United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) adviser for Culture in Asia and the Pacific, Richard A Engelhardt, has urged the government to propose more sites for inclusion in the World Heritage Site List, in addition to two cultural (Kathmandu and Lumbini) and two natural sites (Chitwan and Sagarmatha national parks) in Nepal that are already enlisted. Among Engelhardt’s proposed sites are the 1,300-year old oil-mill in Khokana, the ancient settlements of Upper Mustang and the old trade route of Dolpo.
As Engelhardt has rightly reasoned, Nepal’s heritage sites listed among World Heritage are, in one way or another, associated with erstwhile elites and ruling classes. Therefore, Nepal should lobby for the inclusion of the sites that reflect and represent the rich cultural lineage of the people. If Nepal goes ahead with this advice, it will put forward a new face of Nepal before the global community, showing that Nepal’s rich culture is as much a gift of the fertile imagination and craftsmanship of its people as the vision of former rulers who had the resources to commission such works. Additional attention brought about by the inclusion of new sites will also help in their preservation. As Nepal seeks to build a new identity for itself, it is important that it be recognised for its diverse culture and heritage and not just for the contribution of its elite classes.