Opinion | The Nepal Weekly | April 27, 2021
By Purna N. Ranjitkar
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has inaugurated the historical Bhimsen Stambha (The Bhimsen Tower) commonly known as Dharahara on April 24 in Kathmandu. After seeing out from the balcony of the new built tower, the Prime Minister said that the experience was as good as seeing out form Eiffel Tower of Paris.
The tower was collapsed in the Big Earthquake of April 25, 2015. The remains of the previous structure has been kept at the memorable state. A new tower even wider in diameter and height has been erected just the side of the remains of the previous one. Construction of new structure of Dharahara was commenced in October 2018.
Nepalese people expressed that reconstruction of the tower is symbol of capability of Nepalese people and one of the best examples of the reconstruction works.
The first Dharahara was built by Mukhtiyar (equivalent to Prime Minister) Bhimsen Thapa in 1824 AD at the premises of his residence. In 1832, he built another tower following the desire and order of Queen Tripurasundari.
The towers were constructed for military usage as a watchtower. When incidents of national importance occurred, bugles were blown from the top floor of the tower. This was the signal for soldiers to assemble. This tradition of bugle trumpeting continued until the collapse of the tower.
During the earthquake of 1834, both towers survived whereas the first of Bhimsen’s two towers suffered severe damage. A century later, on 15 January 1934, another earthquake completely destroyed the first tower, and only two of the nine storey of the second tower remained. The then Prime Minister of Nepal Juddha Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana, subsequently carried out renovation work of the Dharahara tower to fully restore it. After the original Bhimsen Tower was destroyed, Queen Lalit Tripurasundari’s tower came to be known as Bhimsen Stambha. The tower constructed by Juddha Shumsher was destroyed in the Big Earthquake of 2015.
In February 2016, the government decided to rebuild the tower, and Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and his cabinet ministers contributed one month’s salary to the rebuilding. A fund called “I will construct Dharahara” was also established to collect money for the reconstruction. The new tower is constructed to be earthquake resistant as modern technology and materials are used to make it stronger.
The project has spent Rs 3.48 billion to reconstruct the tower and install gold tops in the Dharahara. It took 31 months to complete the reconstruction of the 22-storey, 83-meter-high tower. A 320-kg, 25-foot-high pinnacle made of brass has also been put at the top, and around 95- kg gold and 300-kg silver were used for coating the pinnacle.
The tower looks 11-storied from outside, while it is 2-storied from inside. The project now spreads in over 42.2 ropanis of land (area of a ropani is 74ft x 74ft). The project had acquire land occupied by the Department of Mint, General Post Office and southern part of the Kathmandu Mall.
The Dharahara master plan features a museum, triple basement underground parking and mini-exhibition theatre. The top of the underground third storey will be developed as a green park, as well as various facilities like water fountain, stone spout, shops and exhibition hall. The parking hall can accommodate 350 four-wheelers and 6,000 two-wheelers at a time.
Interestingly, the Dharahara has been a structure of national pride. The temples and buildings with cultural historical values stood in the earthquake, damaged and reconstructed or waiting for reconstruction are not much talked as the Dharahara. Actually, keeping in view real value of the temples, stupas, buildings with high quality arts and architectures in the Kathmandu Valley and other places should have taken to priority. Reconstruction of homes of poor people should have priority as well. Sundhara, the famous golden water spout just the side of the Dharahara could not gather attractions of the authority. The water spout is in a worst state where only dirty water has been accumulated instead of stay with the real value. Taking very simply, Dharahara is a Mughal style architecture first built even before Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. Practically, the Dharahara has been put in the front overlapping Swoyambhu Stupa, Pashupati Temple and other important iconic structures to represent the Kathmandu Valley. So that the authorities may be suggested to keep up the value and sentiments of the native art, culture and architecture restored for many centuries likewise the values of the evolution of the Kathmandu Valley civilisation to take into focus.