Plan to pull down Malla-era Ghadighar meets with protestThe Guthi Sansthan has decided to lease it to a cooperative, which plans to demolish it and construct a ‘multipurpose building’ in its stead.
Locals and heritage conservationists have expressed concerns over the Guthi Sansthan’s decision to demolish the Ason-based Ghadighar, which is also known as ‘Kathunani’, to lease the space for 25 years to a cooperative, which plans to build a multi-storey structure there.
Currently, 11 shop owners who have been doing business in the building and three other families who have been living there face eviction from the authorities.
The building stands on a plot of eight annas and three paisas (2840.67 square feet). The structure is believed to have been built in the Malla era.
On Tuesday, shop owners and heritage conservationists protested in Ason demanding that Guthi Sansthan be stopped from leasing the property to the cooperative.
The participants said the protest was staged to draw the attention of the mayor and deputy mayor of Kathmandu Metropolitan City and other stakeholders.
“For generations, we have been doing puja of Amitabha Buddha at this building, and I am the fourth generation from my family doing business here,” Sajeeb Bajracharya, a 55-year-old shopkeeper, told the Post. “Now all of a sudden, the Guthi Sansthan has asked us to leave the place.”
The 500-year-old idol of Amitabha Buddha—in Vajrayana Buddhism, he is known for his longevity, discernment, and as someone having a deep awareness of emptiness—is now housed on the ground floor of the three-storey building.
In August 2017, Guthi Sansthan made an agreement to lease the building to Bajrayogini Multipurpose Company, which would demolish the old building and make way for a multi-purpose one. Since then, the families living there have been protesting under the banner of ‘Save Kathunani Campaign’.
“The Guthi Sansthan didn’t even consult with the families who have been residing here for generations,” said Bajracharya. He added that those who have been staying in the building knew about the decision when they reached the Guthi Sansthan to present an application to extend their agreement five years ago.
The building, initially four-storeyed, was damaged in the 2015 earthquakes, and the Guthi Sansthan had pasted a red sticker on the building, meaning it is unsafe for use. However, the families continue to stay in the same building giving continuity to their ancestral businesses.
Alok Siddhi Tuladhar, a heritage conservationist, said the Guthi’s act is unjust to the families living there for generations and to the heritage, which dates back to more than 500 years.
“Initially, the Ghadighar—clock house—was named as Ashok Briksha Vihar, and it was a place to teach Buddhism, and the Department of Archaeology with its study has already proven that Amitabha Buddha’s statue is more than 500 years old,” said Tuladhar.
Conservationists are of the opinion that the Guthi Sansthan, instead of handing it to private firms, should give it to the stakeholders who have been using the building for years and conducting puja and other rituals for long.
“Locals have long said that they will preserve this historic monument keeping its archaeological value intact, but the Guthi Sansthan is trying to hand it to a commercial cooperative, which is unjust,” said Tuladhar.
When the Post contacted Kiran Shakya, administrative officer at Guthi Sansthan, to inquire about its decision to demolish Kathunani and hand it over to the cooperative, he said it is an old issue and has become more complicated over the years.
According to him, the issue has now reached the Ministry of Land Management, Cooperatives and Poverty Alleviation. “Though the Guthi Sansthan made an announcement to demolish it, the decision has not been implemented as it courted controversy,” Shakya said.