Saturday, 24 July, 2021

World-Class Heritages

With her long history and civilisation, Nepal is home to unmatched cultural and natural heritages. The country is ethnically and linguistically so diverse that it has more than 125 ethnic/caste groups speaking over 100 different languages and dialects. Even many other countries bigger in terms of area and population do not boast such a multiplicity. Looking at the topographical and climatic variations, the nation is very unique. The country's lowest land (Kechan Kawal in Jhapa district) lies at an elevation of just 70 metres above sea level while the summit of Sagarmatha (8,848.86m) is the tallest point in the globe. With these distinctions, we have numerous scenic natural sites and floral and faunal diversity. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Heritage has been showing its keen interest in preserving both the cultural and natural heritage sites of the country.

Till date, the UN agency has enlisted two cultural and two natural heritages as the World Heritage Sites -- the Kathmandu Valley and Lumbini -- as cultural sites while the Chitwan National Park (CNP) and the Sagarmatha National Park (SNP) as natural ones. The valley, also best known as an open museum, possesses seven remarkable monument zones. They include the Kathmandu Durbar Square, Patan Durbar Square and Bhaktapur Durbar Square with their historical palaces, temples, stupas and public places; and three religious places -- Swayambhunath, Bouddhanath, Pashupati and Changu Narayan. Of these four religious sites, Swayambhunath is considered to be the oldest Buddhist monument in the valley and Bouddhanath is the largest stupa in the country. Similarly, Pashupati holds an extensive Hindu temple precinct. The famous pilgrimage site attracts hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from various parts of Nepal, India and other countries annually. Similarly, Changu Narayan includes a traditional Newari settlement, and a Hindu temple complex. This temple has one of the earliest inscriptions in the valley. These unique temples are made of fired brick with mud mortar and timber structures.

Fifteen more places of the country have already been listed on the UNESCO’s tentative heritage list. It is an inventory of properties that a state party considers to be cultural or natural heritage of outstanding universal value and therefore suitable for being added to the World Heritage List. The UNESCO’s tentative list includes Panauti, the early medieval architectural complex, Tilaurakot, the archaeological remains of ancient Shakya Kingdom, cave architecture of Muktinath Valley of Mustang, Gorkha palace complex, Ramgram, Khokana, Lo Manthang, Vajrayogini temple complex and settlement, Kirtipur, Nuwakot Palace complex, Ram Janaki Temple, Tansen, Sinja Valley and Bhurti Temple complex of Dailekh.

Of them, Panauti, Tilaurakot and Ram Janaki Temple are now in the process of being enlisted on the list of World Heritage Sites. According to a news report published in this daily on Thursday, the Department of Archaeology (DoA) has stepped up efforts to enlist these three invaluable sites as UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. Panauti, located in the confluence of the Roshi and Punyamati rivers in Kavrepalanchowk district, and the archaeological remains of the ancient Shakya Kingdom of Tilaurakot have been on the tentative list since 1996. The Ram Janaki Temple in Janakpur has been on it since 2008. The DoA is now required to present these sites to UNESCO for endorsement as either independent properties or integrated ones. The proposed sites need to go through a rigorous evaluation process before being enlisted as the World Heritage Sites.