Guthis struggling to find funds, dance performers

Lalitpur, September 25

Kathmandu Valley is home to culturally and historically rich Newars with customs and practices dating back centuries.

However, local cultural organisations, called Guthi, that shoulder the responsibility of giving continuity to the practices, have been struggling to do so because of lack of sufficient funds and performers.

This year, the traditionally performed Mahakali Naach in Thimi, Bhaktapur was showcased after seven years’ gap because of lack of funds and performers. Many other traditional dance forms practiced in Bhaktapur, Kathmandu and Lalitpur have been facing similar financial crises, but the organisations responsible have put their hopes on the government and the Department of Archeology.

The Ga: Pyakhan or the Asta Matrika Naach will be showcased in Lalitpur from the first day of Dashain, and continued for eleven days. According to the Rajguru (dance teacher) of Asta Matrika Naach Rajendra Shakya, the dance performance requires a minimum investment of Rs 5,000,000.

Shakya said, “Ga: Pyakhan is a traditional dance form of the locals of Patan, especially of the Shakya and Bajracharya clans of the Newar community.”

According to him, the dance form features eight important gods: Kumari, Indirayeni, Bhramayani, Maheswor, Barahi, Ganesh, Chamunda, and Mahalaxmi, hence the name ‘Asta’ i.e eight. He said, “The dance form features altogether thirteen gods, including Bhairav, Kumar, Simhini, Vhyagrihi, and Baishnabi.”

Guthi organisations have to manage the budget for various jatras and naachs themselves. Shakya said, “The Lalitpur Chamber of Commerce and Lalitpur Sub-metropolitan City have helped us this year to finance this Naach,” adding, “In the past, the Department of Archeology used to assist us, but it has been ignoring our requests lately.”

The Asta Matrika Naach requrires a total of 26 performers including thirteen Dev Gads (dancers) and thirteen Pancha Tals (dance teachers and traditional music players). “We pay Rs 9,000 to the performers, which is very little considering the amount of work they put in. The low pay makes it difficult to get dancers.”

The Naach was introduced during the Malla Regime by Nivash Malla, son of the famous Siddhi Narsingh Malla, more than 350 years ago.

According to the myth, Nivash Malla had a dream where he saw the Mother Goddess dancing in his royal court Mulchowk. He then began the practice of performing the Asta Matrika Naach ever year for the betterment of the country.

“The dance is very difficult to perform. We have to wear traditional costumes and heavy mukuts (masks) that we are not allowed to remove until the end of the performance, which lasts 11 days. We are paid very nominally for this, but we do this more to protect our culture than for the money,” said Sailendra Shakya, a traditional dance performer.

Sailendra Shakya said it saddens him that the government does not prioritise the protection of the Valley’s centuries-old traditions.

Along with the completion of Ga: Pyakhan, Kartik Naach will be started soon in the month of Kartik.