In the earthquake of April 25, 2015 a beautiful structure that is iconic historically and culturally was damaged — Rani Pokhari, which literally translated means ‘Queen’s Pond’, that nestles in the heart of the Capital, Ratnapark. Balgopaleshwor Temple (also known as Yamaleshwor or Jamaleshwor Mahadev), that stands in the middle of the pond, was also damaged.
Rani Pokhari, built in 792 NS or 1727 BS by king Pratap Malla, is square in shape (22 feet-4 inches) with four layers of steps around it and a fence on one side. The Balgopaleshwor Temple in the gumbaz style with the idols of Bal Gopal and Mahisasur Mardini along with a Shiva Linga stands in the middle of the pond. A bridge on the west of the pond helps devotees reach the temple.
The gates of Rani Pokhari are opened to the public twice a year — on Bhai Tika of Tihar and Chhath puja. But the gates remained closed on both days in 2015.
Approved by the Department of Archaeology (DoA), the Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) office has been working to renovate the structures here.
Rani Pokhari is beautiful space right in the middle of much urban chaos. So, as to make it possible for its gates to open on the two auspicious days of the year, reconstruction work is going at a speedy pace. The layers of steps have been demolished and upper tiers of the Balgopaleshwor Temple and its pinnacle have been taken out. Ninety per cent of the pond’s water has been taken out; 500 fishes in three batches have been taken to Balaju Baaishdhara Udhyan Karyalaya. But since it has started raining, some water and few fish still remain in the pond.
Uttar Kumar Regmi, Chief, Department of Urban Infrastructure Development at KMC informed, “The reconstruction plans are scheduled to complete before October 31 so that the public can pay their homage during the festivities. Plus we have planned to make Rani Pokhari a recreational area where the public can enter after paying certain fee”.
According to Regmi, Rs 11 crore has been allocated for the rebuilding of Rani Pokhari complex. Once completed, the complex will have musical fountains, lights and a garden.
This sounds like a pretty good idea but there are difficulties in getting the materials required for rebuilding historical monuments in exactly the same way. Sampat Ghimire, Senior Divisional Engineer of DoA said, “One main problem will be timber. This monument needs timber that are 12 feet tall, which is scarce. But we are communicating with the Forest Ministry and they will cooperate with us to get the needed timber.”
About earthquake resistance of the structure he said, “When structures are renovated on time, they can resist earthquake. As we are dealing with structures that are 300 years old, we have to maintain the original shape and size using old techniques of building them. We cannot use Reinforced Cement Concrete (RCC), which had been used during previous renovations that we were unaware of. This mismatch during renovation of historical structures damaged them.”