The earthquakes that hit Nepal in April and May 2015 did more than just destroy buildings. They threatened the very foundations of the Nepali nation. The tremor that struck Gorkha on 25 April ripped the roof-tiles from the revered Gorkha Durbar, birthplace of Prithvi Narayan Shah, the warrior king who unified Nepal into a single nation in the 18th century.
As the shockwaves hit, walls crumbled, timbers cracked, and roofs buckled at the brick-and-timber palace, celebrated as one of the finest examples of the Newari style of architecture. Even more tragically, the stricken palace lay empty and derelict for two years following the disaster, despite being an important place of pilgrimage for Newari Hindus.
Now, finally, work is underway to restore the fortress-like palace and the attached Kalika temple, which rise dramatically from the ridge above Gorkha town. A budget of Rs 505 million (US$4.9 million) has been set aside to cover the reconstruction, which will see the complex rebuilt from its foundations, using a mixture of original bricks and timbers and new materials produced using traditional Newari techniques.
Despite the official abolition of the monarchy in Nepal in 2008, the kings of the Shah dynasty are still worshipped by many Nepalis as living incarnations of the Hindu god Vishnu. Prior to the disaster, the palace was thronged daily by pilgrims paying homage to the royal family. Pilgrims will still be able to visit during the reconstruction works to attend rituals carried out by descendants of the Brahmin priests who served the Shahs in the 18th century.