Orientation To Curb Disorientation
The time was different, the context was altogether different. The second line of the popular slogan energetically sung then was very meaningful because that was a different time. It said: ‘Hamro bhasaa, hamro bhesh praana bhanda pyaaro chha’ (loose trans: our language and our dress is closer to us than our own breath). One stanza was about the king so no more meaningful now and nobody wants to even remember it, forget chant it. This line, though, has not lost its context; it has been even more meaningful now as people are now striving to find and maintain their identity.
Since last one year or so the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) has started to visit people – especially the marginalised, disadvantaged, remote dwellers and minorities with an culture orientation package. The main objective of such visits is two-fold, namely: a) convey the message of the concerned ministry/department of the government that there is always the government to play vital role in preserving culture, and b) encourage the people with the face-to-face message that their culture is their own but it also has local, regional and national significance. Therefore, people must look at it carefully so old, middle-aged and young sit together to plan safeguarding activities in collaboration with the government and other agencies.
Thus far such a message has worked out well. The model adopted by MoCTCA is simple. There is a one or two day seminar-cum-orientation program in the particular district in collaboration with local culture workers from the community – men, women, old, children, youth and all. There are at least three or four papers presented and discussed. There are experts’ thoughts and the ministry’s welcome-cum-wake up calls. All happens in a highly tight and compressed daylong schedule. At the end of the day people return home with hopes, inspiration, insights and plans to do – they always say – ‘MORE.’
The experts and ministerial officers and staff also think they have learnt more about the people and culture. This is how an orientation program is planned, initiated and implemented annually at different locations in the midst of the community.
The last such orientation program took place at Karbakeli Baba Dhaam at Kafaldadaa, Myagdi, the home of Pun Magars’ ancestor – the Karbakeli Baba. At least the Pun Magars from Baglug, Myagdi and Parvat districts were in the target of MoCTCA. The access road was not pleasant, the cold was not mild and time was short. Despite all these odds, the co-organiser ‘Magar Adhyayan Kendra’ (Magar Study Center), led by no other than the former Inspector General of Police Dr. Govind Thapa was able to invite the Pun Magars of several Municipalities and villages from three districts.
Incidentally, the site was not far from IT superman and innovative genius Mahabir Pun, who runs a wide variety of rural development programs out there in such a remote corner of Myagdi. Quite a few participants of the orientation program had the opportunity to visit this complex briefly and at least be informed about its main function and outcome. For many Nepalis Mahabir Pun is no stranger but not many know actually what he stands for and what he wants to achieve in life. Mahabir Pun complex is the answer to such questions. The visitors later felt Pun’s brilliant ideas could very well fit the entire rural parts of Nepal if the government gives a fair and non-partisan ear to listen to him.
MoCTCA and the cohost Magar Adhyan Kendra had planned to inaugurate the program in a traditional way. A group of several females as singers and males as maadal (drum) players sang and performed the ‘Saraswati Bandana – a prayer to goddess’ to declare the program open. That a typical act and a correct one compared to normally practiced high profile inauguration gala with the late appearing minister burning the oil lamp and grinning at the camera for the feat he wanted to be recorded electronically. In such programs a full-fledged laughter bigger in size than his grin is the immediate impact on the audience. Pun Magar here made the difference and everybody praised the organisers for going native from the beginning.
Bharat Mani Subedi, on behalf MoCTCA, his team and his own said- ‘Finally Pun Magar community has shown both its strength and identity through this monumental work on this topographically high and physically isolated and hidden hill. Fifty million rupees spent on the ancestral pilgrimage project as reported by the Chairperson of the project Cham Bahadur Pun Magar shows your dedication toward the cause of uniting all descendants of Karbakeli Baba, the hero of your community. The Ministry will spare no effort to support in your bid for safeguarding ICH of your community and culture. Because of your work on the ground the Pun Magar of UK, other countries have offered their help and made your work possible. We are very much impressed and strongly feel this is an example of what should be done to restore the grace of your culture and the ancestors at the same time.’
Several papers were presented on the occasion. Dr. Bhakta Rai surveyed the significance of ethnic culture in respect to the pun Magar of Myagdi. Similarly, Dr. Min Sris Magar, Prativa Pun Magar, and Megan Pun Magar presented their papers on the themes of Pun Magar history, the purkheuli dance and purkha samsmaran hijo ra aja. They threw light on the status of intangible cultural heritage of the community. From the Chair Capt. Dam Bahadur Pun of Annapurna Village Council expressed his sincere thanks to the ministry team, Magar Study Center and the Karbakeli team for the program.
Few dances and songs dedicated to the ancestor Karbakeli and his family made quite a few participants go on instant spirit possession. The drums and songs made them so, it appeared. In all, the ICH property of the Pun Magar of the area is rich and it awaits proper documentation from trained team of the ministry.
Finally, Culture, whether it belongs to a group or the community is the asset of the nation as a whole. The government – now in three tiers – central, provincial and the local will make proper planning sooner than later to document scientifically and move them forward for national and international recognition as well as for making culture sustain, create impact on life and livelihood and survive through time. But, the bottom line is: Love Thy Culture, meaning – first, culture must be loved by its users, makers and owners alike.