Locals demand to reconstruct old Jajarkot Durbars into museums

Jajarkot, Feb. 26: Jajarkot Durbar, also known as ‘Seto Durbar’ and listed among Nepal’s 100 tourist destinations, awaits reconstruction after being damaged in the earthquake that struck the district on November 3, 2023. 

The palace was built during the reign of King Indra Narayan Shah of Jajarkot in 1795. Before that, the ‘Rato Durbar’ was standing on the west side of the ‘Seto Durbar’ from 1743 to 1754, from where Jajarkot’s state affairs were conducted. Both palaces were built through public labour donations at the time but were damaged by the earthquake. 

Meanwhile, the Jajarkot Heritage Conservation Foundation has initiated a campaign to establish the palaces as museums and to develop Karnali Province as a historical tourist destination. 

Previously, Seto Durbar was damaged in the earthquakes of 1933 and 1993, and was reconstructed after both incidents. Most people claim that the palace originally had five stories, while some say it had three. They believe it was reconstructed to three stories after the earthquakes.

The District Coordination Committee is located in the Rato Durbar, while the District Administration Office is situated in the Seto Durbar, both of which were heavily damaged by the earthquake, according to Jajarkot Heritage Conservation Foundation President Janak KC. He urged the government to take the initiative in rebuilding the palace.

No one knows the original appearance of the palace before it was rebuilt. It must have been reconstructed in its original form. After 1933, engineers from the Newar community of Bhaktapur were brought in and built it in the old style. Observing the art and design of the palace’s windows, it appears to have been built in its original form.

Chairman KC expressed concern that the government had not paid attention to reconstruction and preservation work following the earthquake, which could lead to the deterioration of the original structure. He stated that the originality of the palace was compromised in the name of repair by stakeholders and the government.

From the Rato Durbar, four kings from Manindra Shah to Gagendra Shah ruled. Similarly, Indra Narayan Shah to Swoyam Prakash Shah ruled from the Seto Durbar. The last king, Prakash Bikram Shah, is said not to have resided in Jajarkot. 

According to Civil Society leader Rajendra Bikram Shah of Jajarkot, seven kings ruled from the Seto Durbar. 

The last king, Prakash Bikram Shah, sold the palace to the Nepal Government for Rs. 60,000 in 1967, turning it into government property. Since 1960, after the departure of the kings, government functions have been carried out from the palace.

Chairman KC pointed to the need for the government to focus on the reconstruction of the historical palace, which stands as an important archaeological site in Karnali Province. The Jajarkot Heritage Conservation Foundation has submitted a request letter to all three levels of government for the reconstruction of the palace into a historical museum.

The District Administration Office operates from the Jajarkot Durbar. Since it is not feasible to inhabit the damaged buildings after the earthquake, services are provided from tent shelters. He suggested that the local administration should construct its own building and convert the palace into a museum.

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