DR. HARI SHRESTHA
An international workshop on Traditional Knowledge Systems, Museums and Intangible Natural Heritage held in Hyderabad, India a few months ago has given a fruitful insight on the gravity of the issues that have been raised over the last few years in Nepal. The keynote speech delivered by Dr. Kapila Vatsyayana, on the opening session unfolded the powerful metaphors of natural environment for the emergence and continuity of human culture since nature was the only source of earliest metaphysical thinking of man. The bio-psychic impulse of man associated with the nature further led to the growth of culture in the forms of values, norms, tradition, beliefs, knowledge and range of activities with some meaning and substance to human life.
The Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH), including the traditional knowledge system, contains many positive and productive elements that are really invaluable for entire humanity. Intangible culture is the soul of all that we see in the tangible form of the culture. It can be pretty easy to conserve a temple or a palace but to preserve the real meaning of the temple, we should also preserve the festivals, processions, music dance and other rituals associated with it. Despite its significant role to integrate the society and enhance the sense of ownership to the concerned people and culture, intangible heritage faces serious threats for its existence.
Nepal has remained a land of diverse people and culture consisting of more than a hundred ethnic and caste groups. The diverse natural environments have been the main source of energy to initiate a plethora of living cultures, which are unique to Nepal. The various cultural and religious groups which form the Nepali nation, have within the general sphere of a common outlook on life, their special spheres of living and thinking which they are not prepared to give up at any cost. With this backdrop, Nepal possesses rich heritage of intangible culture colored by different groups of people throughout the centuries by means of slow, unceasing process of selection and growth leading to complexity.
There are many challenging factors that are quickly bringing permanent changes in the present day world, and every one of us should be primarily concerned with the preservation of human cultural inheritance in its multiplicity of forms and manifestations. Considering the growing loss of the cultural heritage with time, there is urgent need to formulate some common strategy and come up with an integrated program for the conservation and preservation of both tangible and intangible heritage of the country. Despite the efforts of government institutions and non-government organizations (NGOs), the overall scenario of heritage preservation in Nepal does not seem satisfactory. Preservation of culture is a sensitive, technical and expensive phenomenon requiring high level planning and normally huge budgetary allocation.
The government should make a long-term plan to conserve and preserve intangible heritage of the nation. Despite the formation of national level committee on the heritage preservation, no significant work has been carried out in the field of protection and promotion of ICH of the diverse communities. The tourism sector has become the direct beneficiary of the cultural heritage, so that certain percent of total revenue collected from the tourism industry should be allocated for the preservation of the cultural heritage. Tax collecting from the tourists who used to pay to visit certain heritage sites should strictly be allocated for the conservation and preservation of cultural heritage of the concerned areas.
The importance of integrating cultural factors into development strategy should be drawn to the attention of policy makers. Because most of the policy makers think that cultural heritage is unproductive-but they should realize that cultural heritage is not only our identity but also the backbone of tourism industry that is potential for employment creation and income generation. Many people challenge the
necessity of artificially preserving a culture that is vanishing. But they should
have to know that each piece of culture that gets lost would be a loss of the identity of the people and
The intangible culture is the wealth of people/community, and therefore local people and the holders of the particular culture must be involved in the preservation planning and decision-making processes. The government should formulate effective codes of conduct and introduce proper measures to develop skill or knowledge in the concerned communities that ensure better results in the field of preservation.
The need of the time is to initiate the integrated program in order to protect the invaluable cultural heritages that are at risk of disappearance. The role of international community is equally important to launch an effective campaign for the preservation of tangible/intangible heritage and promote exchange of expertise, visits, resource management and collaborative research and publication.
Dr. Shrestha is Associate Professor of Archaeology, TU