Buddha, Mt. Everest, Art and Nepal: What They Have in Common?
By Deepak Shimkhada, Ph.D. : I am reminded of the Nepali saying “Maal paayara chaal paaunu parchha” (Translation: one must ascertain the value of an object). Our ancestors created this meaningful phrase, but we don’t seem to follow it. For example, Nepal is truly blessed with many things. It has natural beauty. Sagarmathaa (Mt. Everest), the tallest mountain of the world is here. There also lie the most beautiful lakes, mountains, valleys and rivers.
In this small country, unique trees, plants, herbs, minerals, animals, birds, even insects, people, cultures, languages and religions are to be found. Nepal is the birthplace of the Buddha. Nepal is home to the living goddess called Kumari. In other words, Nepal is a garden with many colorful and fragrant flowers.
What other countries have, Nepal has, what Nepal has no other countries have. This fact itself makes Nepal unique. And Nepalis should be proud of their assets. But have Nepalis realized or even understood what true value they have? Maal ko Chaal?
If they had understood the value of their country’s assets, they wouldn’t be stealing, selling, destroying, polluting, and denigrating their art, culture, heritage and natural resources. They are destroying their cultural heritage by tearing down old and historic structures for building monstrous concrete ones. And they are trafficking old art objects and even human beings.
As Robert Cardinelli, a Western observer on FB, commented, Kathmandu is bereft of old public art. I agree. For example, last year when I visited Kathmandu I didn’t see some of the images I saw 10 years earlier. Evidently, people have stolen them and sold them to foreign art dealers and collectors for a “fistful of dollars.” How sad. For one’s personal gain, the nation has lost its treasures. It has been brought to my attention that even the private collectors in Kathmandu who had some rare images and manuscripts are selling them. At this rate Nepal certainly will soon be bereft of any art of cultural value whether in public or in private.
Because a large number of tourists come to Nepal to see and buy art, and museums and galleries purchase them, it’s evident that there is high demand for Nepali art. As the supply of Nepali art dwindles the demand and price rise. People will be more greedy and desperate to obtain them by any means. Nepalis who sell art or any objects of cultural value are ignorant of their heritage. They don’t know what they are doing to their country and to their children and their children’s children. Selling one’s cultural heritage is like selling one’s soul.
Lately I have been hearing slogans about Mt. Everest and the Buddha initiated by some young and energetic Nepalis. They claim that they belong to Nepal. Obsolutely. They should, by all means, protect them and claim them as their own. But slogans are not enough. They have to prove what they believe by their actions, not only by slogans. Make the government restrict tourism in remote mountain areas. Find a way to deal with the trash and garbage left behind by the travelers. Teach children and citizens to be responsible for the environment and for their actions. Teach them not to pollute land, water and air.
Also teach them to preserve and protect ancient art objects and treat them with respect. Teach them to follow Panchasila, the simple five precepts taught by the Buddha. Teach them to live by the Buddha’s principles. People with moral values must use their conscience and turn it into actions. It’s only through actions that they can bring about a real transformation.