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The Temple That Survived Nepal's Earthquake Offers Lessons in Resilience

It wasn't a divine intervention that kept the ancient structure from being destroyed.
A Nepalese woman sits against a wall of the still-standing Pashupatinath Temple, facing an empty coffin after Kathmandu's devastating earthquake.
A Nepalese woman sits against a wall of the still-standing Pashupatinath Temple, facing an empty coffin after Kathmandu's devastating earthquake.AP images

Behind the smoke rising from funeral pyres next to the Bagmati river, Kathmandu's Pashupatinath Temple solemnly stands—unharmed by Saturday's earthquake in Nepal. For the devout, the temple's resilience may seem like a divine miracle, given the scale of destruction caused by the disaster. But for urban planners and historic preservationists, it offers a lesson in earthquake-resilient building.

The exact reasons why the Kathmandu temple escaped virtually unscathed, when other historical sites were completely destroyed, warrants a technical investigation, according to Tej Kumar Karki, former resident and the town planning chief of Kathmandu city. In an email to CityLab, Karki outlines some structural features of the Pashupatinath Temple he thinks might explain its survival.