Memories and Mourning of the Gorkha Earthquake in Kathmandu Valley, Nepal
In 2015, a massive earthquake hit Nepal and caused enormous damages. This study aims to draw the memories and mourning of this incident through several cases, by considering who are mourned, who commemorate the earthquake, and how this process is carried out. In contemporary world, deaths from disasters are often collectively mourned by local governments and/or nations. At that time, a memorial monument without religious colours is cconstructed, and on the anniversary of the disaster, rituals such as silent prayer and offering flowers are held [Fukuda 2012]. On the other hand, for victims of the aftermath of the Tsunami disaster in Indonesia and the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake in Japan, monuments were created by families and people who knew the victims in person, rather than public collective memorial services [Nishi 2014; Terada 2015]. Nepal has seen both after the Gorkha earthquake.
In Kathmandu, Dharahara, which was destroyed by the Gorkha earthquake, is preserved, and the surrounding area is to be converted into a park to create a monument that memorizes the disaster and symbolizes the state of Nepal [Hutt 2015; 2019]. But on the other hand, the earthquake has not been commemorated by the government in the field village located in Kathmandu Valley. On 25 April 2018, during the 3rd anniversary of the earthquake, no memorial events were held on government-led initiatives in the village. Meanwhile, a religious event called Saptāha (seven-day ritual) was held from 20 to 28 April 2018. Saptāha’s main purpose was to collect donations to cover the construction costs of a care centre for the elderly. In addition to the main purpose, it was clearly written in Saptāha’s invitation letter that the event was also intended for the earthquake victims. The organizer of Saptāha said that photos of the earthquake victims would be placed on the front stage. In a visit to Saptāha’s venue, I found that there were more photos than actual victims of the earthquake in the village. Photos of deceased people mingled with those of the earthquake victims. There was almost no mention about the earthquake during the Saptāha rituals. Deaths from the earthquake were not considered a special tragedy in this context. There were no specific earthquake-related events in April 2018 in the field village, other than Saptāha.
This paper seeks to reveal how people memory a disaster and mourn victims without “official” commemoration in contemporary Nepal.
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