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Antique dealers eye priceless artefacts at Nepal sites

Antique dealers eye priceless artefacts at Nepal sites
Nepal’s 7.8-magnitude earthquake that killed nearly 4,000 people was not rude to humans only. It has hit the country’s tourism potential hard amid reports that smugglers are now targeting and looting antiques and idols from the destroyed temples.  

The Himalayan nation has lost most of its monuments that had been designated as World Heritage Sites in Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Lalitpur. 

The iconic Kasthamandap temple was badly damaged in the Nepal’s worst temblor in over the past 80 years. This has led to stealing of antiquities and statues by dealers worth at least Rs100 crore from the destroyed monuments.  Kasthamandap, which inspired the name Kathmandu, is an early 16th century is a wooden monument. The UNESCO will assess the impact of the quake on the country’s cultural heritage.

“The earthquake has left us shattered and now the biggest challenge is to give Nepal back its lost glory, besides saving the antiques which came out from the ravaged temples,” said Nepal’s Home Ministry spokesperson, Laxmi Prasad Dhakal.

It has been learnt antiques dealers have already swung into action and even local people have taken away some of the priceless artifacts from temples.

Statutes of Buddha, Vishnu, Ganesha, Ashok Charka, iron bells, floral pieces, apsaras (celestial nymphs) – which are more than 100 years old – are reported to be stolen by the antique dealers, in connivance with local thugs. Though some of important places with historic values are guarded by the Nepal police, there are many in rural areas barely 30-50 km from Kathmandu taht are unguarded and witnessing such thefts.

Already, the Nepal home ministry has requested India and China to intensify patrolling in the border areas to prevent smugglers from taking out such artifacts from the country.

However, local people feel that it is impossible to check the smuggling due to porous borders and reports of local industrialist’s involvement is also coming out. “It is a matter of concern for the people of Nepal. The government should act immediately before such items go to the international market illegal for auction,” said A Kedia, a Kathmandu-based millionaire.

The nine-storey Bhimsen Tower in Kathmandu has also collapsed. The tower, also known as Dharahara Tower, was built in 1832 and was a historic landmark that was open to visitors for the past 10 years. The tower is close to the Patan Durbar Square, which is listed on UNESCO heritage site. The powerful quake didn’t even spare the world famous Pashupatinath temple.

Sujit Nath

Sujit Nath

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