Heritage Restoration and Traditional Community Governance in Kathmandu Valley
The 2015 Gorkha earthquake and its aftermath have underlined the inadequacies within the Nepali governance system. The problems are evident with the post-earthquake restoration process still not gaining any significant success and many historical structures within the world heritage site of Kathmandu valley still awaiting restoration. However, there has been some respite in the form of community initiatives towards restoration of some heritage structures. These community initiatives seem to be serving as examples of well-working, grassroot mechanisms of governance among the locals in Kathmandu valley. But, what is important to note also on a more general level is that these are not spontaneous actions that have arisen without any deeper connection with local traditions and culture. Rather, the phenomenon seems to be deep-rooted in the traditional practice of cooperative governance that was the hallmark of the specific Newari governance tradition, the guthi system, which included maintenance of public and sacred sites. This may be an extremely interesting example of how traditional non-Western forms of governance can be very efficient and effective. Especially with the availability of better means of coordination and information dissipation through ICT, community cooperation seems to have been rejuvenated and successful to a good extent. To understand how these community efforts are actually working and to investigate their relationship with the guthi system, further study is needed. But, there are examples which suggest that this might indeed be the case. Maitripur Mahavihar in Kathmandu, which is undergoing reconstruction through the initiatives by the families traditionally associated with the Mahavihar, is one of the few cases where progress has been smooth. The Lichhavi-era stupa in Thamel, known as “Ashok Chaitya”, has been restored successfully through community initiatives. There have been attempts from the community to initiate the reconstruction of the Kasthamandap, probably the oldest standing structure in Kathmandu before the earthquake. These cases, along with others, provide for a promising research program.