Nepal has 8 World Heritage sites and has won two Heritage Awards, one for the medieval city of Bhaktapur and the other for The Dwarika’s Hotel in Kathmandu. The hotel’s magnificence lies in its buildings of intricate carved wood and terracotta work that took incalculable hours of dedication from the best craftsmen in Nepal. Every brick is handmade and every piece of woodwork centuries old.
The Dwarika’s, however, is also about intimate luxury and the spirit and hospitality of the Nepali people. Each of the almost 80 rooms has its own character and individuality, some with 16th-century windows and others with private courtyards. Buddhist symbols on hand-printed curtains and bed spreads are used together with traditional fabrics and accessories.
MAKING OLD NEW AGAIN
In 1952, the late Dwarika Das Shrestha came upon some carpenters sawing off the carved portion of an intricately engraved wooden pillar, part of an old building torn down to make way for something new. The exquisitely carved woodwork several centuries old lay in pieces, ready to be carted off as firewood. On sheer impulse, he gave the carpenters the new lumber they required and took the old carved pillar.
For Dwarika, impulse became hobby and passion. Whenever he heard that an ancient building was to be torn down, he bought as many carvings as he could. If parts were missing, he would try recover them later on, often discovering their history in the process. In one instance, he traced and acquired a missing piece after twenty-five years.
As his growing collection lay scattered across his garden, Dwarika decided to construct a building in the old Newari style of Kathmandu, using the rescued doors and windows. The buildings of Dwarika’s Village, of which the hotel is one, contain some of the best woodwork of olden times restored to life and made to function in a modern setting.
The Dwarika’s is a living example of how tourism need not destroy heritage and the environment. To this end, a woodcarving school has been established on the hotel premises. There are 30 woodcarvers and carpenters employed in the workshop. Some have been there for twenty years, while others have moved on to different, often more lucrative jobs after their training and apprenticeship.
In addition to the woodcarving school, Mrs. Ambica Shrestha has continued her husband’s philosophy and was instrumental in opening a new children’s school, restoring the Bagmati and other rivers of the Kathmandu Valley by raising natural and cultural awareness through Friends of the Bagmati, which runs cleanup programs and instruction in composting, among other things. The Dwarika’s is also coordinating the final phase of the restoration of the Ram Templem which was built in the 19th century but fell into terrible disrepair.