Bharat Maharjan of Nepal Heritage Documentation Project agrees: “All human acts, including fashion, cuisine, agriculture and architecture, are heritage, evidence for which can be found in everything around us.”
For instance toponyms give us a glimpse into the age-old practices of a certain place and community.
“In Kirtipur, there is a place called कांफ्वंद्वं which is now part of the university,” he says, “there used to be a funeral mound and people would go during the time of pandemic to pacify the spirits with wind instruments. Now the practice is obsolete, but the name of the place helps us trace that part of our history and culture.”
The Kathmandu Valley is remarkable because this ethnically and religiously diverse bowl-shaped valley of only 665 sq km has at least 130 important monuments, and lies at the crossroads of ancient civilisations of the subcontinent.
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“Another uniqueness of the Valley is that human civilisation has flourished here continuously since ancient times without interruption, as can be found in the inscriptions, monuments and historical records,” adds Maharjan.
Continuity is integral to heritage, as without it there is no sense of inheritance. In fact, the word ‘heritage’ is related to Latin heres, meaning ‘heir’, and relies on practices and monuments being kept alive through people.
This is closely related to the Guthi in Newa communities, the membership to which is also almost always hereditary.
Tuladhar explains that the core value of building a monument revolves around the Guthi, a unique aspect of the Nepal Mandala’s culture, which oversees the upkeep, jatra, puja associated with the monument through community participation and income from the land allocated to it.
“This is an important part of our heritage, because the practice brings together people to form the rich socio-cultural fabric of our society,” Tuladhar adds. “All of which, while intangible practices, help conserve the physical monuments. This way, both tangible and intangible heritage can be kept alive.”