There has seldom been any disagreement about the fact that the Kathmandu Valley is a walk-in museum. Temples, homes, public rest houses, monasteries and stupas have continued to attract and inspire people from both home and abroad, as much by their aesthetic appeal as spiritual. The Malla dynasty occupies a major chapter in the annals of Nepali cultural history. Few will dispute the fact that these monuments are larger than life pieces of Nepalâ€™s cultural past. But the sheer variety and number of such monuments in the city, however, have the ordinary citizens becoming indifferent to the importance of such edifices. Although the UNESCO has listed various sites within the Valley in the prestigious World Heritage Site List, the continuing neglect and encroachment of their premises have quickly earned them a place in the Endangered List. No wonder several of them are in a state of ruin, others dilapidated and some falling prey to smugglers.
It is a welcome break that a panel has been formed to enumerate and compile the inventory of Valley monuments. In fact, it should not have taken this long to enlist monuments and other cultural marvels in the Valley. The earlier governments looked away from actual work of conservation that would have first required the need to enlist the monuments. Even as the UNESCO and other aid agencies funded maintenance work of several important landmarks, encroachers continued to build incongruous structures in the Heritage premises. Then Pratappur temple in Swayambhu caught fire and later gave way. Even the â€œzoom out effortâ€ to narrow down the area of conservation focus to important monuments was mooted to no avail. But things havenâ€™t actually changed, despite all the hype about conservation.
An inventory of monuments in itself is no magic formula to their conservation. However, it brings those responsible for the welfare of such edifices closer to reality. It is also the first step towards a long-term conservation plan which will come in handy to sort out preferences and priorities. A compendium would prove a useful tool for the curious as well as the concerned. The Valley is also home to a rich variety of traditional dances, festivals, proccessions and other events of cultural significance. A single frieze, a carved temple door, a plinth, or an idol is laden with centuries of history. Sorting the edifices and other cultural practices with regard to their international, regional, national and local importance according to age and need for conservation is a logical step. But the work must not come to a stop with the list. Priorities need to be set out and implemented lest the new effort will not be any different from the earlier ones.