Nepal has applied to UNESCO, the arm of the United Nations that promotes protection of cultural and natural heritage worldwide, to list nine more locations in the country as World Heritage Sites. Nepal already has 10 listed sites, seven of them in the Kathmandu Valley.
UNESCO has ten criteria for the world heritage list, six applying to cultures living and dead and four for natural sites. For inclusion, nominated sites must have “outstanding universal value” and meet at least one of the ten criteria. There are currently 878 World Heritage Sites, and about three-quarters of the countries in the world have at least one site listed.
Nepal’s proposed additions are the medieval walled city of Lo Monthang in the Mustang region; the temple of Vajrajogini and the old town of Sankhu nearby; the medieval town of Tansen, with its enormous gate studded to protect against elephant attack; the old hilltop village of Kirtipur, near Kathmandu; and Nuwakot Palace, the retreat of the founder of the recently-expelled Shah dynasty. Also in the filing are the 12th century Ram Janaki temple, believed to be the birthplace of the Hindu goddess Sita, and the Rishikesh temple complex in southern Nepal, a pilgrimage site mentioned in Hindu scripture, and two sites in western Nepal dating to the Khasa kingdom, the Bhurti Temple Complex and the cultural remains in the Sinja Valley.
Currently Sagarmatha National Park, home to Mount Everest, and Chitwan National Park in the Terai plains in southern Nepal are listed as natural sites. Also in southern Nepal, Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha, is a listed cultural site. There are seven more cultural sites in the Kathmandu Valley: the three palace squares, two fifth-century Buddhist stupas, Changu Narayan Temple, and the temples and cremation ghats at Pashupatinath.
Nepal’s ten current sites place it in the top tier of countries so recognized. If all nine applications are approved, fewer than a dozen countries would have more World Heritage Sites.
John Child is The NewsBlaze Nepal Correspondent, a journalist in Kathmandu who writes about goings-on in and around Nepal and her neighbors.