The Taragaon Museum
A short walk from the Boudhanath Stupa and within the premises of the Hyatt Regency Kathmandu, stands the Taragaon Museum, originally built in 1972 by Carl Pruscha and re-opened in March 2014.
The Taragaon Museum seeks to document the 50 years of research and cultural heritage conservation efforts of foreign artists, photographers, architects and anthropologists on the Kathmandu Valley during the second half of the 20th century. The Museum showcases the restoration and rehabilitation efforts to preserve the artistic and architectural heritage of Kathmandu.
It was Mr. Arun Saraf’s vision to document what visiting architects, artists and scholars contributed to 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. Mr. Saraf wanted to showcase the richness and complexity of the Kathmandu Valley’s heritage.
Architecture – Restoration & Rehabilitation:
Ms. Natasha Mittal Saraf started the restoration project to repair the buildings at Taragaon to become the Taragaon Museum, meant to demonstrate the preservation efforts on the architectural heritage of the Kathmandu Valley and to re-purpose to former hotel into a thriving Centre for Arts and Culture.
Taragaon is a unique contribution to the architectural history of Nepal.
Rana architecture used white brick dust plaster, and the villas of the 1950s used plaster with cement coat, often kept grey to demonstrate “modernity.”
Carl Pruscha’s outstanding merit is to have revived the use of red facing bricks. The architect was inspired by the barrel-vaulted shelter buildings along the Ghats, a style which he introduced to Taragaon’s architecture.
Architecture always has “imported” elements because architecture is essentially transcultural in character. Newar architecture incorporated central Asian and later Mughal elements, and the Ranas turned to Neo-Classicism. Visitors from all over the world appreciate Carl Pruscha’s unique contribution to the world of architecture.
Restoration Team Leader:
Natasha Mittal Saraf
Space Planning & Restoration:
Originally designed by Carl Pruscha in 1970 as the Taragon Hostel, the Museum today is a cluster of seven buildings that form a center for the appreciation of Nepal’s artistic and architectural history.
Currently on exhibit at the museum are 18th and 19th century photographs, watercolors and engravings from the 19th century, architect and artist sketches, maps, plans, drawings and various other documentations of the built heritage of Nepal.
Taragaon aims to attract those interested in the visual, artistic representation of a culture. The exhibitions at the Museum intend to establish dialogue on the history of the Kathmandu Valley and the cultural changes it has undergone.
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 square feet.
Besides its permanent collection, the Museum has its Contemporary Art Gallery, Event Hall and two outdoor Amphitheaters.
We welcome art and photography exhibitions, musical events, fashion shows, conferences and film screenings. The Museum has its own Café-Bar to cater events.
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.
Angur Baba Joshi was born at Dillibazar in Kathmandu on August 15, 1932, as the daughter of Pitamber Prasad Panta and Deep Kumari. She was eleven years old when she was married to Bala Ram Joshi, who was twelve years old at the time. She remembers her marriage as a happy event, and 50 years of conjugal life have followed since then, in which her husband was always a supportive partner.
She studied privately at 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. 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 left a lasting imprint on her future life: once, when she told somebody that she was from Nepal, she was asked where in India that was. Ever since then, she has felt committed to promoting the identity of her country and to bringing what she calls “Nepaliness” into her projects.
When she returned from England, she became the chairperson of the Nepal Women’s Organisation of the Kathmandu District, and as the organisation was without financial 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, thus enablingthe products to be manufactured andthen 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, Joshi’sultimate goal was always “to propagate Nepali culture.”
With the organizations, came an influx of intellectuals, artists, photographers and writers. The focus of the Museum is to preserve their work, which would otherwise be lost. These expatriates, who spent three decades in Nepal traveling far and wide across the country, are now returning home. The Museum is collecting their contributions, which have never been showcased or recognized. Taragaon’s architectural form itself is significant in the artistic advancements in Nepal’s culture. Originally built in 1970, Taragaon has now been restored to its original architectural glory after facing extreme damage due to neglect.
The Origin of Taragaon
The impulse to promote “Nepaliness in the tourism industry” prompted Angur Baba to initiate a new project in 1968: the construction of a hotel that deliberately exhibits “Nepaliness.”In 1969 His Majesty’s Government compulsorily acquired a large tract, around 350 ropani (ca. 178,000 square metres), of almost unproductive land between Chabahil and Bauddha through a proper notification in the Government Gazette. A compensation of 1,500 rupees per ropani (ca. 500 square metres) was granted and the land was 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 Once under a United Nations Development Program (UNDP) project. Pruscha voluntarily supported her efforts and designed the hotel village. In 1971 construction began and the entire complex was inaugurated on the 25th of September, 1974, in the presence of Queen Aishwarya Rajye Lakshmi Devi, who had 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 was built with the intention of being “a welcoming and comfortable bungalow village devised for fascinating encounters with Nepalese people, culture and landscape,” in which, “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 17th February 2000.