Monday, December 31, 2001

Bhaktapur Durbar Square

Heritage tour

By Razen Manandhar

Whenever one talks about the monument conservation in Nepal, he or she names Bhaktapur Durbar Square as a model — the way of protecting it and cashing benefit of conservation — all has set an example for the country itself.

When Henry Oldfield visited Nepal in 1880, Bhaktapur was "largest and most costly of any in Nipal." And Merry Slusser justly writes in her book —"For the moment, at least, Bhakpapur remains one of the remarkable treasures of the Kathmandu Valley — indeed, of the globe."

The indigenous settlements developed a city in Bhaktapur long before the Lichhivis came into power in the fifth century, the historians hypothesize, though, a few Lichhivi inscriptions and architectural remains have so far been frond from there. Still, we have names of ancients palaces like Tripura and Yuthunium, though we can’t locate where they might have stood in the mediaeval Bhaktapur.

Some historians believe that Bhaktapur is the oldest royal palace of the valley. Still, the oldest found inscription of 594 AD shows that it was a Drung (or big town) called Khopring (the city is still called Khwapa in the local Newar language).

Chronicle Gopalraj Banshavali states that King Ananda Dev established Bhaktapur state in 1146 AD. The predominantly Hindu state was developed in the 12th century and different kings, who came to Bhaktapur’s throne after it became a separate state of the valley in 1482 AD. By the 15th century, the state of Bhaktapur was surrounded by strong walls and moats to secure it from unfriendly neighbours (the wall and city boundary have disappeared). It is "traditionally" divided into two parts — upper and lower — that can be traced in the annual festival of Bisket Jatra even today.

The last three kings Jitamitra Malla, Bhupatindra Malla and Ranajita Malla (1673-1769 AD) were among the kings who contributed the most to decorate the royal square, which we see today.

Not only the palace area, but the whole of the city is full of midaeval temples and residential houses. The stone or brick-paved streets, brick-made houses and temples — all equally decorated with smooth bricks, tiled roofs, carved windows and doors, wooden struts or columns with designs of deities and animals and topped with gilded pinnacles.

Today, the fifty-five window palace is the centre of the protected monument zone. The main palace used to stand elegantly with 99 courtyards but now it has only half a dozen to possess. Mulchowk (supposedly the oldest remaining part of the palace), Bhairav Chowk, Ita Chowk, malati Chowk, Siddhi Chowk, Kumari Chowk are some of them.

After undergoing numerous stages of renovations, it still represents the complicated and miraculous Newari architecture and excellent wood carving, and extraordinary wall paintings. However, it has lost its original spectacle after it was restored following the collapse during the earthquake of 1934. The palace is waiting for renovation and the locals say dirty games among the contractors is the reason behind the delay.

The Yakhseshwor Temple, the Statue of King Bhupatindra Malla, Golden Gate, Taleju Temple, The Golden Spout, The Big Bell, Chyasilin Mandap, Siddhi Laxmi Temple, Vatsala Templeand Chaturbramha Mahavihar are the major monuments at the Bhaktapur Durbar Square.

Along with this we cannot neglect other landmark monuments which lie outside the Durbar Square. These include Nyatapola Temple, Bhairavnath Temple, Dattatraya Temple, Bhimsen Temple, Salan Ganesh Temple, Tekhacho Barahi Temple, Wakupati Narayan Temple, Chhuma Ganesh Temple, Nawadurga Temple, Rudrayani Temple, Mahalaxmi Temple, Hanuman Temple and Kamal Binayak Temple. Apart from that, the Peakock Window and Tucchimala Terracota Window and Talako Potter Square are other spectacles of the historic city.

Lokeshwor Mahavihar, Jyetvarna Mahavihar, Akandasheel Mahavihar, Lumbavarna Mahavihar, Mangal Dharma Mahavihar, Indravarna Mahavihar, Dhimottar Mahavihar, Adipadma Mahavihar, Bishow Mahavihar, Parasannashil Mahavihar, Dipankar Mahavihar, Manjuvarna Mahavihar, Yangalvarna Mahavihar, Chaurvarna Mahavihar, Jetvanr Mahavihar (Tekhacho), Jaya Kirti Mahavihar, Sukravarna Mahavihar, Sukravarna Mahavihar (Kwachukhusi) and Tom Baha are all indispensable parts of the cultural heritage of the city of Bhaktapur.

In the Durwar Square itself, three separate museums, for paintings (in the main palace wing), metal-craft (Chikamapa Math) and woodcraft (in Pujari Math) are allocated.

The efforts of the Bhaktapur Municipality in conservation of the cultural heritage is always appreciable. Kamal Binayak Pond, Bahare Pond, Bharwacho Gate, Jagannath Temple, Shiva Parvati Temple, Chhuma Ganesh Temple, Chaurabahi Monstery and other renovations are some major projects the municipality carried out last year. Of course, the much-criticised entrance fee is the bedrock of the renovations. The only demand the citizens have is that the renovation should not be only toursm promotion-centred, all the city should benefit from the money, not only the streets whey the tourists walk around.

Thursday, December 27, 2001

Maitighar corner to get exotic look with mandala, stupa and water spouts

By Razen Manandhar

KATHMANDU, Dec. 26 – The traditional artisans of the Valley’s Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur districts have always been competing with each other in their field since ages. But, for the first time, they are joining hands to create an artistic structure to replace the concrete structures at the Maitighar junction.

About two dozen artisans from around the Valley are working day and night to finish this traditional structure to decorate the two-ropani-land at Maitighar, which has just been cleared for the preparation of the upcoming SAARC Summit.

Kathmandu Metropolitan City is working on a war footing to construct an eye-catching landscape with a 64X64 feet Astamangala Mandala, a Stupa and traditional Dhunge Dhara (waterspout), giving a luxurious look to the corner.

"We are doing our best to complete this project before the SAARC Summit," said Padma Sundar Joshi, co-director of Kathmandu Valley Mapping Project of KMC. "And I believe, it will be completed by that time."

The project team is also thinking of constructing a view tower nearby, as the beauty of the colourful Mandala will not be seen from the surface.

According to the technicians of Astra Development Network Pvt Ltd, the oval-shaped land which lies in the middle of the corner will have a Mandala on a dome in south west, a set of three water spouts in south-east and a stupa on a hillock in North.

A dozen of technicians are making the base for the Mandala with around 14,000 kg of iron at Radha Structure and Engineering Works (RSEW) at Thimi, Bhaktapur.

"We have never done such a huge and artistic job before," said Ghanshyam Poudel, the technical director of (RSEW). "But most of the things will be completed within a week."

He said KMC provided them a small drawing of the Mandala, out of which they produced a 100 per cent drawing with computer and the workers made fragments of iron rods from the drawing. "First we tried a one-eight portion of the whole Mandala on elevated surface and started working on the whole thing."

Now the portion of eight auspicious signs, "Astamangala", is being made in the factory but the cost of the whole project is yet to be estimated.

Chief of the KMC’s Public Works Department Jyoti Bhushan Pradhan said that after the iron base is placed on the surface, it will be filled with coloured materials on every chamber, divided by the iron rods. "It is just like making the traditional Mandala in religious occasions," he said. "The only different is that we are not using colour powder but something that will not be blown away with wind."

Artist Lok Raj Bajracharya and his sons at Gwarko of Lalitpur have already completed the construction of a five and a half feet high Stupa with four Dhyani Buddhas.

"As the KMC came here with the proposal a bit late, we will not be able to complete the water spouts before SAARC Summit," said Bajracharya. "But we have ready-made water spouts which will be temporarily fixed at the site."
[Kathmandu Thursday December 27, 2001 Paush 12, 2058.]

Monday, December 24, 2001

Swayambhu hill monument zone

Heritage Tour

By Razen Manandhar

The holy hill of Swayambhu at the north east of Kathmandu City is considered to be older than the valley itself. The origin of the heterogeneous collection of art and architecture, that kept on developing on its own for at least 1500 years, is associated with legends of origin of the Valley. Legends aside, it is a piece of legacy for the whole country and one among the best of the Stupa architectures of the world.

Buddhist hand-written books has adored it with different names like Goshringha, Gopuchha, Bjarakut, Padmagiri and it is popularly known among the Newar community as the Shyegu hill.

The 50 square-metre-big Swayambhu stupa (with idols of Akshobhya Buddha, Vairochan Buddha, Mmaki Tara, Ratnasambhava Buddha, Padmapani Tara, Amitabha Buddha, Arya Tara, Amoghsiddi Buiddha and Sapta Lochani Tara) is the principal monument in the zone. The golden Bajra, Anantapur, Basupura, Bayupura, Harati or Ajima Temple, Buddhism Museum, Gyanmala Sattal, Devdharma Monastery, Karmaraja Monastery, Mangal Bahudwara Chaitya, Nagpura, Pratappura, cluster of Chaityas, Standing Buddha, Agnipura, Abalokiteshwor, Shantipur are other monuments on the top of the hill. And there is Mahamanjusri Temple, Old Swayambhu Stupa etc surround the main temple hill.

The Buddhists believe, thousands of years ago, when the whole valley was a lake, a legendary scholar Mahamanjushi came from China, send the water out a gorge in Chovar and developed the valley as a centre of civilization. According to religious books, the credit of creating Swayambhu goes to the Buddhas who were born thousands of years earlier than Sakyamuni Buddha was born in Lumbini. Bipashwi Buddha planted a lotus on which a "thousand-petalled" lotus emerged.. It later developed five colours, which then turned into five Dhyani Buddhas. Other Buddhas like Shikhi, Bishombhu, Krakuchhanda also visited the hill and paid homage to it. A King Prachanda Dev is said to be the first constructor of the stupa of Swayambhu and other major monuments around it.

According to the Gopalraj Banshavali, the oldest ever found chronicle, it was Brishdev, who constructed the stupa of Swayambhu for the first time. The oldest inscription found there is of King Mandev, the Licchibi king of 5th century AD. All we can say is that the hill and the stupa became a place pilgrimage, Buddhist learning centre and a altar of Buddhist creed, mainly of Mahayana sect as early as 11th century.

In the course of time, the stupa of Swayambhu had to undergo numerous incidents that destroyed and distorted its original beauty. Some, who renovated the main stupa or added new monuments in the vicinity included, King Shiv Singh Malla, King Pratap Malla, King Parthivendra, King Bhashkar Malla and others. Later, King Ranabhadur Shah, King Girban Yuddha Bikram Shah and King Rajendra Bikram Shah also continued the glorious tradition of the Malla kings. Even Ananta Jiv Bharo, Abhay Singh Bharo and others, from the public contributed for renovation of the stupa. The traditional artists and their skill did amazing task to keep the sucha a huge pile of mud and brick intact for hundreds of years on a top of a hill which has its forest thinning year by year. The tradition, still alive, either beautify the monument or blemish the ancient monument.

The birthday of Lord Buddha is the main festival of Swayambhu. And, the Gunla (August-Septempber) is the month-long festival when thousands of pilgrims attend the stupa and scores of musical troupes play special drum called dhaa. Once in a 12 years, an exceptional Samyak-mahapuja takes place which is graced by His Majesty King also.

But, it is disappointing that the original shape and architecture of Swayambhu is being lost mainly in last several years. After being enlisted in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, a Swayambhunath Conservation Masterplan (Swayambhu 2000) was recognised by the government in 1989 that was supposed to be complete by the year 2002. The masterplan suggested the government to demolish dozens of eyesore structures and to restrict any new construction.

However, the government has not demolished a single building. Instead, new concrete buildings, Mane-gumbas ae being constructed along with serious encroachment of public land. Similarly, the whole hill is being covered by piles of garbage. Only one of two traditional building recently got facelift in last several years.

The holy hill is not in need of money for renovation. A German project that provided assistance for renovation of Swayambhu stopped giving money because it is has enough to self dependant. As other monuments, Swayambhu also charged entrance fee from the visitors but it still lacks fasilities. A ridiculuous fight took place between the federation of "religious" bodies and the municipality when the latter tried to manage the money collected from entrance fee.

This is going to affect the whole valley in near future. The reputation the valley gained after being recognised as a World Heritage Site will be lost if UNESCO delists it in the coming general convention in 2002.

With ‘useless’ committees dissolved, Lumbini lies abandoned

By Razen Manandhar

KATHMANDU, Dec 23 - The renovation work at Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha and a 2500-year-old archaeological site, has run into troubled waters after the committees formed to oversee the work were dissolved a month ago.

With no monitoring body around, all restoration work at the Temple of Mayadevi and surrounding areas have come to a standstill in Lumbini, one of UNESCO’s four World Heritage Sites in the country.

On November 23, the Minster for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, Bal Bahadur KC, dissolved the eight voluntary organizations set up to renovate the temple of Mayadevi, calling them "useless", say officials at the Lumbini Development Trust (LDT), the authority in charge of development plans for Lumbini which has the Culture Minister himself as Chairman.

"It’s only in the newspaper that we read about the dissolution of the committees, we have not yet received any such formal notification," says Professor Sudarshan Raj Tiwari, the coordinator of the LDT’s Technical Committee.

Professor Tiwari says the voluntary committees formed seven months ago were a remarkable achievement of the LDT, one that could rope in professionals to work selflessly towards the upkeep of Lumbini.

Special plans for Lumbini were mooted back in the 1967, when the then UN General Secretary U Thant put forth the idea of Lumbini as an international centre for peace. By 1978, a Japanese Professor, Kenzo Tange, had come up with a master plan that covered 1150 bighas of land divided into three zones: for a garden, monasteries and a research centre. But nothing exceptional has taken place in more than two decades.

Nabin Chitrakar, Chairman of one dissolved committee which was looking after promotional aspects, says that Lumbini has now been deserted after many worked for their "personal benefits". He says millions of dollars might have been spent on studying various aspects related to the development of Lumbini. The kind of money that came by way of international donations is incalculable, says Chitrakar.

"Till now, there have been 20 major studies on Lumbini and 22 bank accounts in its name but we don’t even know where they are," he added.

Chitrakar says after Nepal entered an agreement with the Japanese government that a Japanese Buddhist Federation would fund the renovation of Lumbini, a series of problems cropped up as governments kept changing every other year, and there was no communication between the Federation and the Nepali government.

"One after another glamorous plans poured in—from Nepali as well as foreign designers—to beautify the shrine. Each tried to outdo the other, while the politicians and the so-called Buddhists scholars made lots of profit out of the ruins," says Chitrakar.

The sacred garden where Lord Buddha was born 2545 years ago has indeed been subjected to all kinds of renovation ideas. Such as covering the birth marker stone with bullet-proof glass, covering the whole archaeological area with a special rectangular or square tent, and constructing a gold-roofed temple.

Chitrakar also accuses the international experts who "dropped in at the site" as hampering the renovation process. He says an authorized technician from Japan was responsible for delaying the development plans by many years because he never got to submitting the technical report.

Former treasurer of LDT and a member of the Upper House, Laxmi Das Manandhar, says none of the politicians have been sincere in seeing through the restoration work on the temple of Mayadevi, and all that they have done is to hold seminars.

"The LDT does nothing more than making and breaking committees. It should at least do something for the idol of Mayadevi, which has been lying in a cow-shed-like hut for the last five years. Even the pilgrims don’t want to go there," says Manandhar. "The permanent temple might take another decade to complete. But by this time, a temporary temple could have been erected."

The voluntary committees that have been dissolved are: the National and International Coordination Committee; Economic Management Committee; Recruitment Committee; Archaeological Conservation, Research and University Establishment Committee; Promotion Committee; Technical Committee; Employee Security Committee, and the Mayadevi Temple Renovation.

LDT Vice-Chairman Omkar Prasad Gauchan says these bodies have been dissolved for "Lumbini to have a new beginning".

Millions of Buddhists and all those who respect heritage sites, can only hope that it indeed is true.

Saturday, December 22, 2001

In the thick concrete jungle, wood is dead

By Razen Manandhar

KATHMANDU, Dec 21 – Nepal might be a country known for its forest wealth, stretching from the east to the west, but it is seldom these days that people build houses using wood. One of the reasons they give is that timber is more expensive than concrete, cement and iron rods.

Devendra Dangol, the chief of Urban Development Department of Kathmandu Metropolitan City, says that out of the over 3,200 houses being built in the capital presently, over 90 per cent are using concrete as the base material.

"The house owners feel proud to have a dhalan (concrete) house. I don’t know whether it is necessary at all, but all the masons and consumers seem to prefer using concrete to wood and other local materials for building houses," says Dangol.

Architect Sharosh Pradhan of SP and Associates says he does not use timber in his construction work because it is too costly. "When we suggest timber for structural use such as beams and columns, the cost gets doubled," he says.

Quality timber is available in the market at prices ranging from Rs 250 to Rs 1000 per cubic feet.

According to workers at the Timber Corporation of Nepal (TCN), the price of timber grows not because of its scarcity or rising demand but because of the bureaucrats and the "commission game" that has been going on for decades in the TCN and other related government bodies.

"The dealers, whether private or government staff, have to pay a specific price to the government as royalty, which is actually very low. Then different parties claim the contract to cut timber at a particular area. For this, these parties have to bribe the officers. In the long process of passing from one contractor to another, the price of timber increases," said a TCN employee. He also added that the government could earn as much as Rs 440 million from the unused timber lying around in different parts of the country.

But Professor Sudarshan Raj Tiwari, the former Dean of the Engineering Faculty at the Tribhuvan University, says the low use of timber has also got to do with the fact that increasingly, the architects are in favour of concrete buildings.

"Most of them have studied in Western countries and are taught about using new materials for building houses. They love to experiment with what they have been taught, and there is a tendency to show off as ‘foreign-returned’," says the Professor.

"Concrete structures are not necessary for small houses. Wood is strong enough for a house of 3-4 floors, and we are indeed rich in wood resources," he says.

Programme Manager of WWF, Ukesh Raj Bhuju, says there are both positive and negative sides in the case of using either wood or cement for house constructions. "We need to cut trees to build wooden houses, and in the case of concrete, we have to put up with smoke of cement factories," says Bhuju.

The general thinking is that hard wood such as Sal are expensive or difficult to procure. But the fact is the government has quite a big quantity of wood lying chopped in jungles or timber depots unsold.

Harishankar Shrestha, the General Manager of Timber Corporation of Nepal, says there are choices of wood, and clients can reduce the cost by 50 per cent if they choose "second class" wood which is "not bad" for buildings.

The Joint Secretary at the Ministry for Forest and Soil Conservation and Spokesman Uday Raj Sharma also says that scarcity of timber is not the reason for the mushrooming of concrete houses. "Millions of cubic feet of timber are decaying in the jungles and in the depots of TCN. There must be some other reason for people not using timber these days," says Sharma.

A recent report, Forest Resources of Nepal (1087-1998), states that the country has a wealth of 108 million cubic feet of Sal trees, the most preferred species of wood for strong structures and the one which has the largest reserve among the eight types of "economic class" trees.
[Kathmandu Saturday December 22, 2001 Paush 07, 2058.]

Monday, December 10, 2001

Temple complex of Lord Pashupatinath

Heritage Tour

Razen Manandhar
Since thousands of years, the 264-hecate-big complex of Lord Pashupatinath temple by the bank of holy river Bagmati, which shelters around 500 Hindu temples, and also residences of the a thousand or so local people related, have been the centre of creed. Beside being the prime centre of devotion for the Hindus of the Himalayan Kingdom, it has been one of the most adored pilgrimage for the Hindus of India too.

A popular legend has it that a gifted cow used to drizzle milk on a particular knoll by the Bagmati River, on the first step of flourishing of civilization in the Kathmandu Valley thousands of years ago. That was the time when cow herdsmen ruled the valley. One among them became quite curious about the knoll and he dug the place one day, just to discover a "like-a-light" idol of Lord Pashupatinath. The historical cronicles atest that the form of the linga, as the idol, have came into existance in as early as by the begining of the 5th century. However, the present one should not be older than that of 1350 AD as that was the year when a Muslim invader shattered the holy idol into pieces.

After that most of the kings who ruled the country in the past paid homage to the Lord and either re-constructed the prime temple or added individual temples to beautify the complex.

The temple is one among the seven major monument zones that makes the Kathmandu Valley a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Apart from the main shrine, the temples of Basuki, Unmatta Bhairav, Kotilingeshwar and some other are inside the temple courtyard. Guheshowri, Vishowrup, Gorakhanath, Ram, Kirateshwar, Rajrajeshowri, Batsaleshowri, Panchadeval, Bankali and Shitala lie around the holy shrine. And the temples of Battais Putali, Jaya Bageshowri, Charumati Bihar, Chabahil Lokeshowr, Chabahil Stupa, Chandra Vinayak, Bhandareshowr Mahadev, Tamreshowr Mahadev are some among other major shrines of the protected monument zone.

The Pashupatinath Temple area is an abode of rituals and festivals around the calendar. Mahashivaratri is the most widely celebrated festival in the Pashupatinath area. Balachaturdashi, Haritalika Teej, Haribodhini Ekadashi, Harishayani Ekadashi and Mukhastami are some of the local festivals.

A committee was formed in 1977 for the development of the holy area and Pashupati Area Development Trust (PADT) was founded in 1986 to launch and integrated development of the whole area. A Bagmati Area Development Project is spending quite a lot of money to clean the river that flows along the temple area. There are over 200 youth clubs and social organisations are working in the Pashupati area development. Quite a big number of people, including some well-known industrialists have come up with enthusiastic proposals to improve the area.

But almost all have cooled down before the dreams are materialised. The 15 years old state-funded Trust is still selling the dreams and other clubs are juut dormant. The real status of the prominent Hindu shrine of the Hindu State that lies in the centre of the capital city comes under the leaders’ notice only when their close relatives die and they have to sit there for an hour. Then it can not be unusual that their sentimental proclamation to develop the area dries as the monsoon passes.

The PADT has started collecting entrance fee from the tourists several months ago but any remarkable improvement is yet to be seen. There are scores of temples waiting for restoration, some lucky ones were also granted with too slow projects. The security in the archaeological area is almost nil. News of art theft are on the rise. The Trust plans to improve the area by chasing away the local people, who in fact are a part of the living heritage of the temple area. Thy are not allowed renovating their houses and a nightmare of being dislocated haunts them every night. Illegal construction around the area are going on. Even the monkeys and oxen have been victim of the deteriorating environment. The queue of beggars, hawkers, drug-abusers and pseudo-jogis are what today feature the holy area. Under this circumstances, the holy region which is also a major heritage site too, needs more sincere hands to protect and preserve it.

Friday, December 07, 2001

Patan Durbar Square

Heritage Tour

By Razen Manandhar

Asmall but rich in uniqueness city lies just six kilometres south of the capital. The city of Patan or Lalitpur, named Yala in local language, was a separate state three hundred years ago and the kings ruled from the Patan Durbar Roayl Palace till Nepal was conquered by King Prithvi Narayan Shah in 1769.

The Patan Durbar Square is called Chaukot Durbar and Mangal Bazaar, which is derived from Manigla or Manigvala, the ancient name of the palace. It is no less significant than that of the Hanumandhoka of Kathmandu though it is smaller in spatial distribution.

Probably there had been a administrative office by the 7th century as the King Narendra Dev had addressed the area as Yupa Grama in his writing. A chronicle adds that a 11th century king Bara Dev started living in the palace as his father abandoned the throne. Similarly, contexts that King Rudra Dev constructed different courtyards in the palace by 1170 AD but lacks strong conformations.

On the foundation of chronicles, what today is seen there is mostly the creation of three of the prominent kings of the state of Patan King Siddhinarasimha Malla, Sri Nivas Malla and Yog Narendra Malla in 1619 to 1705 AD.

The present status of the Durbar Square has three courtyards - Mani Keshar Chowk, Mul Chowk, Sundari Chowk, the Bhandarkhal Garden and Kamal Pokhari in its complex.

The major temples can be found in and around the palace are : Bhai Degaa, Maharani Pokhari, Octagonal Krishna Temple, Shiva Pagoda, Hari Shankar Temple, Shiva Temple, Narshimha-Vishnu Temple, Jagat Narayan Temple, Krishna Temple, Vishwonath Temple, Bhimsen Temple, Mani Ganesh Temple, Degutale Temple, Taleju Temple, Shiva Pagoda, Ganesh idol, Hanuman idol and Hanuman idol.

The Big bell, Statue column of King Yognarendra Malla, Statue column of Garuda, Mangal Water spout are also the parts of the complex. Besides, the public building of Taha Phalcha, Aayoo Guthi House and the platform of Mani Mandap also have their significance being the public places which shows the cultural proximity the palace permits to the public.

The Patan Museum is sophisticated but it also stands as an example of the intrusion of the foreign technology in conservation of the archaeological monuments. Many archaeologists objected in the form the conservationist gave to the inner courtyard of the Keshav Narayan Chowk.

Further, Shiva Pagoda Temple, Temples of Saugal, Ibahabahil, Machendranath, Minnath, Purnachandi, Kwalakhu area, Hiranya Varna Mahavihar, Kumbheshwor, Chapat Ganesh Rudra Varna Mahavihar and Mahaboudha Temple are some other temples which are close to the historic palace and they all combine to make the Durbar Square a zone of UNESCO World Heritage Site.

But though, this Durbar Square is waiting for conservation. Shops for modern appliances are rented in the Durbar Square and a rows of curio shops, squat upon the main area. One side of the palace is used as a school whereas the other side is left idle, after using it as a district court. The precious doors and windows are decaying and the local Royal Palace Protection Office, a section of Department of Archaeology is waiting for budget to renovate the heritage zone. The masterpiece Tusaa Hiti or Sundari Chowk is closed for several years afer a constly documentation, in the pretext that some international agency would come and renovate it for our sake.

Lalitpur Sub-metropolitan City started levying entrance fee from the tourists in Janaury 2000. Out of the money, it has recently stated renovating several temples outside the palace. But Department of Archaeology is yet to show its existence in the World Heritage Site. The modern buildings are rising in the vicinity against the Protected Monument Zone Act. The whole complex is standing without a single security personal to safeguard the mass of priceless monuments.

Amazingly, it is one of the most favoured platform for the Cummunist leaders to hold mass meeings. Even the radicals, who show their existance by dismantling historic temples in remote districts, choose the velnerable zone to hoist cycle-and-hammer flag on temples being renovated.

"In 1997 work on heritage conservation plan for Patan began with funding from the German Technical Corporation (GTZ) under its Urban Development through Local Efforts programme. Its publication, Patan heritage Conservation Action Plan, 1998, was prepared by Sandy Kentro Associates. This provides detailed suggestions for strategic, physical, and managerial planning with significant inputs also from the Department of Archaeology, but fails to relate its own recommendations to the historical background of earlier planning proposals for the Patan World Heritage Monument Zone," states an evaluation report of International Safeguarding Campaign for the Kathmandu Valley 1979-2001.

Thursday, November 15, 2001

Nepal Era awaits government recognition

By Razen Manandhar

KATHMANDU, Nov 14 - He was only a layman but he not only liberated all of his fellow citizens from all their debts but launched a new era by the name of his country, after taking permission from the monarch. That was exactly 1,122 years ago.

The New Year is celebrated with extravaganza — in cultural milieu, rock-n-roll concerts and boisterous motorcycle rally at least in the Kathmandu Valley and some other cities where the Newars predominantly reside.

"There was a merchant called Shankhadhar Sakhwa in ancient Kathmandu who possessed piles of sand that turned into gold. Rather than using it for his personal purposes, he paid off all the people’s debt and launched a new era," says historian Bhuwan Lal Pradhan, quoting ancient history books.

The kings of all the dynasties marked this Era in their historical inscriptions for over a millennium until the year 1911 when Rana Prime Minister Chandra Shumsher replaced it by a solar calendar Bikram Era, on the pretext that the government had to pay salary of 13 months in every three years when lunar calendar was used.

Pradhan adds that Nepal Era plays a pivotal role in the cultural life of Nepalis as most of the festivals are celebrated according to the lunar calendar upon which Nepal Era is based.

Though the whole cultural life of Nepali people is guided by the Nepal Era, it is never used directly in administration these days.

Secretary of Nepalbhasa Academy Indra Mali said that the Nepal Era deserves government recognition as it is established by a citizen and carries the country’s name. This must be only one Era of its kind in the world as most of the eras are either based on religions or established by monarchs.

The Newars, the indigenous people of the Kathmandu Valley took initiative to revive the glory of Nepal Era after the democracy of 1950. The Nepalbhasa Mankaa Khala (NMK), a community organisation gave it a formal touch after the NMK started carrying out cultural rally on the first day around the core city in 1988 and a glamour events like motorcycle rally also became the part of the festival-cum- movement.

However, as community leaders admit, this support of the Newars to Nepal Era unknowingly gave an impression among the people that the Era belongs only to the Newars.

Padma Ratna Tuladhar, the chairman of NMK says that as the Newars show active participation in celebrating this national event, people from other communities as well as political parties have a misconception that Nepal Era is a Newari one with significance only to the Newar community.

"This is the reason why after promising speeches on its value and importance of its recognition by the government from political parties, several prime ministers and other prominent political figures, the implementation is showing lukewarm response," he says.

Tuladhar says if Nepal Era belongs to the Newars only, this must also be the case with the art and architecture of the ancient Kathmandu Valley that was created by none other than the Newars.

"The state should recognise Nepal Era as the national heritage and emblem of unity, coming out of boundaries of who created this Era in the name of the country," Tuladhar adds.

He says since the present official calendar Bikram Era is Indian by origin, the state should replace it with Nepal Era, which has a rich history and is attached to the cultural life of the whole country.

Tuladhar suggests that the state could use internationally recognised Western calendar for daily use after accepting Nepal Era as our national calendar.

He further clarifies that the movement of Newars for indigenous people’s right or development of their mother tongue is quite different from the annual function that takes place on the fourth day of Tihar.

"The movement of Nepal Era may end after the government recognises it. But the movement for the development of local language and culture will not," he says.

Monday, November 12, 2001

New scheme to save ancient idols

By Razen Manandhar

Time has changed and the technologies to conserve the ancient monuments should also undergo a worldwide change. So, many international agencies have landed in this country and each of them has taught one or another lesson to Nepali neo-conservationists. Just to name a few are those who built the inner courtyard of the Keshav Narayan Chowk at Patan and Chyasilin Mandap of Bhaktapur. Let’s learn from them.

The Department of Archaeology (DoA), the body that has been entrusted by the government to safeguard the historical monuments of this country, is launching a new project largely to save thousands of idols in the Kathmandu valley. It is just "the thousands" because the department has neither made a complete list of the existing monuments, nor of the stolen ones; so it often quotes foreign heritage experts. Well, the leader of this innovative project has a grand design in his mind to protect the monuments, which will put an end to the decades old saga of priceless idols being stolen from the valley almost every week.

Actually, devising a great plan to launch this new scheme was quite difficult. To make it happen, the enlightened officers of DoA had to travel in one or another country almost every month. They were so busy in attending seminars that they did not remember the topics and outcomes.

The unprecedented scheme will be implemented in three phases: In the first phase, all the ancient idols will be removed from the old and out-of-fashion temples. The department has recently announced a vacancy for the post of plucking officers. Only professionals will be allowed to touch the idols. It would have been better, if the temples had also been preserved, but that needs more money than it is possible for a government body where nobody can escape the Auditor General’s report. Though the authority has not yet imagined how big a warehouse they need to store those idols, the department will manage to keep all of them in its dusty godown.

In the second phase, the newly made fake idols will be reinstalled on those vacant nitches or pedestals of the temples. DoA sources said that the government was ready to spend quite a lot of money to instal fake idols for cultural monument preservation. Local craftsmen will be approached first to copy 200 to 2000 years-old idols. If they can’t install them satisfactorily, international craftsmen will be invited from across the border. If the budget does not allow the authority to have all the replicas of the idols made, they will place colour photographs instead.

The city dwellers have no sense to differentiate between the century old idols influencing the creed, sentiment and culture and the fake idols and photographs. The project manager has a premonition that devotees will love to rest their foreheads on the fake idols and photographs.

The readers might wonder where on earth are the displaced idols supposed to be kept in future. Here is the answer.

In the third phase, all the plucked-out idols will be distributed to royal palaces to make them decorative pieces. Antiques will be kept in air-tight cases of glass, with artistic looks. The cultural property that the UNESCO recognizes as symbol of the local civilization will enhance the value of such luxurious buildings where public access is almost impossible. Even if they can go, they will strictly be prohibited from performing foolish acts like worshipping and asking for blessing.

Authorities say this scheme will also prevent such valuable archaeological objects from being smuggled out.

Sunday, November 11, 2001

Controversy puts Mhapuja in limbo

By Razen Manandhar

KATHMANDU, Nov 10 - Mhapuja, one of the most significant festivals among the Newar community of Nepal is facing a problem since over a decade due to controversy in dates a group of astrologers bring about almost every year, says the community leaders.

The controversy of dates has put the people in a difficult situation as they find it extremely difficult to make time for Mhapuja, which is traditionally celebrated on the evening after Laxmipuja and a day before Bhaitika.

"Mhapuja is the day when the indigenous people of the Kathmandu Valley worship their own body as a platform to exercise the spiritual power but over a few years due to the controversy in dates people tend not to celebrate the festival at all", they say.

Tihar generally a five-day-long festival of lights contains days for worshipping crow, dog, Laxmi or the Goddess of wealth, cow-dung (Goverdhan) and brothers. According to tradition, the evening of the fourth day of Tihar or the day to worship Goverdhan is celebrated as the Mhapuja.

According to chancellor of Nepalbhasa Academy Satya Mohan Joshi, this festival binds the diverse nature found among the Newars.

"This festival embodies the ethnical unity and hereditary common original culture of the Newars," said Joshi, quoting the Birtamod Declaration of 1995 recognised by the second national conference of the Newars.

However, General Secretary of Newaa Dey Daboo (Newar National Forum) Naresh Bir Shakya said that since a decade or so, the chain of festive events has not been regular except once or twice.

Shakya said "A handful of astrologers want to distort the spirit of Tihar to please some high profile people."

Prem Man Chitrakar, the chairman of Nepal Traditional Artists’ Association, who has been publishing the lunar calendars since the last 11 years said that though different social organisations publish calendars for the following year - from Tihar to Tihar, a Calendar Decision-making Committee (CDC) dispatches a notice through state-owned media a week before the festival and most of the time they change the five-day series of the festival.

"They (CDC members) turn it into either four-day or six-day long, saying it is decided according to the lunar movement", Citrakar said.

He added, "A number of astrologers want to please the Royal Palace by setting the appropriate time of Bhaitika as per the Royal Authority’s demand. As a result, the former day, that is the day of Mhapuja, keeps shifting," he said.

Chitrakar further added that the date of this year’s Mhapuja had been set a year ago when his association, including other two dozen bodies published calendars according to the Nepal Era, which follows the lunar movement. "But CDC, as usual, published a notice on November 5 which claimed that what we set a year ago is wrong and warned that unwanted hazards would follow if CDC’s new timing is not followed."

Most of the astrologers had fixed this year’s Laxmipuja for November 15 and Mhapuja on November 16, leaving November 17 for Bhaitika following the lunar calendar a year ago. But last week, CDC issued a notice that Bhaitika must be carried out on November 16 Friday and carrying out Bhaitika on 17 would not be appropriate.

Chairman of CDC Dr Mangal Raj Joshi said that it is the committee’s duty to find out auspicious time of Bhaitika for the Palace and the general public also follows it.

"We issue the notice for interest of the general public saying that they should follow the dates issued by us. Bhaitika is the festival of all the people whereas Mhapuja is only celebrated by the Newars. In this context we have to give priority to Bhaitika rather than Mhapuja," he admitted.

On the other hand, cultural scholar Maheshwor Juju Rajopadhyay charged Dr Joshi for working under other people’s pressure and that even he himself cannot follow what he prescribes through the fabricated notice of CDC.

"Last year he said that the date of the festival should be determined with the lunar date of the time of the sunrise but this year he contradicted his own philosophy and followed the clock," Rajopadhyaya said.

Dr Joshi has prescribed us to first "invite" Laxmi in homes and then go to worship dogs — which is just against the tradition.

He warned, "In many cases a group has been quite active in suggesting people to celebrate religious festivals on wrong dates. This is why serious ominous events are taking place in the country. And even bigger catastrophe will follow if not checked in time."
[Kathmandu Sunday November 11, 2001 Kartik 26, 2058.]
[http://www.nepalnews.com.np/contents/englishdaily/ktmpost/2001/nov/nov11/local.htm#5]

Thursday, November 08, 2001

Future of Okharpauwa landfill site still uncertain

By Razen Manandhar

KATHMANDU, Nov 7 - The future of the 250 million-rupee landfill site at Okharpauwa is still uncertain as the Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC), the prime user of the site, is not convinced that the solution is indeed practical.

Municipality officials say the new landfill site being constructed by the government will cost about Rs 680,000 per day for the municipalities because it is located far away from the city centre.

The Solid Waste Management and Resource Mobilisation Centre (SWMRMC) of Ministry of Local Development is constructing infrastructures to turn this 430 ropanis of land at the northern fringe of the Valley, Sisdol of Okharpauwa VDC, into a landfill site. Okharpauwa has been regarded as the proper alternative for solid waste management in the Kathmandu Valley, at least for the next 5 to 7 years.

But KMC is still indifferent to the solution being sought since last two years after the previous landfill site at Gokarna was filled up.

Mayor of Kathmandu Keshav Sthapit has repeatedly opposed the government’s selection of the site, saying that it is not practical and is "motivated by the personal interest of political figures." Instead, he has asked the government to provide 200 ropanis of land outside the city area, where a composting plant could be established to manage solid waste.

"Everybody knows that dumping 300-400 metric tonnes of solid waste at a place as far away as Okharpauwa, about 28 kilometres away from the city, in trucks is not possible," the mayor said. "This will only create unwanted hazards everyday."

Head of KMC’s Environment Department Shanta Ram Pokharel said KMC has been asking the government to provide a nearer location, where a composting plant could be established because solid waste is not a thing to throw away but to reuse it.

"We have been asking the government to provide us some land in Halchowk or Chobhar areas but our voice has never been heard," Pokharel said.

But he did not say whether KMC would deny using Okharpauwa or not. Rather he added that the present facility of vehicles KMC now has is insufficient to transport solid waste there.

Solid Waste Section Chief of KMC Rajesh Manandhar said the biggest problem KMC will have to face now is because of the distance. The site lies 28 kilometres away from the city centre and the vehicles will have to face long traffic jams, especially at the Balaju Bypass.

He estimated that the transportation alone would cost KMC about Rs. 250 million if they use the new landfill site. Instead, the government should use this money to acquire land in nearer location, he said.

KMC presently has seven compactor trucks and one open dump truck to transport 650 cubic metres of solid waste that the Kathmanduites produce everyday.

"We will have to make four trips of eight trucks to travel 28 kilometres each carrying 20 cubic metre of garbage in narrow roads. That is quite difficult if not impossible. And one cannot expect all the vehicles to be in condition everyday," says Manandhar.

However, Devi Prasad Subedi, general manager of SWMRMC, says that finding a site near the city is not possible.

"We agree, the proposed site is far away. But there is no other way than choosing that place to make a landfill site," Subedi said. "And the distance is not very far in the present day."

Subedi added that the construction of roads has been completed except for the last three kilometres and two bridges and a public notice for land acquisition is being published soon.

Kathmandu and Lalitpur have been dumping the wastes along the banks of the Bagmati river for the last seven months. Earlier, the garbage was used to fill the area around Guheshwori and Jorpati until protests arose as birds hit aeroplanes in the nearby Tribhuwan International Airport.
[Kathmandu Thursday November 08, 2001 Kartik 23, 2058.]

Tuesday, October 23, 2001

People unconcerned about meat quality

By Razen Manandhar

KATHMANDU, Oct 22 – For all the non-vegetarian Hindus, the festival of Dashain is always the best time of the year as meat is synonymous to the celebration.

The festival is never complete without an exclusive preparation of different meat dishes. But, people tend to forget or have less time to think about the quality of the meat they consume.

Sacrificing male animals to Hindu Goddess Durga is one of the most important aspects of the festival as thousands of buffaloes, goats, cocks and geese are sacrificed in various temples as a part of the festival puja.

Professor of theology at Balmiki Campus Ram Chandra Gautam said that strict rituals should govern the sacrificing of animals, which people seldom follow. "The animal to be sacrificed should be healthy, strong and without any bruises and they should be slaughtered with least pain," says Gautam.

However, as amateurs carry out the most sacrifices in the temples and homes, the meat can be less hygienic.

And most of the local butchers here are found be practicing unhealthy method of slaughtering. They generally use small knives to kill animals and use little water to clean the meat.

Shyam Krishna Khadgi, a local meat sealer at Khichapokhari, said that the present market price of the meat do not allow them to use more hygienic practices in killing and treating the meat as it cost them more than what it cost at present.

"Those who advocate about quality meat should also be ready to afford the price," says Khadgi. "Why do people make a hue and cry when we are selling the meat at nominal profit."

But experts stress that quality should come first than the price. They argue that improper killing of animals make the meat substandard.

Dr Durga Dutta Joshi, chairman of National Zoonoses and Food Hygiene Research Centre (NZFHRC), has an interesting logic. "If the animals are killed while they are in stress or tense, then the meat becomes less hygienic," Dr. Joshi said.

"Even the animals can feel and their body reacts when they are in immense tension at the time of slaughtering," he said.

He said the animals sustaining physical and mental stress before slaughtering and killed in slow process make the meat less attractive, green, greasy, foamy, stiff, tasteless and difficult to cook.

Dutta said that the animals should be transported, kept and slaughtered without letting them feel stressed to produce the best of their meat.

A Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) booklet states that glycogen or sugar content of the muscle is high in healthy and well-rested animal.

If the animal is stressed before and during slaughter, the glycogen is used up, and the lactic acid level that develops in the meat after slaughter is reduced, it is said in the booklet. "The acid in the muscle has the effect of retarding the growth of bacteria that have contaminated the carcass during slaughtering and dressing, which obviously will have adverse effect on the quality of meat."

"It is also important for animals to be well-rested for 24 hours before slaughter," says the booklet.

However, the quality of meat in the market here is far from satisfactory as the majority of the shopkeepers sell unhygienic and substandard meat. No one has ever thought about developing a proper system of checking animals before slaughtering. And to make the matter worse, there is no provision of monitoring the quality of meat before it reaches to the market.

According to a data provided by Dr. Dilip Subba, a food scientist, Kathmandu is the largest market for meat, where people consume 368 buffaloes, 218 goats and 17,558 chickens every day.

There had already been an effort from Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) to construct a proper slaughterhouse for the last one year. It had even selected a location for the construction at the city’s ward No. 12.

But, locals there, who till now been involved in unscientific butchering of buffaloes, protested the KMC’s move. This has left the project in a limbo, further delaying the process of guaranteeing safe meat in the capital market.

Wednesday, October 10, 2001

A private project to renovate three temples at Hanumandhoka

By Razen Manandhar

KATHMANDU, Oct 8 - While government bodies are working in a snail’s pace to preserve the city’s cultural heritage, a non-government organisation has taken the responsibility to renovate three ancient temples at the Hanumandhoka Durbar Square.

The Kathmandu Valley Preservation Trust (KVPT), an NGO working in the field of heritage conservation, has received the permission to renovate the temples of Jagannath, Indrapur and Narayan and beautify the Durbar Square maintaining its archaeological importance. KVPT is spending over Rs. 20 million from different national and international donors.

Among them is the 438-year-old temple of Jagannath, known for its beautiful struts with erotic carvings. Constructed by King Mahendra Malla in 1563, this temple is considered to be the oldest structure that remains intact in the area. Pratap Malla introduced Indian style idols of Jagannath, Subhadra and Balaram in the eastern doorframe of the inner quadrangle of the temple.

King Pratap Malla constructed the temple of Indrapur in 1650 while the temple of Narayan was added in the late 17th century as mentioned in history books.

KVPT had to wait for almost 18 months to get permission from the Department of Archaeology, the prime government body that controls and preserves historic monuments.

It finally got the permission to renovate three major temples of the World Heritage Site a month ago but the Trust waited till the Indrajatra to begin the field works, said Rohit Ranjitkar, an architect of KVPT.

Now that the running around for government permission has finished, the project has already begun its works. And it will take some four years to complete the project, according to Ranjitkar.

"We will do our best to maintain their historical values when we replace the ruined parts with new ones," said Ranjitkar. "Though it will increase the cost by more than two times, we will let the history live in the temples."

Ranjitkar said the project would not bring the whole structures down, as it will only ruin its original beauty.

Most of the temples and buildings of the 12th-century-palace collapsed during the 1934 earthquake and the then Rana Prime Minister Juddha Shumshere painstakingly renovated them from the national treasure.

Pictures taken before the earthquake shows that the Narayan temple collapsed to the foundation whereas only the first floors of other two temples fell down due to the 8 rector scale earthquake, according to Ranjitkar.

He said the barandah of Indrapur, the third floor of Narayan temple and the doorsteps of Jagannath temples are different from the pre-earthquake pictures. "The renovation will try to bring back the shapes of pre-earthquake monuments by using old pictures," said Ranjitkar.

The trust has spent more than a year in documentation of the temples of the Hanumandhoka area. "Such detail documents will be useful even to reconstruct such temples in future and let people understand their value," Ranjitkar said.

KVPT intends to uplift the archaeological environment of the Hanumandhoka Durbar Square - from cleaning to raising awareness for the locals and erecting an information stall either for the tourists or for the locals.

KVPT has the experience of renovating Radhakrishna temple, Kwalakhu Pati, Patukwa Aganchhen, Lakhe Aganchhen and Kulima Narayan temple in the Patan area.

Friday, August 24, 2001

At 84, ex-Kumari Hira Maiya continues to enjoy her conjugal life

By Razen Manandhar

KATHMANDU, Aug 22 - Ever since the news of the enthronement of the new Kumari, Nepal’s Living Goddess, fell into the ear of 84-year-old Hira Maiya Shakya, she is impatient to visit the Kumari House at Hanumandhoka Durbar Square, where the royal goddess resides.

Happily married to a craftsman of the Capital’s Srighaa area 70 years ago, she is the eldest among the surviving former Living Goddesses of the Himalayan Kingdom. She is also a living proof of the fact that husbands of former Kumaris do not land up in trouble as rumours circulating in the city have it.

Shakya often thinks about "the ancient House with beautiful doors, windows and wall paintings", where she spent "most precious years" of her life as the Living Goddess or Kumari. That was in the 1920s. She becomes nostalgic especially when she hears the news about the arrival or enthronement of a new Kumari.

"She is there to protect the country and the monarch," Shakya proudly says echoing the popular belief.

Four-year-old Priti Shakya was installed as the new Kumari or the Living Goddess of the Hindu Kingdom on July 10 after her predecessor reached her age of puberty.

"I can’t stop thinking about that pretty House, which gave me a new name and unparalleled fame. I wish I could go there every day and serve the new Kumari wholeheartedly. But I’m too old for that," she says.

She was installed as the Kumari when she was just three years old. But she was forced to retire in the same year after she contracted smallpox, an epidemic then. And when she was just 15 years old, Hira’s parents arranged her marriage with the craftsman, Pratyaknanda Shakya.

"I cannot quite remember whether I was happy or not when my mother told me about the man. I think that was okay. I have been with him till now," she says, her bright eyes shining and her wrinkled face smiling wearing a coy look - something rare at her age.

Her life changed after she came to her husband’s house, however. She had to be obedient to her parents-in-law and work at the house day in and day out.

Hira Maiya rules out rumours that a former Kumari’s husband lands up in troubles or dies after marriage. "As I grew up, I heard about it," she says. "But those rumours did not affect our marital life at all. We lived a happy conjugal life. He loves me so much even today."

Her husband, Pratyaknanda, 87, says he feels proud to be a husband of a former Kumari. He adds, "I am lucky in many ways¼" He rules out the basis of the rumour, and says, "I do not say Kumari’s husbands never die; everyone has to die one day. There are widows, widowers. It is natural and not because they were former Kumaris or their husbands."

Hira Maiya cannot properly remember those important days (when she was a Kumari), but whenever she starts reminiscing those days she becomes excited. "It was such an amazing experience, like a dream. I did not have to work like my sisters. Everyone called me Goddess, and I could play as much as I liked," she adds.

She also remembers whenever the king came in front of her and she put vermilion tika on his forehead with her left hand. "The young King (Tribhuvan) came and watched the preparations for the Kumari procession from the white barandah of the Hanumandhoka Palace. Then he sat on the throne placed on the stone-paved platform in front of the Kumari House," she says.

Sunday, August 19, 2001

Breaking chains of tradition

By Razen Manandhar

Anamika Nepali loves her friends but can’t be friendly with their parents. She knows numerous parents from her locality who force their small daughters into prostitution, shutting off all doors to prosperity.

Fourteen year old Anamika from Jaynagar, Bardiya is closely related to the Badi community that prefers to practice prostitution. Though this community has left this traditional occupation to a large extent, there are still women who continue to live as cheap sex workers even wanting their daughters to follow them.

She has seen family members urging their 14 year old daughters into the sex trade. Many parents do not enroll their daughters into schools so as to enjoy their "earnings".

She argues flatly, "Why should the little children suffer just because their parents do not want to do any other work?"

Anamika now studies in the 8th standard and lives in a hostel provided by an NGO called SAFE Nepal at Nepalgunj a city in the midwestern district of Banke. She is the treasurer of Bal Chetana Samuha and is aware of the child rights activities going on throughout the country. By talking with the local children and guided by the facilitators of the group, she has built up a kind of self-confidence when arguing with any adult she meets over these issues.

"The elders come and teach us what we should do on these issues. But, I can bet, we know the issues more thoroughly than those guides, " she claims.

She blames the tradition, started by ‘mistake’ by their parents, as to why the children have been stigmatized by society. A few Badi children now in schools also suffer from social discrimination.

Anamika is too young to know what the government is sending to Geneva as a national report on the condition of child rights in Nepal. But unlike the activists, she speaks from the heart.

"Discussions with fellow children have put up lots of new ideas. We often argue over one issue in various angles with our club members. Sometime we come up with quite new ideas."

The situation faced by girls also troubles her young conscience. She wonders why only girls have to quit school just to take care of the younger siblings, the cattle and the farm.

She is determined to work for child rights when she grows up. "The world has realized how important the freedom of children is but only our parents have yet to understand it," she says.

Likewise, Bishal Rana Magar is another boy of the mid-western region who can challenge the adult facilitators in child rights issues. This 13 year old boy from Banke, though small, is candid enough to express his dissatisfaction about child rights and the adult activists.

The youngest son of a peasant family in Kaushila Nagar, Bishal never minds riding his bicycle to and from his school Tribhuwan High School at Kohalpur, 5.5 km away from
his home.

Three years ago, members of the Rural Development Service Board of Nepal visited his school and formed a children’s club, the Progressive Children’s Group. He presides over the group which has round 30 members.

"We often discuss various problems related to children that the elder people do not want to heed. We find out the problem, discuss it and even plan what we can do to stop elders from being cruel to us," he said.

Bishal is a poet too. He can also quickly compose rhymes. His favourite theme is the fate-stricken children.

He worries that thousands of children in the mid-west region who work in cities as domestic workers or dish washers in restaurants etc. are not allowed to go to school. "The children do not have rights even to be organized. We have no platform from where to express our voices, from where we can expect justice," he says.

Both Anamika and Bishal took part in the public hearing of the first periodic report on child rights in Nepal being sent by the government to Geneva. Around 60 children discussed the draft report.
[Kathmandu, Sunday, August 19, 2001 Bhadra 03, 2058.]

Saturday, August 18, 2001

KMC to slap ‘service charge’ amid strong protest

By Razen Manandhar

KATHMANDU, Aug 17 – Despite the strong protest of the local businessmen and tourism trade organizations, Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) today placed its collection booths at three entry points to slap "Service Charge" from tourists entering the ancient Hanumandhoka Durbar Square of the capital.

Three of city policemen were injured and around a dozen protesters arrested in a scuffle followed by the lathi-charge in the morning, the witnesses said.

From Friday, each tourist shall have to pay Rs. 200 to enter the square from any side. And the tourists from the SAARC countries will be required to pay Rs. 25 per head. On the first day KMC earned total Rs 24,950 from 124 foreign and 6 from SAARC country tourists, a KMC official said.

Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Square was the only place among the seven zones that make the Kathmandu Valley a UNESCO’s World Heritage Site, where the tourists could enter free.

This decision is sure to lower the number of the tourists visiting the area that will leave a bruising effect on the already declining tourism industry, tourism related businessmen claim.

Ramesh Shakya, the chairperson of the newly formed Durbar Square Tourism Promotion Action Committee said the mayor’s greed could be harmful to 500 to 600 curio keepers, restaurant owners, hoteliers and their families.

"The KMC has done nothing to improve the situation of the monument area, so he has no right to levy service charge from the tourists," he said.

Barun Manandhar, whose Sugat Hotel lies in the monument area, when the KMC staff would require paying Rs 200 at each entry.

Shashi Bhandary, the secretary of Nepal Association of Travel Agents said the KMC’s approach to earn money out of the historic monument before providing any facilities to them is neither practical nor scientific.

"We can’t stop KMC from levying money. But it should understand how we suffer from that beggar-like approach to draw some more coins from our guests, whom we call idiomatically gods."

But mayor of Kathmandu metropolis, Keshav Sthapit said the project is a step to uplift the monument zone and the Core City as a whole.

"The money we collect from this zone will be spent on conservation of the area itself and to provide basic facilities for the tourists visiting the area," he added.

However, the conservation experts said that KMC has no rights to conserve the area even if it wants to for the ownership of the temples and other monuments located around the area since it has been shared by the Narayanhiti Royal Palace, Department of Archaeology and Guthi Sansthan.

Dr Chundar Bajracharya of Tribhuwan Universty said, "The responsibility of renovation is shared among the institutions that lack co-ordination. KMC sells dream of renovating the temples that are beyond the reach of common institutions."
[Kathmandu Saturday August 18, 2001 Bhadra 02, 2058.]

Sunday, August 12, 2001

Census figures throw up errors

By Razen Manandhar

KATHMANDU, Aug 11[2001] - Even after the preliminary results of the Census 2001 have been made public, allegations of wrong data abound.

The latest claim of misrepresentation of data comes from the villagers of Satungal, the ancient settlement about 12 km west of the Capital. And the "culprit," according to them, is the headmaster of a local school.

The locals allege that the enumerator, Ram Sharan Karki, recorded the religion of all the residents of the Newar village as Hindus and mother tongue as Nepali at random.

Karki has been working as the headmaster of Sri Nandi Ganesh High School for the last nine years and was also a supervisor during the 1991 Census.

Executive Member of Women Environment Preservation Committee (WEPCO), Yamuna Shrestha, a resident of Satungal, accused the enumerator of coding the mother tongue of all the people as Nepali and religion as Hindu. "If this is the situation in the Capital, what would it be in remote villages?", she questioned.

Though what the enumerators write in their collection-book is not disclosed, it remained no more secret in the densely populated village the data the headmaster was taking away three weeks ago was "far away from the truth".

Karki was made to revise the data four times. In his first report, he made some basic technical mistakes so he was asked to repeat the data collection.

In the second time, he indicated all the hundred over families of Shrestha, Maharjan, as well as temporary residents like Magar, Rai, Lama, Tamang, Chaudhari, Syangtan, Mahato and others as Hindus and their mother tongue as Nepali, the locals alleged.

In the third round, he corrected the religion and mother languages of the Newars, but left the data of other ethnic groups as belonging to Hindu religion and speaking Nepali as mother tongue.

The area supervisor Yogendra Rajkarnikar, pacified the agitated villagers by rejecting the data and ordered Karki to "revise" it.

At Karki’s fourth attempt, the locals followed him to each doorstep to see what he actually wrote in the data collection book.

"We followed the headmaster all day and found he was trying to misguide the citizens even in our presence" said a local youth Nhuchhe Bahadur Maharjan. The fourth data is now on the supervisor’s table and waiting for the sanction.

Rajkarnikar said, "What he did is that particular village can not be called merely a mistake," he said, but he refused to give the details of what kind of report Karki had presented previously, saying that " It is illegal."

However, the headmaster Karki defended himself saying that there were only "a few mistakes" on his report but the officers at Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) forced him to re-collect the data from all 240 families repeatedly.

"I bet, such mistakes can be found in all the 114 enumerators of the Kathmandu Kha district, but only I was victimised," Karki claimed.

He has not yet received his allowance though he has already submitted the fourth report on July 22 . Deputy Director-General of Central Bureau of Statistics(CBS) Radhakrishna GC said that "a teacher collected wrong information in Satungal and the process is on to correct it".

Sociologist, Dr Krishna Bhattachan said what happened in Satungal was just an example of the "concerted attempt" to produce fake statistics of Nepal, misusing the ten-year event of Census.

"That was not at all a mistake. Even in my home the enumerator tried to miscode the data of our family. When my family members objected, it was corrected using white fluids," he said.

CBS has already published its preliminary reports of the census that was held deputing over 25000 enumerators nationwide.

Monday, July 30, 2001

The show [of Kumari] and gaze o’ th’ times

By Razen Manandhar

A cheerful little girl, Priti Shakya of Itumbahal, gave continuation to the almost 720 year old tradition of choosing a flawless girl as the protector goddess, by entering the doorways of the artistic Kumari House at the now largely ceremonial Hanumandhoka royal palace two weeks ago.

After several examinations and final recognition from the king, the granddaughter of renowned traditional artist Siddhi Muni Shakya was made Kumari, a living representative of the royal deity Taleju. On July 10, she replaced the former Kumari, Amita Shakya, who "protected" the country for 10 years, some two and half months earlier than scheduled.

The world worships stones, carved into different shapes as saviours of mankind. They visualise all manifestations of Gods in the stones but the world finds it hard to accept a living person, with equal respect and love, as a god or goddess - this is human nature. They cannot accept anyone being celebrated in the same way a piece of stone may be. But Nepal might be the only country where a naive, little girl is. The girl is believed to represent the family goddess of the royal Taleju dynasty as a living incarnation with power to secure the throne s and the people’s prosperity. She is known as Kumari, the virgin one.

History has not yet traced the origins of the Kumari tradition. So far the chronicles argue that it started as early as in the time of a twelve-century ruler Gunkam Dev, to whom the credit of making this Kathmandu city goes. A chronicle, narrated by Daniel Wright in 1966 says that he instituted Indra Jatra festival by erecting the images of Kumaris. Further, Mary Slusser writes in her book Nepal Mandala that manuscripts written in 1280 and 1285 AD describe the method of choosing, ornamenting and worshipping Kumari.

There are several Kumaris in the Kathmandu Valley. Theoretically, each Bihar or the monastery should have one but many of them today have discontinued this tradition mostly due to lack of patronage. Kumaris can be found in Kwa Bahal, Kilagal, Tokha (Kathmandu). Sulimha-tol, Hakhaa Bahal, Bungamati (Patan), as well as Chaturvarna Mahavihar (Bhaktapur) among others.

Above all, the Kumari at Hanuman Dhoka holds the principal position for she is given an artistic house - Rajlakxmi Kul Vihara - with elegant woodcarvings and beautiful wall paintings. Her chariot procession during the festival of Indra Jatra is celebrated where the presence of the ruling monarch is a must. He receives ‘tika’ from her on his forehead and carries her divine sword to "recharge" the power of ruling for the next year.

According to Historian Dr. Chunda Bajracharya, till the Rana rule, the kings used to watch the festival from the stone paved platform in front of the Kumari House and follow the procession in a horse chariot.

The prime Kumari is selected from eighteen Viharas of Kathmandu. The girl must be born from "pure" Shakya families and free of blemishes. She is supposed to possess 32 "special signs" showing her divine nature. It is said that the candidate children are taken to a special dark room for a strenuous test, in which the little children has to sit in front of giant buffalo heads in puddles of blood where images of different unearthly creatures come and go in the oil lamp-lit chamber. The one, who can sustain the ghastly atmosphere bravely is selected.

However, Juju Bhai Shakya, the husband of the Kumari’s caretaker husband rules out any such criteria. "The only basis of selection are the family background, her physical characteristics and the stars. The jataa, or the birth-chart, prepared with detailed information of her birth stars, is sent to the astrologers for examination. If they permit it, she becomes the god," he says. He adds that a similar ritual is performed every year during the Dashain festival.

Chitaidars are hereditary caretakers of the Kumaris who live in the Humari House with the family. It passes from mother-in-law to the eldest son-in-law. She takes care of the god-child everyday. Bathing, doing make-up, feeding and also bringing other children in to play with the Kumari is her responsibility. The Kumari can play all day within her quarters but she is not allowed to go out of her residence except for 13 times in a year, during special festivals. The rule is that she should not even get the slightest of injuries. Any sort of bleeding, including menstruation would disqualify her from being a goddess.

There are numerous stories behind the origin of the tradition of worshipping Kumari. One says that an ancient king, Pratap Malla, used to play dice in his secret chamber with Goddess Taleju, the royal goddess and also seek advice in ruling the country. One night, perverted lust shadowed his mind and immediately the omniscient goddess vanished from his sight. Taleju, however, advised him in the dream that the king might select a Buddhist girl in whose body the Hindu goddess could dwell. The king followed the advice and received the power to rule from the goddess through the girl.

Jaya Prakash Malla, the last king of the Malla dynasty, was warned by the Kumari that his time of tenure would end soon and was asked to provide her with a permanent residence. He had the beautiful Kumari House built in just six months and also started the tradition of chariot procession along with two living attendant gods Ganesh and Bhairav - this gave him an extra 12 years on the throne.

As the girl reaches 12, or sustains any injury, she is sent to her home after a special ceremonial pooja. She starts her family life normally - studying, marrying and conducting a career as well – afterwards, but she is generally called by the name of Kumari, rather than her own name.

The tradition has continued, no political change or natural calamity has ever affected the unbroken chain. However, the set traditions are being modified along with time. Amrit Man Shakya, the father of the former Kumari, worked hard to grant formal education to her inside her residence and also urged the government to provide her with monetary allowances.

Today, he is grateful to the god for providing him with this opportunity.

The 84 year old Hira Maiya Shakya, the eldest among living former Kumaris did not know that studying was even necessary. She lives with her 87 year old husband at Bijayeshori.

But the parents today put emphasis on the child’s education. Rina Skhaya, the present Kumari’s mother said she was ready to send her daughter to become the goddess as the priests said that the girl would still get a proper education.

Twenty-two year old Rashmila Shakya, a Kumari till 1992, is now a modern girl. The career-conscious girl is now waiting for the results of the Intermediate Science examination. "That was quite fun. Playing and playing and no working at all," she said, remembering her merry childhood.

Juju Bhai Shakya of Kumari House says, the Kumari in position receives Rs. 6,000 as allowance, Rs. 1000 for education and plus much more. After retiring, they get life allowance of Rs 3,000.

About the present state of the Kumari tradition, Naresh Bir Shakya, a central member of Shakya Foundation said that the tradition of Kumari is at stake due to the people’s prejudiced attitude towards it.

"Some throw conservative rumours against it and others attack it with human rights propaganda, without even finding out the truth. But the tradition will continue as long as the Shakyas are ready to send their daughters to be Kumaris and I don’t think it will ever stop," he said.

The list of the former kumaris so far possible collected
1. Hira Maiya Shakya Wotu 1922-1923 BS married 0 children
2. Chini Shova Shakya* Lagan 1923-1931 married 2 daughters
3. Chandra Devi Shakya* Asonchuka 1931-1933 married 2 daughters
4. Dil Kumari Shakya Lagan 1933-1942 married 3sons ,1 daughter
5. Nani Shova Shakya Ombahal 1942-1949 married 4 sons,2 daughters
6. Kayo Mayju Shakya* Kwahiti 1949-1955 married 1 son,1 daughter
7. Harsha Laxmi Shakya Naghal 1955-1961 married 2 sons
8. Nani Mayju Shakya Naghal 1961-1969 married 1 son, 2 daughters
9. Sunina Shakya Ombahal 1969-1978 married 1 son, 1 daughter
10. Anita Shakya Sikamoobahal 1978-1984 unmarried
11. Rashmila Shakya Kwahiti 1984-1991 unmarried
12. Amita Shakya Asanbahal 1991-2001 unmarried
13. Priti Shakya Itumbahal 2001 unmarried
* passed away

The names of the Kumaris of earliers days could not be found.

Courtsey: Durga Shakya, Kumari House

Monday, July 23, 2001

Saving local architecture in monument zones

By Razen Manandhar

The cliché description of Kathmandu Valley as ‘the city of temples’ is incomplete because it is not only the temples but also the surrounding private residential houses that make the city a city of matchless cultural heritage. Without the beautiful, traditional and homogenous setting of the residential houses around the monuments, the protected temples would be incomplete and never deserve the title of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Site does not mean the individual palaces, temples or stupas but the whole setting of the city. The protected monuments — i.e. the royal palaces of Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur, the temples of Pashupatinath and Changu Narayan and the stupas of Swoyambhu and Bouddha— however are only the focus of the whole city.

The state of the centuries-old traditional buildings, that tell the legacy of the indigenous architecture of the valley, in the core of the Kathmandu Valley has been a matter of deep concern for the world conservationists. The government has enough projects, either on paper or in reality, to conserve the palaces, temples stupas and other monuments of religious or historic significance but few steps have been taken to keep the private houses of immediate surroundings of the monuments intact.

However, conserving such houses is not as simple as that with the nationalized monuments. Along with time, the socio-economic life and needs of the urban citizens have also changed. That is why, those old buildings made with traditional "datchi appa" bricks, carved windows and doors, and tiled roof are being replaced with concrete buildings, against the essence of the laws and regulations. The citizens obviously will not live in those outdated mud-and-brick houses unless they are guided to the significance of obtaining such historical houses. The conservation of inhabited monuments need cooperative efforts both from the residents as well as the government authorities.

Being an ancient city does not mean being dead — evolution is a natural and irrevocable process. Apart from that, the residents of such historic buildings have a responsibility of preserving the specimen of the gone generations. They must learn to be proud of their great grandfathers for allowing them to live around the monuments of universal importance. Living there means being involved in protecting the priceless palaces and shrines and welcoming the tourists too. In the present context, most of the houses belong to the Newars, who are noted for their deep-rooted love and attachment to the conservation of tangible and intangible cultural heritage. They should not escape from their hereditary responsibility.

Living in the monument zone and not obeying the special rules is not fair. Those who want to live in western-style buildings can also leave that precious areas and shift to suburbs in the peripheries of the city (though this is not a solution). Examples of the European cities illuminate that urban development should follow spatial patterns also. Rather than dismantling old buildings, the citizens should put effort to develop newer residential areas around the core city. In this way, the heritage would remain unaltered and at the same time, the city would expand and give more room for the growing urban population.

In the last two decades, the government has hardly done anything more than imposing laws and regulations to curb the deterioration of the masterpieces. The laws, formulated in 1956 and amended several times, does bind the house owners with ties. But how long the authorities can control the natural urban growth only with the help of the laws which are considered as impractical by the target groups?

Instead of imposing laws and trapping the residents in inevitable administrative complications, the government authorities should convince the citizens and raise public awareness. But for that, the officers must understand the value and feel the responsibility; only then some productive results can come out.

The residents should be given some incentives for living in such buildings. The subsidy on the paper is not enough to encourage them. The historic buildings can be sources of income: The houses can be used as restaurants, bed-and-breakfast guest houses and even as private souvenir shops. The history of the buildings will enhance the reputation of the service providers and also add pleasure for the visitors.

The threat imposed by UNESCO World Heritage Centre upon the Site of Kathmandu Valley to list the Kathmandu Valley in the Monument-in-Danger list is not new. In the international conference of UNESCO at Cairns (December 2000), the Kathmandu Valley was "the focus of public attention". It is not the monuments, mostly renovated with the help of international assistance, which worries the international experts, but the surrounding houses are the crux of the danger. Fourteen years after the valley was crowned with the World Heritage Site listing, Nepal’s steps to conserve the monument was far from satisfactory, so, the 16 Recommendations of the 1993 Joint Mission, the 55 Recommendations and Time-Bound Action Plan resulting from the 1998 Joint Mission were slapped on the Nepalese government. That also
became little prolific in Nepali context.

Article VIII.32 of the Cairns report concentrates on Kathmandu Valley and pinpoints the state of such public buildings. It says: "No new plans had been put forth by the Nepalese authorities to redress the persistent and continued deterioration of the materials, structures, ornamental features, and overall architectural coherence in most Monument Zones." The concerned officer there drew the Committee’s attention to the state of conservation of the site, highlighting the fact that in general, publicly-owned historic monuments were in good condition, but the problem lay in the urban fabric within the Monument Zones.

The Committee reiterated its deepest concern for the state of conservation of the Kathmandu Valley, where urban encroachment and alteration of the historic fabric in most of the seven Monument Zones composing the site have significantly threatened its integrity and authenticity.

The report also unveiled the level of knowledge of the observer of Nepal. The observer informed the Committee that they (the Nepali government authorities) were unaware, until 1992, of the World Heritage conservation standards, hence the errors made. That means we were enjoying the privilege without knowing the essence of it.

While the world level conservationists are showing their concern on the state of the private buildings of our old and transforming city, it is high time to take it seriously and produce some visible results in the near future. Our "lip-service" attitude of the government officials have annoyed the international experts living and observing the conservation works here. The feature of the indigenous architecture must be conserved soon, at least to maintain the sympathy we have been given by the world organizations. Otherwise, luck may not favour us in 2002 and being slapped with the Monument-in-Danger list, that we never want, will be unavoidable.

Sunday, July 22, 2001

Saving local architecture in monument zones

By Razen Manandhar

The cliché description of Kathmandu Valley as ‘the city of temples’ is incomplete because it is not only the temples but also the surrounding private residential houses that make the city a city of matchless cultural heritage. Without the beautiful, traditional and homogenous setting of the residential houses around the monuments, the protected temples would be incomplete and never deserve the title of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Site does not mean the individual palaces, temples or stupas but the whole setting of the city. The protected monuments — i.e. the royal palaces of Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur, the temples of Pashupatinath and Changu Narayan and the stupas of Swoyambhu and Bouddha— however are only the focus of the whole city.

The state of the centuries-old traditional buildings, that tell the legacy of the indigenous architecture of the valley, in the core of the Kathmandu Valley has been a matter of deep concern for the world conservationists. The government has enough projects, either on paper or in reality, to conserve the palaces, temples stupas and other monuments of religious or historic significance but few steps have been taken to keep the private houses of immediate surroundings of the monuments intact.

However, conserving such houses is not as simple as that with the nationalized monuments. Along with time, the socio-economic life and needs of the urban citizens have also changed. That is why, those old buildings made with traditional "datchi appa" bricks, carved windows and doors, and tiled roof are being replaced with concrete buildings, against the essence of the laws and regulations. The citizens obviously will not live in those outdated mud-and-brick houses unless they are guided to the significance of obtaining such historical houses. The conservation of inhabited monuments need cooperative efforts both from the residents as well as the government authorities.

Being an ancient city does not mean being dead — evolution is a natural and irrevocable process. Apart from that, the residents of such historic buildings have a responsibility of preserving the specimen of the gone generations. They must learn to be proud of their great grandfathers for allowing them to live around the monuments of universal importance. Living there means being involved in protecting the priceless palaces and shrines and welcoming the tourists too. In the present context, most of the houses belong to the Newars, who are noted for their deep-rooted love and attachment to the conservation of tangible and intangible cultural heritage. They should not escape from their hereditary responsibility.

Living in the monument zone and not obeying the special rules is not fair. Those who want to live in western-style buildings can also leave that precious areas and shift to suburbs in the peripheries of the city (though this is not a solution). Examples of the European cities illuminate that urban development should follow spatial patterns also. Rather than dismantling old buildings, the citizens should put effort to develop newer residential areas around the core city. In this way, the heritage would remain unaltered and at the same time, the city would expand and give more room for the growing urban population.

In the last two decades, the government has hardly done anything more than imposing laws and regulations to curb the deterioration of the masterpieces. The laws, formulated in 1956 and amended several times, does bind the house owners with ties. But how long the authorities can control the natural urban growth only with the help of the laws which are considered as impractical by the target groups?

Instead of imposing laws and trapping the residents in inevitable administrative complications, the government authorities should convince the citizens and raise public awareness. But for that, the officers must understand the value and feel the responsibility; only then some productive results can come out.

The residents should be given some incentives for living in such buildings. The subsidy on the paper is not enough to encourage them. The historic buildings can be sources of income: The houses can be used as restaurants, bed-and-breakfast guest houses and even as private souvenir shops. The history of the buildings will enhance the reputation of the service providers and also add pleasure for the visitors.

The threat imposed by UNESCO World Heritage Centre upon the Site of Kathmandu Valley to list the Kathmandu Valley in the Monument-in-Danger list is not new. In the international conference of UNESCO at Cairns (December 2000), the Kathmandu Valley was "the focus of public attention". It is not the monuments, mostly renovated with the help of international assistance, which worries the international experts, but the surrounding houses are the crux of the danger. Fourteen years after the valley was crowned with the World Heritage Site listing, Nepal’s steps to conserve the monument was far from satisfactory, so, the 16 Recommendations of the 1993 Joint Mission, the 55 Recommendations and Time-Bound Action Plan resulting from the 1998 Joint Mission were slapped on the Nepalese government. That also
became little prolific in Nepali context.

Article VIII.32 of the Cairns report concentrates on Kathmandu Valley and pinpoints the state of such public buildings. It says: "No new plans had been put forth by the Nepalese authorities to redress the persistent and continued deterioration of the materials, structures, ornamental features, and overall architectural coherence in most Monument Zones." The concerned officer there drew the Committee’s attention to the state of conservation of the site, highlighting the fact that in general, publicly-owned historic monuments were in good condition, but the problem lay in the urban fabric within the Monument Zones.

The Committee reiterated its deepest concern for the state of conservation of the Kathmandu Valley, where urban encroachment and alteration of the historic fabric in most of the seven Monument Zones composing the site have significantly threatened its integrity and authenticity.

The report also unveiled the level of knowledge of the observer of Nepal. The observer informed the Committee that they (the Nepali government authorities) were unaware, until 1992, of the World Heritage conservation standards, hence the errors made. That means we were enjoying the privilege without knowing the essence of it.

While the world level conservationists are showing their concern on the state of the private buildings of our old and transforming city, it is high time to take it seriously and produce some visible results in the near future. Our "lip-service" attitude of the government officials have annoyed the international experts living and observing the conservation works here. The feature of the indigenous architecture must be conserved soon, at least to maintain the sympathy we have been given by the world organizations. Otherwise, luck may not favour us in 2002 and being slapped with the Monument-in-Danger list, that we never want, will be unavoidable.
22/07/2001

Sunday, June 10, 2001

After eight years, World Heritage Site beckons visitors

[Sundari Chowk]
By Razen Manandhar

LALITPUR, June 8 - A period of eight years is too long for any beautiful heritage site to remain closed for common people and tourists citing renovation works. But not by the standard of Department of Archaeology (DoA), which has closed Sundari Chowk or the Royal Bath, one of the best parts of Patan Durbar Square, a site in the World Heritage List.

The Sundari Chowk or ‘the beautiful courtyard’, constructed in 1627 AD by King Siddhi Narsimha Malla, was used as a bathing place for the Malla kings and their families. At the centre of the courtyard, is a water sprout with a replica of Krishna Mandir. The Chowk is flanked by scores of stone idols of Hindu deities for the kings to pray gods after their bathe. Surrounded by magnificent wood pillars, door and windows and adored by finest woodcarving, the Chowk in itself is a symbol of art and splendour.

Founder president of Tourist Guides Association of Nepal (TURGAN) Dwarika Das Rajbhandari says, without access to the Chowk, visitors are denied of the grandeur view of the Patan Durbar Square. "We ought to show them this historical treasure that we have."

But the tourists have no options but to go through the old pictures in the guide books and wander what a beautiful opportunity it would have been to be in the historic site.

Mandankini Shrestha, Chief of the Durbar Protection Office, a wing of the DoA says that the Chowk is closed for conservation works. According to her, the DoA decided to close the 375-year old courtyard’s door for visitors because it was crumbling down and there was no project to renovate it. She reiterated the same old reason: "We lack budget for such a grand project."

In 1996, DoA and UNESCO jointly carried out a feasibility study for the renovation works, which billed the project cost at 265,800 US dollars.

Besides, she added that lack of security was another reason behind closing down of the courtyard. "The other problem is security. The courtyard has no security staff from army or police for one of the mighty World Heritage Sites," she said.

Mayor of Lalitpur Sub-metropolitan City, Buddhi Raj Bajracharya has been arguing the government to open the courtyard since several years.

"I had asked the DoA , the concerning government body, to open the ancient courtyard for the locals and visiting tourists. I even proposed to spend one or two million rupees to renovate it if necessary, but they refused it," said Bajracharya.

The conservation experts suspect that several artefacts could have been stolen from the World Heritage Site by now. They say there are security lapses since the nearby Ward Police Office was removed from the Durbar Square.

The courtyard was documented in detail in 1993, which lasted for 15 months, with the support of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) headquarters. Hariratna Ranjitkar, a conservationist, who was also involved in the project, said that though people were not allowed to climb upstairs then, the courtyard was okay and people came and went freely there.

"We worked as per the project and left it open. But after the completion of the project the courtyard was closed. I see no reason why the tourists and local people should be prevented from visiting such a beautiful place", he says.

Rajbhandari also thinks that the Chowk should be opened for tourists since they pay Rs 200 as entrance fee to enter the Patan Durbar Square.

Friday, June 01, 2001

Squatters not necessarily be landless

By Razen Manandhar

The credit of "success" of the unprecedented three-day bandh, called by the alliance of six left parties goes to the city squatters. Regardless of the organising parties and their motives, they come out enmass, where local people’s participation is scanty, to destroy the public and private property indiscriminately.

Development of a city, everywhere in the world, draws more and more people from surrounding city and even from the neighbouring countries. This extra numbers of immigrant population is not only a decoration but also a prerequisite to turn any settlement into a city. Growing urban population is an indicator of the people eager to earn more, which in turn makes the governments’ revenue and vote base broader.

Broadly speaking, Kathmandu Valley migrants, who squat upon public land without the permission of the local authorities during and after the Panchayati era, have a special identity. They presume all vacant public land as their own and it is within their rights to live there undisturbed.

They also enjoy all the advantage of being "citizens" but never pay back their dues. They are the squatters, the landless people or rural poor of different genre.

In a city one has to pay for everything. And, city life generally means expensive life. But, these hordes of people neither buy land nor pay rent. Why should they? If the local authority allows them to squat upon the entire public land, why spend money for room or a flat.

Now, the squatters themselves admit that there are around 1700 people living on public land. The real number can be double the figure because of the continuously growing encroachment. It is not a surprising sight to see scores of new hut mushroom overnight along the riverbanks.

For the local authorities they are heaven sent gifts. For them, the more the squatters the more chances of winning the next local election, be it at the cost of the planned development of a city. That is why such illegal settlements are seldom controlled or evicted. Rather, they work hard to issue them with voter’s list and sell dreams of providing land ownership certificates before each elections. Come election time, they even lend helping hands to provide them water and drainage facilities.

It is strange that no ministry, department or section has any jurisdiction over the thousands of wrongdoers. There is the Squatters’ Problem Solution Commission but the district where it has the office is not within its concern.

The municipalities often turn blind eyes to this sore sight of the city. The Kathmandu Mayor went to distribute "certificates" to the squatters living in permanent houses near Balaju. And Lalitpur Mayor persists that there are no squatters in his municipality so it is not necessary to devise any plan against them.

In that context it is not surprising that the squatters are now organised and they even threaten to protest over any urban planning along the riverbanks, conservation of river and riverside monuments or about the responsibilities of the citizens.

Most of those who called themselves landless are well-off people. The squatters’ organisation admits that many of the squatters have land in the village and have occupied several "plots" in the city. They earn enough for their family and have no bread and butter problem. They are employed in teaching, business, tailoring, running teashops, army or soldiers or other professions. They have their own co-operative company with millions of rupees that gives loans to women for small-scale business too.

Apart from that, the possibility of the squatters being involved in pick pocketing, prostitution, smuggling and other criminal activities cannot be overruled. Since they are not affiliated with the culture of the city dwellers, they are free to live, as they want.

Thanks to the foreign donations and some non-government organisations for helping them to develop their living standard. This is a big incentive for the newcomers — everything is ready for them. So why not some more squatters?

The strange aspect among squatters is that they do not want to live in some planned settlement in the periphery. They want to stay in the core city area and that too at free of cost. Democracy has given one right to all — be united and demand for anything, be it unreasonable.

We have to see how long the local representatives keep on caressing the city’s tumour in hope of winning next election at the cost the city’s structure, social and cultural values.
[Kathmandu Friday June 01, 2001 Jestha 19, 2058.]