Nepal | January 24, 2020

Folk Musical Instrument Museum faces closure threat

Himalayan News Service

Kathmandu, July 18

Future of the country’s only Nepali Folk Musical Instrument Museum hangs in the balance as the museum is now obliged to vacate its premises. A small sattal (religious rest house) on the premises of Tripureshwor Mahadev Temple in Tripureshwor has been serving as the museum for the past five years, following an agreement with Guthi Sansthan. As the agreement expired recently, Ram Prasad Kandel, who established the museum at his own initiative by collecting musical instruments, is running from pillar to post requesting authorities concerned to provide him with a new space for the museum. The museum showcases some 650 different traditional folk musical instruments.

Kandel had been operating the museum as a social organisation for the past 30 years. About six years ago, the government had finally allowed the organisation to function as a museum. In May 2014, he had signed a five-year contract with the Guthi Sansthan to run the museum from the sattal. At that time Ministry of Culture and the Department of Archaeology had extended financial support to Kandel to establish the museum.

According to Kandel, the museum has a collection of thousands of traditional musical notations, books and audio/visual archives. “If the contract does not get renewed or an appropriate place for the museum is not found, I will have no options than to put them on display under open sky,” he  said, adding that the authorities had given him verbal commitments to find a place for the museum but, no concrete decision has been made.

Roof of the sattal housing the museum is being removed for reconstruction. The sattal had endured damage in the 2015 earthquakes. The museum looked damp when THT visited it yesterday. Traditional musical instruments and other collections were covered in dust and were in a sorry state of disrepair.

Guthi Sansthan, which has jurisdiction over Tripureswor temple and the sattal has made it clear that the museum should vacate the place as the contract had expired. Saroj Thapalia, spokesperson for Guthi Sansthan said, “We will act as per the law which requires the museum to be vacated.”

Guthi Sansthan has entered into an agreement with Kathmandu University to run the varsity’s Department of Music on the temple premises spreading over 9,157.32 square metres. The lease agreement was signed at Rs 15,000 in rent per month, for 35 years. The income was meant for covering daily expenses of the temple, according to a source at Guthi Sansthan.

Kandel, however, said Guthi Sansthan was merely looking for profit while turning a blind eye to cultural and religious aspects of the temple. “How could daily rituals of the temple be performed while the whole premises would be used as a college?” he asked.

KU said daily rituals of the temple would not be disturbed. Lochan Rijal, who heads the Department of Music at KU said, “We will work for maintaining the objects of archaeological value in the temple and won’t disturb anyone visiting the temple.” KU has agreed to invest Rs 20 million for the reconstruction of the temple. The National Reconstruction Authority is also investing Rs 170 million for the same project.

Rijal said they were positive in supporting the museum authorities to find a new place if they came up with a proposal.


A version of this article appears in print on July 19, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.

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