Heritage conservationists plant Khari plant to make people reflect upon Tundikhel’s glorious pastThis is the second week of the three-month-long ‘Occupy Tundikhel’ public campaign to reclaim open spaces from encroachers.
As part of the ongoing ‘Occupy Tundikhel’ campaign, heritage conservationists and the locals on Saturday planted ‘Khari plant’ in the eastern part of Tundikhel, symbolising the revival of the historic ‘Khari tree’ which holds great social, political and historical significance in the local folklore.
The symbolic protest marks a second week of the three-month-long ‘Occupy Tundikhel’ public campaign to reclaim the once open space from encroachers. The mass public campaign started on November 9 and people from different walks of life came to lend solidarity to the citizen-led movement.
Eighty-two-year-old botanist and conservationist Tritha Bahadur Shrestha, and coordinator of the campaign Vijay Shrestha planted saplings of Khari on Saturday in the presence of other conservationists and local residents.
The Khari trees occupy a significant place in Nepali history. Legend has it that in order to pacify the children eating mythical creature 'Gurumapa' that used to live under a Khari tree in Tundikhel, local Newar people used to provide a feast of boiled rice and buffalo meat. As a ritual, even today, people from the Newar community give a feast in the area on the day of Fagu Purnima. As matters stand, there is only one old Khari tree remaining in Tundikhel and it lies in an abject state of neglect.
“My memory is still fresh and I remember the late Bishweshwar Prasad Koirala, Ganeshman Singh and Indian independence activist Jawaharlal Nehru giving weighty speeches from Tundikhel, but this place has been neglected,” said Shrestha. “With this campaign, I am very hopeful of reviving this historical place and getting back the encroached land of Tundikhel.”
Old-timers remember that when Queen Elizabeth II first visited Nepal in 1961, she was given a guard of honor at the Tundikhel grounds.
“Kathmandu Valley do not have open space, as the open spaces have already been encroached upon and have been converted into a concrete jungle. Nepal Army has occupied a significant portion of Tundikhel, and local authorities have misused the remaining places,” said Suraj Khanal, general secretary at Society of Nepalese Architects. “This is an essential and sensitive public space, and this has to be preserved,” said Khanal, who was present at Saturday’s programme.
Last week, heritage activists, locals, and activists had formed a human chain to put pressure on the government to reclaim Tundikhel, one of Kathmandu Valley’s most significant open spaces for public gatherings, that has come under been highly encroached upon in recent years. The organisers have announced to take forward the movement with various creative activities that include raising awareness through live musical shows, poetry recitation, street plays and painting exhibitions.
As a part of 'Occupy Tundikhel' movement on Friday, locals and conservationists made the Kathmandu Metropolitan City padlock Dui Maju shrine, located on the northwest side of Khula Manch, a place in Tundikhel where around two dozen shopkeepers were running their businesses illegally.