Bhaktapur Chronicle: An Earthquake Magnitude 7.8
It was an average calm ordinary Saturday when around noon on 25th April 2015, 14.5 kilometers below the earth’s surface the Indian tectonic plate crashed into the Eurasian plate. Within seconds the earth shook violently accompanied by a loud rumbling sound of thunder that moved beneath the grounds. The valleys, hills and the mountain shook. Houses start to crack and collapse. Screams of terror reverberated across Kathmandu valley, spreading to remote hamlets in the foothills of the Himalayas. The fate of millions of lives across the country was sealed in an instant. It was the deadliest natural disaster ever recorded in the history of Nepal. It left more than eight million people directly affected.
This collection of photographs presents portraits of survivors of Bhaktapur, the royal ancient city dating back to the 12th century. It had retained its medieval charm with narrow winding alleyways inhabited by the Newari community, an indigenous people famed for the rich culture of Art. The portraits, taken within days of the quake, structured around the disintegrated landscape elucidate the nature of impermanence, a conditioned existence that is transient and in a constant state of flux.
The manifested landscape inevitably will disappear by minute, by hour and by day into the oblivion as survivors start to clear the debris and rebuild their homes and sanctuary. It is this dance of impermanence and the enigma, that the survivors who have lost loved ones, homes and endured an unimaginable annihilation to their lives – embody courage, hope and aspiration as they stand resolutely in the midst of their former homes. Bhaktapur Chronicle is a study into the tragic human condition and the resilience of the spirit of Nepali people.
A young man stands next to the statue of Buddha amidst the rubble of a destroyed temple. The shaven head and white garment symbolizes he is in mourning. He lost a family member in the earthquake. Like many Hindus, he believes that life and death are part of the concept of Samsara, the continuous cycle of life, death and rebirth.
A young couple stands where their former home once stood. In this area, about twenty families lost their homes and everything they possessed. Almost 570,000 homes were destroyed and nearly 270,000 were badly damaged by the earthquake.
Father and daughter work hard to salvage bricks, reused from their home destroyed by the earthquake, to construct a temporary shelter to start a new beginning. The Nepal earthquake left more than eight million people directly affected.
This man was born and brought up right across from this beautiful heritage building. He lived to see the walls collapse when the earth shook. More than 700 monuments, temples and heritage buildings were destroyed or damaged in and around Kathmandu valley.
The face of the sleeping man manifests both peace and loss. Exhausted after days of digging through the rubble “barehanded” to salvage whatever he could from his home destroyed by the earthquake. The salvaged possessions safely inside a wooden trunk, he lays on it for safekeeping and finds momentary leisure on an earthmoving machine.
An old man sitting in the midst of devastation trying to comprehend what had happened to the life he knew. Now in his 70s, he was left with the daunting undertaking of starting again. Around nine percent of Nepal’s population is over 60. Older people and very young children are the most vulnerable in and post natural disasters.
More than three million Nepalis work overseas, generating about 30% of Nepal’s GDP in remittances. The majority of overseas workers are young capable men. The women are left home to take care of their children and aging parents or in-laws. These female-headed households faced the most challenges during the earthquake and post earthquake recovery.
When the earth shook, the roof collapsed, trapping this young man beneath rubble. It took more than three hours for his family and neighbors to dig him out. His right arm was broken and he endured minor injuries. He feels lucky to have come out alive. A total of about 9,000 people died in the earthquake.
The earthquake directly affected an estimate eight million people in Nepal. A total of about 9,000 people died, around 570,000 homes were destroyed and nearly 270,000 were badly damaged. Tens of thousands braved the cold Himalayan winter in temporary shelters. One year on, rebuilding and rehabilitation process is moving too slowly.
An elderly man salvages a tarp to build a temporary shelter for his family. Around nine percent of Nepal’s population is over 60. Older people and very young children are the most vulnerable in and post natural disaster.
In a male dominated patriarchal society like Nepal, women are disproportionately marginalized. The female-headed households with no adult male family members had the least access to post-disaster aid and relief materials. Realizing this as one of the major problems, women led NGOs and grassroots organizations started leading relief efforts in the communities affected by the earthquake.
Although socially and culturally marginalized, the resilience Nepali woman exemplified in the aftermath of the earthquake is commendable. With many of their husbands and capable sons stuck working overseas, these women as the sole caregivers, took on the task of salvaging valuables and reusable materials to build temporary shelters to take care of the young and the elderly in the family.
Framed image of Hindu deities Shiva and Parvati typically hang on the walls of Hindu households in reverence. The anomalous attribute of the fallen image on the ground amidst debris seems symbolic of what Nepal faced in the aftermath of the earthquake.
All images are protected under Copyright laws © Tenzing Paljor. No images maybe used in any way without the prior notice and written permission of Tenzing Paljor.
Featured image: A local artist in metaphorical and representational gesture wears the mask of Bhairava, the wrathful deity associated with both annihilation and protection. In the aftermath of the earthquake, many Nepalis from all faith across the nation turned to rituals and prayers to seek healing and protection from the scope of the annihilation Nepal witnessed that unforgettable day.