Swoyambhu stupa to bask in new glow

 

A two-year renovation of the Swoyambhu Mahachaitya (Stupa)—Swoyambhu Restoration Project — is nearing completion, thanks to ceaseless efforts of over 70 master craftsmen from across Nepal and volunteers from around the world, who have been providing expertise in diverse fields, including history, culture, management, restoration, documentation and architecture. The aim is to complete the restoration in February itself. At a press conference of the Swoyambhu Restoration Project Committee, Manish Ratna Shakya, the committee’s documentation officer, said this is the first restoration of Swoyambhu, believed to be the country’s oldest Buddhist monument, in as many as 90 years and the 15th major restoration in the last 800 years.

Built in the fifth century, the shrine was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. Sarvagya Raj Tuladhar, president of the Federation of Swoyambhu Management and Conservation, said the restoration includes the nine shrines around the stupa’s base, the 76-foot-tall spire and Harmika, and the large Vajra and Dharmadatu Mandala situated on the stupa’s eastern side. The task includes cleaning metal plates of the stupa, repairing damaged sections and gold plating metal plates. “Gold plating of the stupa’s metal plates requires over 18 kg of gold,” according to Tuladhar. “We have, to date, gold plated the Vajra and Dharmadhatu mandala, the nine shrines, the Harmika (the cube above the dome and below the spire) and 13 discs of the spire. Only the Chhattra (decorative parasol crowning the spire) remains to be done.” People involved in restoration are sticking to traditional arts and restoration techniques. Bharat Suwal, a gold plating expert, said gold mixed with mercury is applied to the copper sheets and then heated to burn off the mercury. This technique leaves a layer of gold covering the entire surface. Tibetan Nyingma Meditation Centre is overseeing and funding the entire project.

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