After 16 years, authorities set to start Si-liya Sattal renovation

- Chahana Sigdel, Kathmandu
After 16 years, authorities set to start Si-liya Sattal renovation

Sep 6, 2014-

From the topmost terrace of Kiran Shrestha’s six-storey house in Basantapur, a beautiful view unfolds. The temples in durbar square, Kathmandu’s living museum, offer a perfect contrast against the hustle and bustle of people.

Sadly, the excitement is cut short.

“You see that big hole on that roof? Now imagine how bad it must be inside,” said Shrestha. The building Shrestha points at is the Si-liya Sattal, a traditional building that used to shelter pilgrims, that has seen thousands of Indra Jatras, Gai Jatras, Dashains and Tihars over the years but only one recorded renovation.

However, Hari Kumar Shrestha, programme manager at the Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC), said things are about to change. He said they have finally managed to approve a budget of Rs 10.6 million in order to renovate the Sattal. “This renovation is going to be groundbreaking,” he said.

While the KMC officials claimed that the renovation will start within the next month, locals in Basantapur area are as skeptical as ever. “I have lived here for 58 years and I have seen many promises made and broken. So I won’t trust what they say,” said a local who preferred to remain unnamed.

The Sattal’s historical significance is abounding. It was built from the wood left over from the construction of Kashtamandap, the temple that names the Capital, and is situated next to the same shrine.

The name ‘Si-liya’ means ‘single wood’ and ‘Sattal’ translates into to ‘porches’. Historians believe that the Kashtamandap and Si-liya Sattal served as a lodge in those days, particularly to pilgrims who were on their way to Mansarovar.

On four corners of the Sattal are four identical statues resembling lions with wings--known as ‘sardools’ in Hindu mythology. The winged lions and the carvings on the building are intricately pegged with the Basantapur’s architecture.

The porches on the bottom floor are now surrounded by little shops that sell items from spices to modern day necessities. According to Kiran Shrestha, who is also a member of Marutwa Tole Committee, the shopkeepers were willing to vacate the place once construction started. “The building is in such a deplorable condition that it will collapse any day. So why wouldn’t these shopkeepers be ready,” he said.

Meanwhile, the interior of the building, which houses pictures and statutes of Lord Krishna, remain hidden to the rest of the public. A firm silver lock greets any curious onlookers willing to explore the inside.

Locals say it has been shut for around a decade. “It’s too risky to let people in all the time so we stopped performing rituals long time back,” Shrestha said.

Saroj Thapaliya at Guthi Sansthan says he understands the skepticism surrounding the renovation. He said talks of restoration had started a good 16 years ago, but never materialised. In the late 90s, they had formed a local committee but it couldn’t function and then it wasn’t until six years ago that the second round of talks began. Nothing came of it. “Things are different this time around,” he said.

The KMC is paying for 40 percent of project cost whereas the Guthi Sansthan is bearing the remaining. The committee is made up of engineers from the KMC, Guthi Sansthan and the Department of Archaeology. The authorities concerned have also consulted local sculptors from Bhaktapur to keep the architecture intact.

They have finalised the budget and signed a deal with a contractor who will be starting work in the next few weeks. “We understand that it is getting too late. We have told them (contractors) that the renovation has to be done before the start of the next fiscal year,” Thapaliya said.

However, local residents and shopkeepers seem concerned not just with the renovation but the manner in which it will be conducted. “We’ve seen a lot of renovations but sadly we are not happy with most of them. It’s not that transparent. We have no say in inspection. So all we can do is speculate,” said the same 58-year-old local who preferred to remain unnamed.

Published: 07-09-2014 09:19

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