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How Nepal earthquake devastated Kathmandu's UNESCO heritage

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By Chris Harris
How Nepal earthquake devastated Kathmandu's UNESCO heritage

The human tragedy from Nepal’s earthquake continues to grow, with the death toll nearing 4,000 people.

But there is also a cultural element to the disaster: the Kathmandu Valley is home to seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Such sites are deemed by the UN’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to be of ‘special cultural or physical significance’.

Here we look at six of the seven sites and how they have been affected by the earthquake. No details were available for Hindu temple Changu Narayan.

The entry for the Kathmandu Valley on reads: “The cultural heritage of the Kathmandu Valley is illustrated by seven groups of monuments and buildings which display the full range of historic and artistic achievements for which the Kathmandu Valley is world famous.”

The video above shows drone footage of the damage.

Durbar Square, Kathmandu

This is a before-and-after shot at Basantapur, a section of Durbar Square in central Kathmandu.

Durbar Square is considered the social, religious and urban focal point of the city.

The temples, palaces and courtyards mostly date from the 17th and 18th centuries.

Durbar Square, Bhaktapur

These are the ruins of one of several temples at Durbar Square, Bhaktapur. It was dedicated to Vatsala Devi, a form of the goddess Durga.

The square was also severely damaged in another earthquake in 1934.

The site lies about 13-kilometres east of Kathmandu

Durbar Square, Patan

The third and final Durbar Square within the Kathmandu Valley is situated a few kilometres south of the city centre.

It contained more than 1,200 monuments including dozens of Buddhist and Hindu temples.

Pashupatinath Temple

This site, near the Bagmati River on the outskirts of Kathmandu, is one of the most sacred Hindu temples.

Damage to the temple itself is not seemingly as bad as elsewhere, but other buildings nearby were not so lucky.

Pashupatinath is where some elderly Hindus choose to spend the final weeks of their lives, before being cremated on the banks of the river.

Victims of the earthquake have also been cremated here in recent days, according to reports on Twitter.


This picture shows the damage to Swayambhunath, a Buddhist temple – also known as the Monkey Temple – situated on a hill west of Kathmandu city centre.

Boudhanath Stupa

This Buddhist temple dominates the skyline on the outskirts of Kathmandu. Its ancient stupa is the largest in the world.