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Starting from scratch: Determined to rebuild from the rubbles

Published on 08 May 2015

NIRJANA SHARMA & RIWAJ RAI

culture

An earthquake could hit Kathmandu anytime. That much was certain. Such a quake could reduce most of the cultural heritage sites into debris. That was also another known fact. And true to that expectation, the centuries-old world heritage addresses of Nepal crumbled within seconds of the mega earthquakes of April 25. Almost all archeological sites, reputed for their historical importance worldwide, have suffered serious damages. Many are just piles of debris now, and most of what is left standing have cracks, calling for immediate attention.
But this is not the first time the historical sites have undergone such severe damage. The previously recorded earthquakes of 1834 and 1934 have been equally or even more devastating, say archaeologists.

“Those monuments were rebuilt in different eras, otherwise we would’ve never seen a sign of their presence,” says archaeologist Prakash Darnal. The structures stand only because they were rebuilt time and again.
The details of the destruction of the heritages as published in the Gorkhapatra on April 8 in 1934 regarding the January quake the same year shows that 420 temples, monasteries and structures of cultural importance collapsed in that earthquake.
Then a teenager, veteran culture expert and litterateur Satya Mohan Joshi remembers the major monuments rebuilt in two or three years whereas the intensive restoration work was done throughout the decade of the then Rana Prime Minister Juddha Shumser’s regime. Archaeologist Darnal says that the willpower of the ruler is also to be given credit for our heritages being alive till now.
“Juddha Shumser seems to have equally focused on rebuilding of big to the smallest structures,” he mentioned.
Changunarayan, Kasthamandap, Patan Durbar, Bhaktapur Durbar, Dharahara, Swayambhunath, Ghantaghar all were in the list. Those sites have been damaged this time as well. Only Ghantaghar has survived, thanks to an earlier maintenance.
The temple of Kantishwor Mahadev in Ason was constructed only as a single storey after the three-storey structure collapsed in that quake. Similar was the fate of the Tripureshwor-based Purneshwor Temple.
Today, the international community has been questioning whether or not Nepal can rebuild the collapsed monuments. “There’s no doubt that we’ll be able to rebuild,” says former Director General of the Department of Archaeology (DoA) Vishnu Raj Karki.
Archaeologists also react differently to the opinions of many people in Nepal and outside that Kathmandu is no more a cultural city after the devastation.The local youths of the heritages sites, who had frequent tussles with the government authorities over the implementation of vehicular ban at the conservation sites, now have bigger tasks ahead of them. They say they will do everything it takes to have the lost structures restored.
At Basantapur Durbar Square, one of seven UNESCO world heritage sites in the Kathmandu Valley, people ran for life when the quake first hit. But the sense of ownership among locals was so strong that they have now decided to conserve whatever is left.
“While running for life, you forgot about the monuments. But now that we’ve reorganized ourselves, we realize that our history is our only foundation,” says Uddhav Karmacharya, the head priest at Taleju Temple at Basantapur.
Another local, Rajan Maharjan, says that the vigilante groups of volunteers have recovered many of the idols and other items that were missing after the quake.
“Not only Nepalis but also some foreigners took advantage of the chaos after the destruction,” Maharjan said. Expressing the determination to rebuild, the locals want to pressurize the government to begin the process of reconstruction as soon as possible.
“We shall do it ourselves if the authorities are reluctant,” says youth activist Ganapati Lal Shrestha.
The locals’ call woke the authorities up at the historical site, otherwise most of the monuments would have gone missing, he adds.
In the Durbar Square areas of Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur, the locals played a constructive role in involving people in clearing the debris, says Shrestha. Those who come to pose for photographs and selfies are requested to help move the crafted pillars, woods and arrange the bricks. As a result, the Durbar square premises have become visibly clean and managed, even at this stage.
Despite connections being snapped, the Nepal Electricity Authority has set up temporary arrangements. “Now Basantapur has started glowing again,” said Shrestha.
Archaeologists appreciate the spirit of the locals, saying that they are to be given credits for the promptness of the authorities for beginning from wherever it is possible. For now, the authorities have started fixing supporting pillars of bamboo and wood at the fragile temples which haven’t collapsed but can fall down anytime.
When it comes to the estimation of the costs required for rebuilding the structures, it is too early to make such assessments.
The DoA has said that more than 90 percent of the five of the seven UNESCO world heritage sites of the Kathmandu Valley has seen severe damage. Among them, Changunarayan Temple needs the most immediate treatment or it can fall to ground at any moment.
As per the preliminary assessment report of the DoA, 283 historical monuments have been damaged in the earthquake. However, Surya Bhakta Sangachhe, heritage conservation expert and former director general of Department of Urban Development and Building Construction (DUDBC), claims that nearly 400 monuments that include temples, viharas, stupas, idols and pati-pauwas have been damaged in the earthquake.
“The current report has missed the assessment of the Bhaktapur area. There alone, more than 115 monuments have sustained serious damages,” said Sangachhe.
According to Bhesh Narayan Dahal, Director General of DoA, teams of officials and experts were dispatched to make inventory of the damaged heritage sites right after the major tremor.
“The team responsible for inventory had left with the rescue teams. They took pictures of the damaged areas and came back with a bleak reality. Responsible authorities and officials at various heritage sites were alerted of the situation and told to monitor their sites with whatever help available,” said Dahal.
As per the preliminary survey, a budget of around Rs 2 billion can be a rough estimate for only renovating the damaged monuments. However, it is too early to estimate the costs required to rebuild the heritage sites. Here, the UNESCO is the key stakeholder and it has to participate both financially and technically to rebuild them soon.
The DoA, in coordination with SONA (Society of Nepalese Architects), has already mobilized more than 400 architects, both experts and voluntary students, in designing and sketching of the lost monuments.
“When we have so many talented architects and engineers here in Nepal, there’s no need to bring in experts from abroad. The reconstruction will be done by our hands because this is our pride and responsibility,” said Sanghachhe.
“We have young craftsmen who carry the legacy of their ancestors when it comes to rebuilding,” says archaeologist Darnal. The DoA has restored several monuments with their help in the past.
According to yet another expert, the young manpower can produce a complete replica just by observing the photos and thus they can be relied on.
“It’s time to hand the sites over to the next generation. Let’s think about making the structures resistant to larger-magnitude earthquakes, given the fact that this natural disaster is an inescapable part of Nepal,” says Darnal.

nirjanasharma@gmail.com
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1 Comment-

Girija Rasa writes-

“we realize that our history is our only foundation”.. such a hearty statement. the spirit of our nation is conjuring us to lock our hearts with iron chains of our mystic past. Nepal is spiritual heartland of this planet . The present day Nepal as we know it was the wish of Lord Pashupatinath which was fulfilled through Maharaja Prithivi Narayan Shah. Gorakhnath’s prasad which fell on Shah’s feet is the only reason that we stand as a nation today.

However this is not the first or the last miracle to have unfolded on our unfathomable stretch of yonder hills. Muni Manjushri and Syambhunath Lotus are as real and alive today as in the days of great lake that Nepal valley used to be.

Nepal is the mircocosmic interptation of the spiritual dimension,the ageless Leela of
Shiva-shakti.

Our foundation lies in the understanding of life in its essential form and from it alone has sprouted the hearts of every single men and women born here.

– See more at: http://www.myrepublica.com/the-week/item/20609-starting-from-scratch-determined-to-rebuild-from-the-rubbles.html#sthash.FAsnYNLV.dpuf

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Nepal’s own Kedarnath awaits facelift

NIRJANA SHARMA

BHAKTAPUR, July 11

It was twelve years ago when Bal Hari Chalise first visited the Kedarnath Doleshwar Mahadev Temple in Sipadol.
“Back then, the temple remained mostly deserted even though the main priest offered morning and evening prayers every day,” remembers Chalise, coordinator of the temple conservation committee.

Over the years, a handful of locals started visiting the temple regularly, said Chalise, a resident of Suryabinayak. It is said that after King Prithivi Narayan Shah conquered the valley, Thapas settled in Sipadol, while Newar communities lived in the area from ancient times. Likewise, Tamang community occupied the highlands surrounding the VDC.

A laidback town for many years, Sipadol suddenly came to limelight in 2009 after the head priest of Kedarnath Temple Jagat Guru Bhimashankar Linga Shivacharya Mahaswami declared the idol inside the temple as the head part of the Kedarnath Temple in India. Since then the temple has received attention from Hindus across the world, says Advocate Bharat Jangam who is also the patron of the temple.

The Jangam community settled in Taumadhi, Bhaktapur since Malla period was keen on searching the origin of the temple as the head priests of both Kedarnath temple in Haridwar and Doleshwar Mahedev here belonged to the same community.

Doleshwar Kedarnath Temple in Sipadol, Bhaktapur. The head priest of the Kedarnath Temple in India that was recently devastated by flooding has said that the two temples are part of one jyotirlinga, or pillar of light worshiped as lord Shiva. (Photo: Nirjana Sharma/Republica)

Following the massive devastation in Kedarnath, the Indian government has already declared that pilgrimage to the holy site would be opened only after three years. “In such a situation, the devotees can come here instead,” he added.

“The head priest of Kedarnath Temple has asked us to offer regular puja here in the same way they have been doing in India,” he added.
The temple conservation committee last Saturday offered special prayers as per the norms followed in Kedarnath and the puja would be performed everyday now onward.

Myth
As per the Hindu mythology, the Pandavas arrived in Haridwar to wash away their sins after killing all their relatives in the Mahabharata War. But Lord Shiva who was hiding from the Pandavas, took the form of bull. But two of the Pandava brothers, Nakul and Sahadev, soon realized that the bull was Lord Shiva and started pulling its tail. Then the bull´s head got separated and got flung away.

As per this legend, the body of the bull remained in Kedarnath but its head landed in Bhaktapur which was recovered 4000 years later.
Malla King Bhupatindra Malla renovated the temple in 1629 BS that was built in between 12th and 13th century. Kedarnath is considered one of the 12 jyotirlingas of lord Shiva. The combination of both the temples of Haridwar and Sipadol is considered one jyotirlinga.

Recovered Evidence
It is incredible to find something at the exact place as mentioned in ancient religious texts. But the research conducted for years concluded four years ago that the missing head was found in Sipadol. The Shiva Puran written by Vyas Maharishi stated that a voice from the sky was immediately heard right after the bull´s body was separated. “I will reside in the form of a bull´s body in Kedarnath and as its head in Nepalaya (Nepal),” states the religious text.

The people involved in Kedarnath Temple management recovered several documents which proved that both the temples were managed under the same government of Gadwal in ancient time.

The Shiva Linga in Doleshwar Temple is one of the biggest idols of lord Shiva recovered in India and Nepal which most closely resembles to the bull´s head shape.

– The head priests of both the temples are selected from Jangam community.
– Both the head priests have common title “Linga” after their names.

Master plan
The government first time paid attention to the place when the then Chief Secretary Madhav Ghimire came here two years ago. Realizing the religious importance of the temple, Ghimire immediately coordinated with other government offices for overall development.

The initial research has shown that the temple was built in pagoda style as the stone sculpture of the King Bhupatindra Malla recovered from the temple premise mentions so. The earthquake in 1933 BS destroyed the real structure and a small temple was built later.

However, the temple conservation committee is planning to revive it in its original pagoda style. The committee members roughly estimate that it would cost around Rs 120 million to renovate the temple.

According to Jangam, Rs 15 million would be spent to rebuild the main temple, whereas an estimated cost of erecting four other temples in the premise is Rs 2.5 million each. The remaining amount would be spent for construction of dharmashala, water and sanitation facilities for the visitors, among others.

Religious Tourist Destination
After the head priest of Kedarnath approved this temple as the head part of Kedarnath four years ago, the Indian tourists started visiting the site.
“Around 300 Indians visit the temple every month, which goes up during the month of Shrawan, and Shivaratri,” mentioned Chalise.

Advocate Jangam mentioned that the appointment of Dr Govinda Tondon as the member secretary of the Pashupati Area Development Trust would help in the promotion of the Doleshwar Mahadev Temple as well.

“We feel Tondon is the right person for PADT, who will definitely promote this temple like Pashupatinath Temple,” added Jangam.
Similarly, 12 km road section that passes through Jagati-Sipadol-Kavre is also under construction. The Road Division Office, Bhaktapur aims to blacktop the road by October this year. The graveled road at present has also developed Sipadol VDC as hiking and cycling route for people.

The Secretary of the Office of the Prime Minister Kishna Hari Banskota has already expressed his commitment to initiate steps for the construction of a new public vehicle route from Gaushala to Sipadol that would increase the religious tourists to the site.

Source: Republica Daily

Link: http://www.myrepublica.com/portal/index.php?action=news_details&news_id=57614

Published on 2013-07-11 04:06:29

Govt to promote Kedarnath Shir Doleshwar as major pilgrimage for Hindus

NIRAJANA SHARMA

KATHMANDU, July 6

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The government is planning to promote Kedarnath Shir Doleshwar Mahadev temple located at Sipadol, Bhaktapur as one of the major pilgrimage for Hindu devotees.

Following the devastation of the Kedarnath Temple in India, the Indian government has already declared that pilgrimage to the holy site would be opened only after three years. In such a situation, the devotees can come to Doleshwar Mahadev Temple to worship, said Bharat Jangam.

“The head priest of Kedarnath Temple has asked us to conduct regular puja here in the same way the priests in India have been doing,” he added.

The temple conservation committee on Saturday offered special worship as per the norms followed in Kedarnath and the puja would be performed everyday just like in Haridwar, added Jangam, who is a member of the committee.

Attending the ceremony, Secretary Banskota said that government would allocate Rs 70 million for constructing dharmashala and other management facility to develop the place for religious tourism. Similarly, the master plan prepared earlier includes construction of bus-park, drinking water facility and electricity and telecommunication services. Similarly, the government also needs to establish a police unit to guarantee security for the visitors.

While millions of people, mainly Hindu devotees, visit the Pashupatinath Temple every year, public transport facility connecting Sipadol would make the place reachable to everyone, he added.

As per the Hindu mythology, the Pandavas took the pilgrimage to Haridwar to wash away their sins after killing all their relatives in the Mahabharata War. But Lord Shiva hiding from the Pandavas, took the form of bull. But the two Pandava brothers Nakul and Sahadev soon realized that the bull was Lord Shiva and started pulling his tail.

Then the bull´s head got separated and got flung away. Since then, the body part of the bull remained in Haridwar and its head was recovered in Bhaktapur.

The head priest of Kedarnath temple, Shree 1008 Jagat Guru Bhimashankar Linga Shivacharya Mahaswami in August, 2009 had declared the idol inside the temple as the head part of Kedarnath. Since then, the temple got attention from the Hindus across the world, said Jangam.

The earlier research on origination of the holy place reveals that Malla King Bhupatindra Malla in 1629 BS first time renovated the temple that was built between 12th and 13th century.

Source: Republica Daily

Link: http://www.myrepublica.com/portal/index.php?action=news_details&news_id=57408

Published on 2013-07-07 02:21:18

Vehicles ban at Basantapur World Heritage Site ignored

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NIRJANA SHARMA

KATHMANDU, May 4

Clean pavements, peaceful surrounding and tourists from around the world captivated by temples, monuments and palaces reflecting Nepal´s history down from the Lichhavi period.

Such was the picture that visitors taking photographs at Basantapur Durbar Square took home in the last three years.

In 2010, Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) and the Metropolitan Traffic Police Division had announced that no vehicles would be permitted within the area with an aim to safeguard the Durbar Square area, which was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1979. Only ambulances and other emergency vehicles were allowed in the area since then.

However, visitors have been experiencing trouble while walking around in the same site for the past few months. Motorcycles and cars are seen passing through the paved paths crisscrossing the world heritage site freely. It seems that the vehicle users have forgotten that they have entered a sensitive area, murmured a priest at Kumari Ghar, pointing at vehicles at Basantapur.

Unlike in the past, tourists taking snaps in the area felt continuously disturbed by the ever moving vehicles and their continuous honking.

Visitors are walking at Durbar square area on March 16. Vehicles plying at the World Heritage Site on Friday defying the restriction made since 2010 in second photo. NIRJANA SHARMA (1)nnnnn
In this combo photo, visitors are walking at Durbar square area on March 16. Vehicles plying at the World Heritage Site on Friday defying the restriction made since 2010 in second photo. Photo by NIRJANA SHARMA

A motorcycle rider nearly hit a female visitor who was taking pictures. “Don´t you see the bike,” the biker yelled at the lady instead of apologizing.

“I had never seen the Hanuman Dhoka area so mismanaged. Is there no authority to stop it?” said Seema Thakur, who came to visit the area along with her friends.
As increasing number of vehicles enter the area, the heritage site seems filled with smoke and dust.

When asked why he was driving inside no vehicle zone, a taxi driver Sunil Khadka said casually that he was just enjoying the sights like many others.

The responsible officials of the KMC do not have appropriate answer as to why the private two wheelers and four wheelers are plying freely in the area.

“What are the city police at the entrance doing?” said Roshan Shakya, KMC officer deployed at the Hanumandhoka Durbar Square Conservation Program (HDSCP).
Apart from vehicles, political meetings were also banned from the area. But the cultural programs were permitted. The KMC had tried to impose ban on vehicles before 2010 as well, but the attempt failed after locals and other stakeholders refused to cooperate, Shakya said.

Program Manager with the HDSCP Hari Kumar Shrestha said that the authority had allowed vehicles to park 70 meter from the entrance due to the ongoing stone pavements works at Jhochhe.

“We have allowed the vehicles to be parked at both side of the Basantapur entrance until the completion of construction works at Jhochhe,” said Shrestha.

He added that the locals´ protest regarding the KMC´s agreement with private contractors to charge common fee to the tourists coming to visit Basantapur and Dharahara has made it difficult to implement even the existing rules.

“Locals are furious and are ready to violate all the rules and regulations,” said Shrestha, adding, “We don´t want to invite another conflict for now. The ban on vehicles would be imposed once the Dharahara row settles down.”

As per the KMC data, normally around 400 tourists come per day to the world heritage site, whereas the number reaches 800 during the best season.

After the ban, the authorities had also come up with alternative routes for vehicles to ease the traffic congestion as a result of which the locals had accepted the move.

The valid routes for the vehicles were set as the vehicles coming from New Road and Asan would pass through Indrachowk, Suraj Arcade and to Phyphal. Similarly, those coming from the opposite direction would follow the same route to reach New Road.

Right after the implementation of vehicle-free zone in the Hanuman Dhoka area, the KMC also closed the evening market in the area. The market thrived in the same location between 2002 and 2010 amid protest by the locals to end to the evening market.

Nepal Police, Traffic Police, Kathmandu Metropolis and the District Administration Office had jointly agreed to enforce vehicle restrictions in the Hanuman Dhoka area.

Locals, KMC dialogue inconclusive

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The meeting held between the locals of Basantapur and the KMC officials on resolving the issue raised following the deal on implementing the common ticket for Basantapur and Dharahara for tourists ended inconclusive on Friday.

According the local´s struggle committee coordinator Shyam Manandhar, the meeting failed as the KMC officials refused to withdraw the arrest warrant issued against him, Ganapati Lal Shrestha and Khagesh Ranjitkar for their alleged involvement in vandalizing the ticket counter of Hanuman Dhoka on Tuesday.

The locals are vexed at the deal signed by KMC with the private contractor Sidewalkers to charge Rs 250 additional amount on the existing Rs 750 ticket for tourists, which would force them to visit Dharahara when they come to the Durbar Square. Sidewalker is the same company that was awarded the contract to develop the Dharahara as tourist place by the KMC in 2004.

However, the contractors have said that the locals have misunderstood the deal. Sanjiv Tuladhar, managing director of Sidewalkers Private Limited said that they had consulted the local people and receive consent of Nepal Tourism Board, Department of Archaeology and the UNDP while applying for the proposal at the KMC.

Source: Republica DailyLink: http://www.myrepublica.com/portal/index.php?action=news_details&news_id=54148
Published on 2013-05-04 07:00:39

Festival reflecting way of life in Lalitpur

NIRJANA SHARMA

LALITPUR, March 31

Streets of Patan are filled with the smell of Newari dishes and flecked with sparkling colors of traditional costumes even as resounding melodies of folk songs take the visitors back to the historical days.

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Lalitpur folks are overwhelmed these days as swarm of visitors throng Lalitpur festival that began on Thursday. The 86 toles, including Lakhel, Managlbazar, Yasoda Mahabihar Bubahal has been decorated in best possible ways.

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Sannani Tuladhar, a resident of Lakhel, usually spins cotton on Charkha (spinning wheel). The lady, who is in her early 80s, has often been admired for her expertise by her children, but had never got an opportunity to show her skill to a huge mass. The Lalitpur Mahotsav has given the space to many such artisans who are unknown to the world but have been playing the most significant role to conserve primitive culture.

Lalitpur folks believe they are richer than Kathmandu and Bhaktapur in ways of life. But the locals feel that their effort of conserving the ancient tradition of Newar community hasn´t been appreciated much.

“Kathmandu and Bhaktapur are always in the limelight while we struggle to promote our ethnicity and culture,” says Ashok Maharjan, resident of Mikhabahal.
Mikabahal used to be the place of farmers in the ancient days. But currently, only a handful of people are involved in farming. Malls and supermarkets have been built at the cultivable land owned by his forefathers, he mentioned.

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According to Mangal Maharjan, chairman of Jaypu Society of Lalitpur, the locals were asked to bring antiques whatever they have at home to exhibit in the festival. The rare image of God Indra has been displayed. Similarly, visitors can observe the demonstration of how handicrafts are prepared from wood, clay and various metals. The local women are seen making household items using straw and jute.

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The exhibits also include idols of Hindu gods and goddesses. Artist Dharma Raj Shakya has built a 16 feet long statue of Lord Ganesha after six days of hard labor. The idol of Lord Buddha and a replica of Patan Gate are the center of attraction for visitors.

The nineteen organizations that came together to organize the event have spent Rs 30 million in the festival and expect to see 1 million visitors in a week, said Jyapu Society Chairperson Maharjan.

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Visitors marvel at the pictures of early 20th century depicting the radiance of the ancient Kathmandu Valley when greenery was abound.

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“I am mesmerized by these pictures of the Kathmandu Valley,” said Nyamgyal Sayaka of Bouddha. Sayaka belongs to the Sherpa community but she says she finds the Newari dish Bara, Chatamari and Samyebaji simply incomparable.

Meanwhile, the Lalitpur-based living goddess Kumari is busy throughout the day, offering blessings to the devotees. According to the Jyapu Society Chairman Mangal Maharjan, the Kumari goddess will stay at courtyard during festival.

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Though this year´s festival was organized after four years, the locals want to give continuity in the next years. Around 400,000 people have visited the festival till Saturday, the third day of the festival, according to the organizers. The festival will conclude on Wednesday.

Source: Republica DailyLink: http://www.myrepublica.com/portal/index.php?action=news_details&news_id=52379
Published on 2013-03-31 08:31:00

Lack of publicity blamed for decline in museums’ popularity

NIRJANA SHARMA

KATHMANDU, March 16: Hanuman Dhoka Museum, National Museum, Patan Museum and the newest of them Narayanhiti Museum drew around half a million people last year.

As many as 466,000 people visited the top four museums of the Kathmandu Valley last year.

The Narayanhiti Museum established in February 27, 2009 after the country became republic, attracted the highest number of visitors with 200,000 people visiting the museum to have a close look at the former royal palace that was out of bounds for general public, said Lekh Bahadur Karki, chief of the museum.

He added that as many as 1,78,212 people have already visited the site till mid-February of the running fiscal year. A majority of those visitors were students, whereas 15,250 were foreigners.

The Hanuman Dhoka Museum, situated at the Hanuman Dhoka World Heritage Site, succeeded to draw around 150,000 students and tourists from SAARC and non-SAARC countries, according to Hari Kumar Shrestha, program manager with the Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Square Conservation Program of the Kathmandu Meropolitan City.


Hanumandhoka Museum Photo: Nirjana Sharma

Patan Museum, established in 1998 with the support from Austrian government, consists of 1,100 art works, including 200 artifacts selected for permanent exhibition.

The sculptures of Hindu and Buddhist deities are the major attractions of the museum. The images of deities and artifacts are accompanied by commentaries that explain to the visitors the historical significance of Nepal´s cultural heritage. Thus, 66000 people visited the museum last year. Likewise more than 30,000 have already visited in the ongoing fiscal year.

The chief of the first public museum of the country National Museum located in Chhauni, Kathmandu feels that the number of visitors could be increased by adding contents that are research oriented.

“We have failed to make use of publicity to promote our museums among tourists,” said Mandakini Shrestha, chief of the National Museum. She added that the documents useful for students and researchers also need to be upgraded to reflect the multi-cultural outlook the country.

Established in 1928, as the Arsenal Museum at the residence of the then Prime Minister Bhimsen Thapa at Chhauni, the museum was not opened for public until 1938. Only the guests and family of Rana prime ministers were allowed into the museum.

Ever since its inception, the Museum has collected thousands of valuable objects and thus occupies a very prominent position as a repository of ancient Nepalese art and culture,” Shrestha said. She said around 50,000 people visited the museum this year.
Hanuman Dhoka Museum (1)
Ethnographic Museum

Meanwhile, there is only one ethnographic museum in the capital that represents the multi-cultural outlook of the country. In a bid to preserve our rich culture for the future generation as well as for the tourists, right at the heart of the capital, Nepal Tourism Board and Nepal National Ethnographic museum have set up a permanent exhibition of eleven different ethnic communities such as the Thakali, Sherpa, Tamang, Gurung, Rai, Limbu, Chepang, Jyapu of Newar group, Magar, Sunwar and the Tharu communities at NTB central office.

Nepal-Tibet Museum: A high potential project

The relation between ancient Nepal and Tibet is eminent in the history of Nepal. Princess Bhrikuti, daughter of the Lichhavi King Amshuverma, was married to Tibetan king in the sixth century. The history of cultural exchange between the two states in the sixth century could be a major draw for tourists if it is publicized by establishing a museum.

According to museum expert Jal Krishna Shrestha, two museums can be established on the same theme in Lhasa of China and the other one in Kathmandu.

There is also a belief that Manjushree came to Kathmandu from Tibet and formed the Kathmandu Valley in ancient time. Portraying prehistoric trade relation between Nepal and Tibet through art and sketches would also be interesting for the visitors, he said.

“We would need the support of the Chinese government to institutionalize this concept,” said Shrestha.

Museum on sex theme in three years

The visitors may have noticed the erotic representations of gods and goddess at different heritage sites in the Valley. But the Nepali society is still not quite open to discuss sex like many other south asian countries.

“The Eastern philosophy describes sex as sacred and inevitable for regeneration, whereas western civilization takes it as an amusement and entertainment,” said Shrestha, a former government officer.

The group of seven people, along with him, is working to institutionalize the concept by forming an organization.

“We are still working on the concept as it has to be presented in an artistic way,” he said. They hope to open the museum by 2016. “We need Rs 10 million in the beginning,” he said, adding that his group was looking for partners.

——-

INTERVIEW

Sustainability is the main challenge of the Museums: Jal Krishna Shrestha
Museum Expert and former Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Culture and Civil Aviation

Is the current flow of visitors to museum satisfactory?
The museums can attract visitors only if they are updated time and again. Only a couple of them are doing well. Though the authorities like to exaggerate the number, hardly 10,000 visitors go to the museums. Many museums are surviving because of the support they get from locals. But the situation may not go on for long.
The most interesting fact about our museums is that none of them were established by constructing new buildings but by customizing the ancient palaces.

Why can´t they attract tourists?
We must admit that most of the visitors to the museums are Nepali students, so the number of visitors is very less when we look at the number tourists visiting Nepal every year.

Though the four museums have registered significant number of visitors, there are eight other museums in the Valley that fail to attract more people. In fact, they are struggling for their existence.

List of museums in the Valley

  • Brass and Bronze Museum, Bhaktapur,
  • Wood Carving Museum, Dattatreya Square, Bhaktapur
  • National Art Gallery, Bhaktapur
  • Patan Museum, Lalitpur
  • Narayanhiti Palace Museum, Durbarmarg, Kathmandu
  • Natural History Museum, Manjushree Bajaar, Swayambhu, Kathmandu
  • Hanuman Dhoka Museum, Basantapur Durbar Square
  • National Ethnographic Museum, Bhrikutimandap
  • Asha Archives, Nyokha Tole, Kathmandu
  • National Museum, Chhauni, Kathmandu
  • Jyapu Museum, Kathmandu (Under construction)
  • Chittadhar Hridaya Museum, Chhetrapati, Kathmandu
  • Nepali Folk Music Instrument Museum, Tripureshor, Kathmandu
  • National Ethnic Museum, Champadevi, Kirtipur
Published on 2013-03-16 07:00:30

No accounting of offerings made to Kumari: Caretakers accused of amassing fortune

NIRJANA SHARMA

KATHMANDU, March 9

A group of curious Japanese tourists huddled in the premises of Kumari Palace in Basantapur to get a glimpse of the living goddess.

An elderly woman emerged from a palace door and asked them to offer Rs 500 to see Kumari. The tourists paid the said amount and were allowed to see the goddess.

It is a common sight around the Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Square area which is visited by around 400 tourists from India and the other countries every day.

The visitors eager to see Kumari are not allowed to do so by the caretakers and the family members until they pay some money.

The tradition of worshiping a living goddess as incarnation of goddess Taleju dates back to 1757, during the reign of the Malla King Jay Prakash Malla. However, the Kumaris worshipped after 1918 are known as “Shabik” Kumari, who are prohibited from leaving the palace, also known as Kumari home, during her stay.

Even after 95 years of the tradition of worshipping the living goddess, the government and the locals have no clue about who takes all the offerings made by visitors and devotees.

Many visitors also put money into the donation box placed at the premises for the welfare of the juvenile goddess. But her caretaker and family take away all the money, say the locals.

Some devotees offer gold ornaments to the goddess if their votive pledge gets fulfilled, according to Rajan Maharjan, member of the Jyapu Guthi Society.

“It is not Kumari who gets all those offerings. Gyani Devi, the caretaker, and her family are enjoying all the wealth,” he said.

According to Uddhav Man Karmacharya, a priest at the Kumari Palace, a Shakya family was appointed to look after Kumari in 1944. Gyani Devi Shakya, now 70, is a descendant of the same family and was appointed as caretaker in 1980 after her mother-in-law expired.

“Currently, 14 members of Gyani Devi´s family are living in the palace and vigorously oppose any attempt to enquire about the income.”

Jay Ram Regmi, executive chief of Kathmandu Guthi Office, the Guthi has been coordinating with its central office and the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation.


Kumari Palace.

Regmi added that the Guthi bears all cost of Kumari during her stay, including her lodging, food and the expenses that goes into daily worship and festivals.

“The Guthi has not received a penny from the Kumari Palace to date. In fact, it provides Rs 10,000 for monthly expenditure,” Regmi mentioned.

The Kathmandu Metropolitan City also provides Rs 15,000 for Kumari and Rs 25,000 for the caretaker per month.

The tradition of worshipping living goddess

There is a belief that the kings of Malla dynasty in Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur were blessed with the power to meet goddess Taleju and take her advice on how to rule the country. However, the goddess was not to be seen by a female in which case she would depart from Katmandu forever. Once, when King Trailokya Malla was playing dice with the goddess, his daughter entered into the room. The moment the little girl saw the goddess, the relationship between the king and the goddess ended.

Thought the goddess vanished at the time, she later appeared in the king´s dream. She asked the king to select a virgin girl of a Shakya family and worship the girl as her incarnation. Thus the tradition of selecting the living goddess was established.

Giving continuity to the tradition, all the later day rulers, the kings of Shah dynasty, also followed the ritual and worshipped the goddess. There has been a tradition of offering golden coins to the goddess on the occasion of Indra Jatra. President Ram Baran Yadav has also been following the tradition after the country became Republic.

Ganesh, Bhairav left in lurch

Many people are still unaware that there is also a tradition of selecting two juveniles as a living incarnation of lord Ganesh and Bhairav in Basantapur.

The members of Jyapu Society around Basantapur feel that there is a discrimination in the way the three living deities are worshipped.

The Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) provides Rs 15000 to Kumari and Rs 25000 every month to her caretaker, known as Chitaidar. Contrary to this, the Ganesh and Bhairav receive only Rs 1500 each on monthly basis.

“The Ganesh and Bhairav also have a great importance as the chariot pulling ceremony of the Indra Jatra can´t begin without worshipping the two living gods,” said Maharjan, adding, “But the government has ignored them completely.”

Kumari is replaced generally at the age of 12 or 13 before her menstrual period begins, but the living Ganesh and Bhairav are worshipped until they wish to leave the honor.
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INTERVIEW

We are quiet as we don´t want to mire the living goddess in controversy
Uddhav Man Karmacharya
Priest of Kumari Home and Chief Tantric of Taleju Temple

When did you first realize that there was no accounting of the offerings made at Kumari Temple?

It´s been a long time since the locals of Basantapur have asked the officials of Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) and the Guthi to make public the offerings the visitors make to Kumari. We know that hundreds of people visit Basantapur Durbar Square area every day. Among them, so many foreigners wait for hours for a glimpse of the living goddess. The visitors offer money and golden ornaments to the goddess with a great belief. But the Chitaidar (caretaker) of Kumari takes away all the offerings. We are also aware how the caretakers´ family has prospered over the years.

How can the transparency be brought to the whole process?

We have several times talked with the government authorities, about the free competition in appointment of caretakers in the Kumari palace. Around 14 members of the Gyani Devi´s family are living in the palace which has increased their monopoly. But the government authorities have said that the governments need to amend the Guthi Act to change the system. We have been requesting with the government for investigation but never made it public before to avoid controversy with the goddess.

Published on 2013-03-09 07:00:25