Renovating ancient historical monuments in delicate work, with the responsibility depending on those still learned in the skill
The Hiranya Varna Mahavihar, also known as the Golden Temple of Patan, is one among many Buddhist monasteries in Nepal. Situated on a busy crossroad in Patan, the entrance to this monastery lies in Kwalkhu, guarded by two intricately carved stone lion figures. Recognized by its centuries old traditions and heritage, the Golden Temple is a pride for Patan residents. Its distinctive pagoda architecture and the gilded roofs have made it a must-see sight.
Built around the 12th Century AD after being commissioned by King Bhaskar Verma, the heritage site is dedicated to preserving the delicate work of the craft men of old. The monastery is also going through a renovation to withstand the trials of time. Surya Man Shakya, who is currently an advisor to the committee dedicated to preserving the monastery describes this work as “a process rather than a project.” It can be presumed that this part of the renovation makes up only a small part of total future renovation plans.
Over the past three years, the site has gone through different phases of renovation work focusing on different aspects of the temple. This phase specifically deals with the main building and the different decorations and the art related to it. There will be no major changes to the original designs or architecture. If anything, the project aims to renew the beauty of the place.
Renovating the Golden Temple - or Kwa Bahal as it is referred to by local Newars - is especially difficult. There are very few who understand the architecture and the designs of the building and only those who belong to this specific ‘Sangha’ (a religious group) are allowed to work on the project, adding to the complications with the project. Because the Golden Temple has preserved the traditional values that have not been hindered by growing modernization, no modern experts have been allowed to participate. The funds too have come mostly from those who are a part of this specific sangha and share a personal relationship with this place. The current phase is predicted to take one more year before moving on to a different part of the temple.
This unique heritage site is among the few places in Nepal that have not lost sight of ancient traditional customs passed down over generations. The renovation of the Golden Temple only deals with the physical aspect of the centuries old heritage. Those who are working on this project believe that this project will not only preserve the splendor of the site, but also aim to help younger generations to stay connected to their heritage. The changes in the outside world have not had an effect on the integrity of the traditions preserved within the walls. The practices within the Golden Temple have remained authentic with barely any changes.