In September 2012, I spend a couple of weeks in Kathmandu researching and photographing for the Indian edition of the Lonely Planet book on Nepal. It was the end of the monsoon so I was treated to spectacular evening skies, rolling clouds, crisp evening light and views of the monuments of the heritage sites of Kathmandu in that grey-blue light of dusk.
My hotel in Thamel was close to the Kathmandu Durbar Square and very often I used to walk down in the early evening and spend some time on the steps of one of the temples soaking in the atmosphere and also taking some photographs. The Maju Deval which is a Shiva temple and across the square from Kastamandap was one of my favourite locations. From here you could see life in Kathmandu unfold - the trinket sellers, the hawkers, the couples out for a date, the tourists visiting the square and rickshaws waiting for rides.
I had taken a South Col team to Mustang on a trek and on the day of the earthquake, Saturday 25th April 2015, we were in the capital Lo Manthang.
On May 1st 2015, I finally reached Kathmandu after a long and difficult journey from Upper Mustang. That afternoon I walked through Thamel and reached the Durbar Square.
This is what I saw:
Near the entrance of the square I spotted this house supported by wooden beams to prevent it from toppling over into the narrow Thamel street:
Next to this house further down the road was this beautiful wall painting. The house behind it had sustained cracks, but the wall was not damaged in the quake.
I entered the square from the western end and immediately saw that the great temple of Kastamandap was no more. The platform on which the temple stood had been taken over by soldiers and police supervising relief operations. Luckily the smaller statue of Garuda was not damaged.
I walked further and saw to my dismay that the Maju Deval temple on whose steps I had spent many an evening was razed to the ground. The platform remained and as I walked up those steps to the platform this was the view that greeted me:
The Gaddhi Baithak- the white building above was still standing but had sustained structural damage in many places. The Kumari Bahal on the right was miraculously spared but the Narayan temple next to it had vanished with only the platform left.
I came down and headed towards the Kumari Bahal and looked back west towards the square. A large vehicle was busy picking up the rubble and tossing it into a lorry to be taken out of the square. To me it suddenly seemed that the vehicle was attacking the lions of the Kumari Bahal!
The presence of soldiers and police were everywhere and they were preventing people from getting into the square. Photographers and news persons were allowed and a film crew were shooting near this location below.
Two of the soldiers were resting at the entrance of the Bhagwati temple which had escaped the wrath of the quake.
A little further down walking towards the Hanuman Dhoka, the ticket counter had been damaged and the rear of the famous Shiva-Parvati temple was being again supported with wooden beams.
Next to the ticket counter, this stone inscription was on the ground:
Thankfully, the group of temples near the Hanuman Dhoka, the Jaganath temple, the Vishnu temple and the Kala Bhairab were intact though King Pratap Malla's column was damaged. The Hanuman statue had also escaped damage.
As I left the Durbar Square from the eastern end and entered the narrow streets of Thamel, I spotted this small temple - people were praying as they were passing by. I looked at the flickering flames and hoped that somehow Nepal would make it through this catastrophic disaster and rise once again.