Valley Preservation Trust (KVPT), New York & Nepal
The temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna on the first-floor level and to Lord Shiva on the second floor. The walls are decorated with imagery in stone, telling stories from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. But all of these do not make it an ‘Indian’ temple. Multi-tiered with curved eaves translated from the local wooden counterparts, presence of local iconography like the garuda Simha and dikpala, and a scientific seismic design give it a unique Newari character and majestically grounds it in the seventeenth century Nepal, in times when India was under the Mughals and temples were no longer being built there.
On 25th April 2015, Nepal was hit by an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8, and 8922 deaths were reported. Nepal has seen many major earthquakes before this, as had the Krishna Temple. Since its construction, Krishna Temple withstood at least twelve earthquakes ranging from a scale of 6.5-8. Many temples built during its time were severely damaged but Krishna Temple was relatively less damaged. Only its second (Shiva) floor had to be restored. A careful study of the construction indicates that the four corner columns of the garbha griha of the second floor were intended to withstand and fail during the erratic movements during the earthquake. There being sacrificial in nature was an ingenious piece of design that saved the rest of the temple from major damage. The ground floor, first floor, and the shikhara were largely unaffected. Due to the lateral movement, many of the columns had moved out of plumb, old repairs had come off, brackets, bases, and capitals of columns were damaged; keystones were dislodged, the four cornerstones were severely damaged.
With an international consultant team, the local engineers, supervisors, and stone craftsmen executed the restoration work. Training programs were held for the local team. All stones were duly marked on the drawings and on-site. All materials were tested and compatible alternatives employed for restoration. Where possible old stones were repaired with adhesive and dowelled with stainless steel pins; at other places new carved and un-carved stone pieces replaced the old ones. The removal of the old column, propping up the lintel, and replacement with a new stone, needed careful structural design and planning. Some of the damaged masonry was dismantled and re-assembled. Compatible lime mortar was used for all construction and pointing works.
Only the second (Shiva) floor was restored. The other floors, exterior, and the shikara, were cleaned, repaired where needed, and housekeeping works done. The Krishna Temple has 21 fire gilded pinnacles fitted over the stone chattris. The rooftop is also capped with a bell shaped pinnacle. All these metal ornaments were carefully removed, repaired, and restored by the team from Vienna. They also replaced some of the damaged stones in the shikara and pointed the open joints. The work was completed and the temple was re-dedicated on 2nd September 2018.
About Neeta Das
Neeta Das is a graduate in Architecture (1987) from CEPT, Ahmedabad, M.S. (Arch.) in Architectural History, Theory, Criticism, & Pedagogy (1995) from the University of Cincinnati, USA, a Ph.D. from SPA Delhi/ Lucknow University (2004), and specialist in conservation from Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, London (2004) and Scottish Lime Center, Charlestown (2013 & 2015). Das was a professor of architecture in Lucknow before she moved to Kolkata in 2011. Since, she is a visiting faculty at the School of Architecture, CEPT University, Ahmedabad, for postgraduate and doctoral studies and continues her research and practice in conservation. She is the proprietor of Neeta Shubhrajit Das Associates, Kolkata. A prolific writer she has published several books and essays on the history, theory, and conservation of buildings. For more information visit www.neetadas.com and www.architectsnsda.in.
Brief of the team:
The restoration of the Krishna Temple involved a large multidisciplinary team of Nepali and international artisans and conservation professionals. In addition to the standard team, additional site support was retained from a series of visiting structural engineering volunteers to aid in site supervision and design efforts. The team included:
Niels Gutschow, Adviser, KVPT
Eric Theophile, Director, KVPT
Dr. Rohit Ranjitkar, Director (Nepal), KVPT
Dr. Neeta Das, Conservation Architect (Consultant) Pooja Amatya, Engineer, KVPT
Pranam Hora, Engineer, KVPT
Surya Bahadur Ranjitkar, Stone carver and mason, KVPT
Evan Speer, Preservation and Structural Engineering Consultant
Claudio Corallo, Tim Bowden, and Laura Batty Visiting Structural Engineering Consultants Ramesh Bhole, Stone specialist (Consultant)
Martina Haselberger, Katharina Fuchs, Gabriela Krist, and interns. Institute of Conservation, University of Applied Arts Vienna, Vienna.