The Taragaon Museum
A short walk from the Boudhnath stupa and within the premises of the Hyatt Regency Kathmandu stands the Taragaon Museum, built originally in 1972 by Carl Pruscha and re-opened in March 2014.
The Taragaon Museum seeks to document 50 years of research and cultural heritage conservation efforts of the Kathmandu Valley, documenting what artists photographers architects anthropologists from abroad had contributed in the second half of the 20th century. The building of the Museum showcases restoration and rehabilitation efforts to preserve the built heritage of Kathmandu.
It was Mr Arun Saraf’s vision to document what visiting architects, artists and scholars did in Nepal since the 1960s, after the ‘hidden valley’ became accessible. The exhibition intends to constitute a tribute to the outstanding urban culture of the Kathmandu Valley. The audience will probably experience an “aha” effect to realize the richness of the heritage.
Architecture – Restoration & Rehabilitation:
Ms Natasha Mittal Saraf started the restoration project to rehabilitate the buildings into the Taragaon Museum, preserve the architectural heritage of the Kathmandu Valley, and re-purpose Taragaon into a thriving Centre for Arts & Culture.
Taragaon is a unique contribution to the architectural history of the country.
Rana architecture used white brick dust plaster, and the villas of the 1950s used plaster and finally a cement coat, often kept grey to demonstrate ‘Modernity’.
Carl Pruscha’s outstanding merit is to have revived the use of facing bricks, providing the colour red. He once said that he was inspired by the barrel vaulted shelter buildings along the Ghats to introduce barrel vaults at Taragaon.
Architecture always has ‘imported’ elements, because architecture is essentially transcultural in character. Newar architecture incorporated central Asian and later Mughal elements, the Ranas turned to Neo Classicism. Architecture visitors from all over the world appreciate Carl Pruscha’s contribution to world architecture.
Restoration Team Leader:
Natasha Mittal Saraf
Space Planning & Restoration:
Originally designed by Carl Pruscha in 1970 as the Taragaon Hostel, today the Museum is a cluster of seven buildings that form the Taragaon Museum.
A visitor can appreciate 18th & 19th Cent. Photography, Watercolors & Engravings of the 19th Century, Architects & Artists sketches, maps, plans, drawings and various other documentations of the built heritage of Nepal.
Taragaon aims to attract everybody interested in cultural production. The exhibitions intend to establish a dialogue. The mission is to demonstrate that cultural production is located at the center of society.
The Café lets the visitor soak in the history, & the carefully curated shops serve as an extension to the Museum’s exhibitions.
The Taragaon Museum is owned by Taragaon Regency Hotels Ltd.
THE SARAF FOUNDATION
The Saraf Foundation supports the preservation, restoration and documentation of arts and heritage of the Kathmandu Valley, and the intellectuals who work selflessly towards these goals.
All exhibits & books in the Museum are from the private collection of The Saraf Foundation. The Foundation is chaired by Mr. Arun Saraf.
SERVICES AT THE MUSEUM
The Museum spans an area of 35,000 sq.ft.
Besides its permanent collection, the Museum has a Contemporary Art Gallery, Event Hall and two outdoor Amphitheaters.
We welcome art & photography exhibitions, musical events, fashion shows, conferences and film screenings. The Museum has its own Café-Bar to cater events.
The retail space focus on artifacts paintings furniture and art, produced in the Himalayan region.
History of Taragaon, People, Politics & Sociology
The history, planning and development of the Hotel Village Taragaon is closely linked to the unique personality of a single dedicated person, Angur Baba Joshi. She was born at Dillibazar in Kathmandu in August 1932 as the daughter of Pitamber Prasad Panta und Deep Kumari. She was eleven years old when she was married to Bala Ram Joshi, at that time twelve years old. She remembers her marriage as a happy event, followed by more than 50 years of conjugal life, in which her husband was always a supportive partner. She studied privately, attended the Banaras Hindu University together with her brother and her husband, and later completed her BA at Patna University. Upon her return, she founded the Padma Kanya College as the first higher-education facility for girls in the country. When she was 25, she and her husband received a scholarship under the Colombo Plan scheme. She went to Oxford to complete an M.A. in political science, while her husband studied physics at Glasgow. In Oxford, she had an experience that was to leave a lasting imprint on her future life. When she told somebody that she was from Nepal, she was asked where that was in India. Ever since then, she has felt committed to promoting the identity of the country and to bringing what she calls “Nepaliness” into her projects. Upon her return from England, she became the chairperson of the Nepal Women’s Organisation of Kathmandu District and as the organisation was without means, she “went on begging for donations”, as she recalls. The board had eleven members and among them were Gana Rajya Lakshmi, the Queen Mother and Nirmala Pokharel. Slowly the organisation was able to acquire knitting and sewing utensils and products could be sold. With the ensuing profit and a donation of 50,000 rupees from the Queen Mother, health clinics could be operated, literacy programmes for women initiated and children educated. Beyond being devoted to social service activities, Angur Baba’s ultimate goal was “to propagate Nepali culture.”
With the organizations, came an influx of intellectuals, artists, photographers, writers. The focus of the Museum is to preserve their work, which would otherwise be lost. These expatriates, who spent three decades in Nepal and made it their home, traveling far and wide across this Himalayan country, are now returning home. The Museum is collecting their contributions, which have never been collected, or recognized. The building where the Museum is housed is itself a marvel. Originally built in 1970, it was swallowed by the surrounding jungle over the last 20 years, and has now been restored to its original architectural glory.
The Origin of Taragaon
The impulse to promote “Nepaliness in the tourism industry” prompted her to initiate a new project in 1968 or thereabouts, the construction of a hotel that deliberately exhibits Nepaliness. In 1969 His Majesty’s Government compulsorily acquired a large tract, some 350 ropani, of almost unproductive land between Chabahil and Bauddha through due notification in the Government Gazette. A compensation of 1,500 rupees per ropani (ca. 500 square metres) was granted and the land subsequently transferred to the Women’s Organisation. In 1970 Angur Baba happened to meet Carl Pruscha, an Austrian architect serving as an advisor to the Town Planning Office under a UNDP (United Nations Development Program) project. Pruscha supported her efforts on a voluntary basis and designed the hotel village. In 1971 construction work started and the entire complex was inaugurated on 25 September 1974 in the presence of Queen Aishwarya Rajye Lakshmi Devi, who before her marriage to King Birendra in 1970 had earlier studied at the Padma Kanya College. The name of the hotel village, Taragaon (tara = star), refers to the bright “stars” in the sky. The hope was, as Angur Baba wrote in 1974, that the village “will shine like a star in the sky. It fairly conveys, in a nutshell, the profound meaning and the ultimate aim of this hotel village project.” It was meant to be “a welcoming and comfortable bungalow village devised for fascinating encounters with Nepalese people, culture and landscape. Modern architecture is combined with the traditions of Nepalese culture and way of living.”
The Taragaon Development Board
Following the uprising of the Jana Andalon I in April 1990 and the subsequent establishment of democracy, the Nepal Women’s Organisation (like many other organisations in the Panchayat era) was abolished, but although Angur Baba Joshi was suspected of being a supporter or even accomplice of the Panchayat power setup (“Panche Bhakta”), she was successful in persuading the prime minister to remain active as president of the newly established Taragaon Development Board. As land ownership had reverted to the government, a public-private partnership was envisaged, under which by the middle of the 1990s a company named Taragaon Regency Hotel Ltd. was established. In 1997 the village hotel was closed and the planning and construction offices for a large hotel moved into the individual bungalows. The opening of the Hyatt Hotel was celebrated on 17 February 2000.