Hindu Temple


On the Northern edge of Bainsghat stands a tall, 250-year old Hindu temple. It took us 5 days to paint entrance with the symbols of the sun and the moon, as requested by the local priest.




13 thoughts on “Hindu Temple

  1. Monsieur Toussaint,

    Many of us living in Kathmandu, this curious mixture of the ugly and the sublime, have been appreciative of the work done by graffiti artists here, such as those associated with Kolor Kathmandu. Not least because they have transformed many stretches of dreary concrete and brick across the Valley.

    But is this latest endeavour of yours, the defacing of a 250-year-old temple of Shiva, a case of graffiti gone mad? I am extremely curious to know which ‘local priest’ granted you the permission to paint over a part of the collective heritage of all Nepalis, and how the local administration/police went along with this. Your obtaining tacit permission to go ahead does not absolve you of the responsibility to consider whether it was appropriate!

    Yes, I understand that graffiti is a symbol of resistance, and painting slums certainly sends out a strong message (and probably cheers the residents). But perhaps you should consider whether you are in the right place to be painting over heritage sites, and whether you have displayed an incredible degree of arrogance in assuming that this particular crime would be greeted with the usual appreciation accorded to foreigners working in Nepal.

    An explanation would be welcome.

    Rabi Thapa

    1. Namaste Rabi Thapa,

      Painting the entrance of the Hindu temple was part of Share The Word Project in Bainsighat. In this project, we ask people to give us walls and words or symbols to paint. In this particuar case, it was the local priest (which you can see in the video) who asked us to paint on the entrance.

      I completely respect everyone’s opinion, although I must specify that the comunity leaders (including Mina, the head of Baingsighat) thanked us warmly for painting the temple last May. It took us 5 days, and people were very supportive. We got invited for tea inside the temple many times and the other people who live inside it were delighted. We did not see the police while we were painting it, although we met quite a few men from the armed forces who work nearby. We got many thumbs up from them too.

      In any case we wouldn’t have wanted to hurt people’s feelings, and we were glad that the whole project went along very well in Bainsighat, getting to paint there and getting to know the locals was a very enriching experience.

      Anyhow, thank you for letting me know how you feel. It is not a reaction I got from the local community while I was there, but I respect it all the same. Although it’s been a few months since the temple was painted I’m glad if art can lead to a debate.

      Seb Toussaint

  2. When they visited the slums, it didn’t seem one bit like a heritage site. People rarely came through that way, only unless they needed to. The people were so much happier when they saw the changes in their area. Again, One perspective: I do want to ask one thing though, if the people who’ve posted these pictures have actually visited the temple recently. This was done months ago and no one made anything out of it, instead more people came to visit and pay their respects in the temple. It’s not just about the appearance is it? I mean for the case of religious people, they should first have faith in their own belief in whatever god they pray, isn’t it?-such that the belief isn’t shaken by an altered appearance of some religious site, that instead, brings more worshipers and for the first time in probably a very long time, has brought light in the slum community there. Had it not been for this graffiti, this temple’s pictures would probably never have circulated around Facebook to begin with. The whole community was in support actually, and they are the ones who live near the temple and are closest to it, i feel that their vote should count more than people who haven’t even been there or knew it was there. If this is in fact illegal and in breach of some serious laws, including customs of cultural heritage rites in that area, then i think people can easily come together and work on restoring some features of the temple if they put their mind to it. Again, I understand this is a matter of debate but I think that one must also consider the feelings of the people who live in the immediate area, the new colors around their homes, and their reception towards it.

    1. Sometimes, the local community fails to appreciate the value of the cultural heritage that they happen to sit upon. That is the case with many heritage sites in India, where people shack (mostly because they don’t have anywhere else to go) and continue to destroy the heritage site without even realizing it.

      It generally falls upon the heritage organizations, and the aware citizens across the nation and the world to protect these sites. To paint an old temple is to destroy its natural texture for decades to come, maybe even a century, if the medium is sensitive.

      It cannot be undone for now, but at least promise not to paint any other old temple like this, even if the local residents ‘request’ you to do this.

      Creating art does not mean destroying others’.

  3. Monsieur Seb Toussaint,
    I saw the video you shared of your project. This project is itself a very good project . I myself love graffiti on wall and the idea of showing the slum area or slum people to the world through the street art if properly done. However it seems to me that you had no idea about our culture. You had probably good intention but I do not understand why you chose this heritage site to show your project ? I guess ( I only guess but not sure of that) this project was promoted and organised by Alliance Francaise of Kathmandu. Did you choose this area only because this place ( near Teku) is near Alliance Francaise in Tripureshwor? I saw some graffiti inside the Alliance Francaise and some are very fine. I’m not worshiper of Shiva or a Hindu but I’m too shocked by your art in this heritage site in Kathmandu. A good art can be appreciated only if the artist has ethics in his/her mind when he/she choose to show it in pubic. “Art without borders” is one thing but ” Art without ethics” definitely not should be considered. Imagine a foreigner doing the same thing on the wall of musée Louvre or on the wall of Notre Dame in Paris in the name of art unless he/she has an official permission. As a former French language teacher at Alliance Francaise ( and a passionate photographer myself ) I suggest you to be sensitive to people’s feeling the next time you create your graffiti wherever you may go.
    Any other comment from your side will be welcome. Thanks
    Ashok Shakya

    1. The project has nothing to do with the Alliance Française. And by the way I don’t even have a French passport. The project was organised and paid for by myself and Spag, a Norman photographer.

      The project in Bainsighat took place on 18 different buildings, and one of them was the hindu temple. The project itself isn’t all about painting the temple. It was just one of the murals. At the end of our stay, we were asked to paint the temple by the local priest. We trusted him and the other people who live in the temple, and went along with the mural. As I have said before, our work was very well received by the locals. I am not at all trying to impose something when I work on this project, I’m painting what the people give me, on the walls that they give me. I would absolutely never have painted on it if the community hadn’t wanted me to. Clearly, and I thank you in advance for believing me, there was never an intention of hurting people’s feelings.

      I do find is strange that we’re having a debate about this 3 months after it actualy happened. I wander how many people have actualy seen the mural apart from those who live in Bainsighat. I think this says a lot about this community.
      I respect all the different reactions, and once again find it strange that I didn’t get these reactions when I was painting the temple, but I’m getting them now.

      As for art on the Louvre, there has been graffiti done on the sculptures in the Louvre Metro station, and that sparked a very interestig debate at the time. Alas, the temple of Bainsighat is in a very different situation, it desperately needs restauring (especialy the top floor and the roof), and clearly not many people go there. It’s very central in the valley, it’s right by a sacred river (which is also in a bad state), yet it took 3 months for people to notice (or at least write about it).

      So I’m glad we’re talking about it! Thank you to those who’ve participated in the date! I’m sure people didn’t even know about this temple, and now they do.

  4. Seb, the community which gave you “lovely reception” do not have understanding of historical importance of this building. They simply do not know. But I think as a well travelling artist you know which buildings to touch and which to leave. As a traveler to Nepal you know that administrative condition of your country just by looking at our “scared river”( I sence a satire in your comment) so you cannot escape by authorities and security personals did not stopped you. If any one people who are protesting this action and taking time to comment on your website had seen it when you were painting it, we would have definitely stopped this act. It is as if you are taking advantage of our lax rules and defacing our historical buildings. It was in bad shape before but you have made is ugly. You have officially it declared it to be a part of a slum.

    Sir, when you go to paint only a owner of a private property can give you the permission. No one can give you the wall of the temple to paint. A gatekeeper of Taj Mahal cannot give you it’s white marble wall to paint. All we are seeking from you is an apology and if possible some way to remove that painting.

    However I would be more appalled if any Nepali have participated in this act without realizing what they have done.

    1. I am wondering how you know that the community does not know the historical significance of the temple entrance? Including the priests who actually live there?

      Since you realise that this building is of extreme historical significance I am assuming you have some sort of degree in Newari Architecture. Since there have been conflicting reports about the age etc. of the temple, I will be glad to hear an expert opinion on this matter.

    2. Hi Seb,
      I added this as a reply to your comment on the lalit website, but it is going through moderation and I am not sure if it will pass through moderation or not, so I am copy pasting it here.
      For a change, I liked the art you did there and I do not consider it a vandalism at all. As you mentioned before, you did it with permission from the person responsible there and the art is obviously admired by the local people and the people passing by when you were taking time to paint it. Just because some people begin to feel “need” to save the same “cultural heritage” after two months of art work, which they would ignore every day while passing by, and would not even feel to need to write an article even when it is about to fall down, please DONOT take it as all of our opinion. Maybe there are many people who admire your work like me and they are praising your work which has brought the building ignored for so many years to our attention. Please keep on doing your good work and finally thanks for all of your clarification on sensitized article.

  5. Having read all participants’ arguments above, I have to say, Seb (I’ve met you a few times through common friend and know you as a nice guy) your argument is hollow. You’ve gone too far by possibly not thinking through it, well-intended, but without realising what this country really is and what people in this country believe and value. You cannot hide under the excuse of “Local community” which you you and your sympathisers are using repeatedly. This issue touches far beyond local community. The site belongs to the nation. We are all ONE community. Your arrogance or naivety whatever this maybe, has angered a lot of people, not just once who chose to say something about it in this blog. You’ve done more than just angered people, you’ve hurt them. That’s why you are facing the reaction, the wrath. I agree some maybe bordering on extremism but what you have to do is take where people are coming from, what has hurt them. If you understand that and still not apologising, then mate you are showing your arrogance. If you do not understand, you need to learn more about this country and not do something like this to any other country of the same sentiments towards their culture and proud history.


  6. […] For his part, Toussaint expressed surprise at the delayed reaction of commentators such as myself, so unlike the instantaneous delight of the local community, the only people who seemed to be aware of the temple. He maintained that he was glad that a debate was taking place, bizarrely comparing his act to the vandalizing of reproductions of ancient statues at the Louvre Metro station in 1992 (https://sebtoussaint.com/2014/06/29/hindu-temple). […]

  7. […] For his part, Toussaint expressed surprise at the delayed reaction of commentators such as myself, so unlike the instantaneous delight of the local community, the only people who seemed to be aware of the temple. He maintained that he was glad that a debate was taking place, bizarrely comparing his act to the vandalizing of reproductions of ancient statues at the Louvre Metro station in 1992 (https://sebtoussaint.com/2014/06/29/hindu-temple). […]

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