The Harishankar temple survived the earthquakes of 1809, 1833 and 1934, but the three-tiered shrine built in 1706 collapsed almost completely in 2015.
The rebuilding involved sorting, documenting and repairing 2,000 parts. In 2017, the first storey temple ambulatory including columns, capitals and beams was test-assembled in KVPT’s workshop, then disassembled and reassembled on the original plinth.
In 2018 the second storey woodwork was installed and in 2019 the third storey was completed. 16 truckloads of yellow mud topped by overlapping clay jhingati tiles to cover the roofs. Finally, metalsmiths Babu Ratna and Binod repaired and re-gilded the roof pinnacle.
The reconstruction spanned four years and used 90% of the original recovered materials while improving seismic strength.
The image of Harishankar was damaged diagonally at the waist during the earthquake. Local engineers, craftsmen and a team from University of Applied Arts, Vienna helped repair the one and a half-meter tall, eight armed manifestation of Vishnu (Hari) and Shiva (Shankar), that stood in the sanctum of the temple.
But local customs dictate that a broken statue cannot be worshipped. So it was Amar Shakya, master stone carver who carefully sculpted out a replica with the help of a photograph.
The temple priest gave the new statue life during a homa puja, a ritual of regeneration. Both the original and the new god reside together to receive worshippers in the temple’s sanctum.
“Before I was hired to work on the square, I did not take so much notice of it. But now I’ve looked hard at everything and it has inspired me in my profession,” says Shakya, who also helped KVPT restore and replace stone images that were stolen in other temples.
He is particularly proud of an image of Mahalakshmi, eternal companion of Lord Vishnu, which he carved to replace a stolen image in the Vishveshwara temple.