Indigenous Community member from Nepal receives prestigious Jeonju Award

(Left)Barahi Guthi members working on the chariot making. / (Right)Mr. Dil Kumari Barahi inspecting woodwork in Chariot. © Monalisa Maharjan

Mr. Dil Kumar Barahi from Nepal was one of the finalists of the Jeonju International Awards for Promoting Intangible Cultural Heritage 2021. Mr. Barahi, leader of traditional association (Guthi) is responsible for the woodwork of the chariot of deity Karunamaya from the time unknown. This year due to pandemic the award ceremony was held online on 7th October.

The chariot procession of Karunamaya is the major event of Patan city (also known as Lalitpur) but it is equally important for the whole population of Nepal. The God Karunamaya is worshipped as Alakitshwara by Buddhists and Rato Machindranath by Hindus. Locally people call the deity Bungadhyo as the deity reside half of the year in the village known as Bunga.

Karunamaya is known as god of compassion and rain, which is believed to bring rain needed to plant paddy in Kathmandu Valley. Before the deity goes back to Bunga, it goes around the ancient city of Patan in more than 32 feet long wooden chariot. The chariot is decorated by silver, bronze motifs, and many even plated gold has giant four wheels, long wooden log with huge glided Bhairav mask at the front. Huge mass of people pull the chariot with the help of rope and thousands participates as spectators.

The chariot of Karunamaya is made every year before the start of the procession and dismantled after the procession ends. Barahi Da Guthi is responsible for the woodwork of the chariot and the naya (leader) of that Guthi Mr. Dil Kumar have many responsibilities year around. Some of his work are as: to make sure all the rituals takes place check the status the reusable wood for the chariot and make estimates of new requirements. Most of the woods in the chariot are reused in normal years but the whole chariot is made from new wood every twelve year except glided parts.

Besides closely inspecting all the wooden work of the chariot Mr. Barahi as a leader is also responsible to coordinate with various organization for wood and rituals materials. The wooden parts like wheels, glided parts of balcony, front log wooden pole (dhama) and other parts of the chariot are stored in the different localities within the city. Mr. Barahi coordinates in bringing all the parts to the place of assembling as well as checking the status of wood and fixing it. He also teaches the young Barahi boys carpentry skills of chariot while chariot is being made.

Mr. Barahi who is now 65 years old has been working in craftsmanship of chariot making since he was nine years old. He became the naya in 2002 before he was assistant naya for six years. Mr. Barahi comes from the lineage of Barahi family where the eldest member of the male family member becomes naya.

Mr. Dil Kumar Barahi with the Jeonju International Awards for Promoting Intangible Cultural Heritage plaque. © Shailesh Rajbhandari

The recognition of Mr. Barahi work as the finalist of Jeonju International Awards for Promoting Intangible Cultural Heritage 2021 for has been uplifting moment for the whole Guthi as well as different associations that participate in the rituals of the Karunamaya. The work of community members has never been recognized at this scale not even within Nepal. Many people like Mr. Barahi continue the different ICH practices as continuity to family or community lineage without any expectation in return. This type of acknowledgement will boost in the morale of the community and practitioners as well as more interest in safeguarding ICHs.

After receiving the award Mr. Barahi says, “This award is not just the reorganization of my work but my whole Guthi and many other Guthi associated with God Karunamaya”.