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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Do You Own a Heritage Home?

Sampadā chem̐ thuvāyā saṃrakshana myānuyala : Svaniga Viśva Sampadā Kshetra, Nepāḥ : svanigale aitihāsika chem̐ta marmata yāyagu sujhāva

(Heritage Homeowner’s Preservation Manual: Kathmandu Valley World Heritage Site, Nepal: Advice for Maintenance of Historic Houses in the Kathmandu Valley)

The above might be a very, very long name for a book, but the name says it all. It has been brought to our attention, for the benefit of all of you via this blog, by Abin Pradhan, who is currently in Nepal for a short vacation from Charlotte, North Carolina in the US, where he has been living and working for the past few years.

Citing the significance of this book for places like Janabahaa where ugly matchbox concrete-and-steel structures are replacing the uniquely beautiful typical Newa style houses in an alarming pace, Abin says, "This book is a manual on maintenance and conservation of traditional residential structures, which I believe could be equally applicable - where relevant - to old temple and bahas like Janabahaa too. It is fairly comprehensive and gives plenty of examples. It is an interesting read without a doubt.. Let's keep the light on!"

With his earlier experience of working with top-level executives and decision makers of the nation, Abin is of the opinion that the grass-roots level approach to a problem can achieve only so much, and a top-down approach will do the rest to help meet the goals completely. In his opinion, formulation and implementation of national level policies that impact Janabahaa need to be created, if they do not exist already, so that the legal framework is there to enforce implementation for various problems like physical cleanliness, controlled commerce, adherence to architectural standards, etc.

Of course, much work needs to be done to achieve this lofty goal, but every major undertaking is initiated with baby steps. That is exactly what has been done at Janabahaa, with Abin firmly at the helm.

The book is written by Rohit K. Ranjitkar and published in 2006 by UNESCO (Kathmandu).The full version of the book can be downloaded from

All images are from the book.

Carpet Connection

Literally scores of carpet-bearers pass through Janabahaa every afternoon. They all enter from the main gate on the eastern side, carrying their heavy burdens on their shoulders, in groups of two or three. They walk briskly and silently out of the Bahaa, via the western exit, as quickly as they come.

Everyone knows that they are traveling salesmen, trying to get the best deal for their hand-woven Nepali carpets, which is a merchandise mass-produced in Nepal since the last several decades, but of Tibetan origin.

These hardy young men obviously are of the Chhetri caste, judging from their facial features. What motivates them to go into business, instead of following the Chhetri tradition of getting a government job or enlisting in the security forces?

Where do they come from every day, and where are they headed? Why do they always take this particular route? These questions remain unanswered, at least for now.

Photos by Alok Tuladhar.