Hand In Hand For Heritage Safeguarding (II)
UNESCO/Nepal had consultation meetings with the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) about the need of such a workshop. The logic was – there are many communities and cultures whose inventorying is urgent in order to move toward Safeguarding planning and other necessary steps. This is how the Ministry and UNESCO had come to terms with the workshop. Officials, experts and facilitators were assigned the task. The participants were selected on the recommendation of Kirat Rai Pragya Parishad/Academy and Pragyik Anusandhan Kendra, based in Kathmandu.
This is how the ministry and UNESCO came to know about Kirati historian Jaya Kumar Rai, linguists Drs Bhakta Rai and Taramani Rai, and the Mundum researcher Bhogiraj Chamling. It didn’t take much time to realise this little group of Kirat Rai scholars would bring about necessary and urgent change in the Kirati academia and culture of the region. One strong group of young as well as middle-aged Rai elites came in contact during and after the workshop. It was a matter of joy for the organisers as there has to be one such workshop in the east and several group meetings further out in the districts of the east Terai and hills – from Udaypur to Jhapa in the Terai and from Tehrathum-Taplejung to Ilam in the hills.
That the week-long programme was a success was confirmed by the Kirati Rai and the new non-Rai campaigners and participants through their statements. The programme was compact, systematic and result-oriented. The organising team also sighed success and relief at the end of the programme. Since this scribe was a member of the organising team of the Halesi workshop, a brief but thorough mention of the programme is relevant here.
In fact, the two earlier meetings with the local Rais of Khotang district had made the name and function of the ministry and the UNESCO familiar. The local Rai had some feeling that in fact the government is willing to launch safeguarding and other plans in order to save the intangible cultural heritage of the area of Halesi. Therefore, several senior, active and committed Rai faces were present in the inaugural programme hosted at the former VDC seminar hall. There were happy faces everywhere. It seemed like this particular workshop dedicated to the Kirati culture of east Nepal was going to send an urgent message to all the districts with Kirati Rai population. It was no less than a Kirati festive event of some kind.
The inaugural session was chaired by Gajur Man Rai, the chairman of the Halesi Mandir Vyabasthapan Committee (Halesi Shrine Management Committee). Rai is the person who is now committed to bring the temple's landed property back from the mis-appropriators. In his short speech from the chair he emphasised on the need to assert the right of the shrine to its property to make the compound larger and enjoy sustainability. Selfish priests and monks had appropriated the property illegally by manipulating the government authorities in the past. To substantiate his claim there stands a huge and newly built Gumpa (monastery) right next to the path leading to the cave. In fact, the selling of the temple property and construction of a huge monastery in an archaeological site was something that shouldn’t have happened. Chairman Gajurman highlighted on the need to make the keep the name and fame of Tuachung-Jayajung and Halesi in order to save history.
Bharat Mani Subedi, Joint Secretary at the MoCTCA, threw light on the nature of collaboration between the ministry and UNESCO in matters related to inventorying and safeguarding native cultures in order to make them powerful, productive and sustainable. Samar Bhujel, the Executive Director of Halesi Development Committee (HDC) spoke on the importance of Halesi as the hub of culture and tourism once the formation of the new Halesi-Tua Chung Municipality. Bhujel had played a key role in hosting the workshop at Halesi.
Former HDC chairman Gopal Dahal spoke about the significance of Halesi as a place of pilgrimage and Kirati identity. He outlined the efforts made by HDC in earlier times to highlight on the spiritual and unifying factors inherent in Halesi. 'God has lost his property and strength at the same time,” he said and added, “Now Halesi Mahadev lives happy with the beautiful natural surrounding, but not the land and other kinds of property he was enjoying many years ago.” How can an archaeological site be dominated by a huge concrete work at the gate itself? He asked. Dahal also said Kirati culture has rich repertoire of knowledge, science, spirituality and entertainment.
Kirati Mundum in focus
One of the major themes for the workshop was to look into the state-of-the-art Kirat Rai Mundum in the region and find out ways to explore its importance and ways to document it using appropriate technology. Manindra Chamling Rai of Durchhim felt it necessary to save the Kirati Veda, the storehouse of knowledge and hand it over to the next generation.
“It is essential to do a thorough study of Kirati Mundum,” he said and added, “It is above science and deals with nature and the five elements (panchatatwa) known in several other faiths and classics.”
Nipuna Shrestha, Chief of Culture Section of UNESCO/Kathmandu, offered the vote of thanks to the audience, the participants, other authorities present on the occasion. 'It is the obligation of UNESCO to promote the cultures of member states and offer support in capacity building measures they follow.' She also outlined the nature of several such workshops carried out in Nepal from the year 2012 till date and objectives of this particular workshop held at Halesi.
Finally, outcome of the Halesi workshop will go a long way in building capacity for the central/ministerial and local level experts in enhancing their skill. The workshop invited candidates from four districts this time, but the next workshop to be held in Dhankuta inviting several eastern districts will add more bricks in the direction of inventorying and safeguarding of Kirati intangible culture. (to be continued..)