The Kathmandu Valley Watershed
Asian Development Bank, Kathmandu, Nepal
Art and Myth as a Means to Revive Environmental Awareness and Cultural Identity
For their very survival, early
peoples of Nepal maintained an intimate and respectful relationship
with nature. These values are reflected in their myths and rituals. The
ancient text of the Swayambhu Puran relates the myth of the
Serpent Kings, Naga Rajas, and describes the geographic history of the
Kathmandu Valley, which was once a lake. The nagas ruled the lake
before it was drained for human settlements and were angered by this
intervention. They threatened to leave the valley and render it barren.
This crisis was averted by giving the nagas dominion over certain sites
along the river and declaring them places of pilgrimage. In this way,
the power of nature was recognized and the serpents revered.
Traditional Nag Panchami poster celebrating the serpent deities
The Myth of the Nagas interprets
Nepal's legends and majestic artworks from an ecological perspective to
revive the respect for land, water and air that existed in traditional
culture. It reflects the universal connection of serpents to water,
forests and fertility, which is so important for life in the Kathmandu
Valley. These legends are the foundation to revive the consciousness of
contemporary society with regards to the current environmental crisis.
Serpents symbolize regeneration and thus reflect the revitalization
effort envisioned in this artwork. It is conceived as a collaborative
effort with the public's participation in preserving nature and culture.
Design for an Environmental Nag Panchami Poster~In collaboration with Deepak Joshi, Tempera on paper-22"x31"
This drawing interprets the
traditional Nag Panchami poster from an environmental perspective. It
shows the Kathmandu Valley as a lake as described in the ancient text
of the Swaymbhu Puran. The poster also refers to the ancient myth,
which describes how serpents breathe in stale air and exhale fresh air
so that all living things can exist. This legend is particularly
relevant to the current condition of the Kathmandu Valley were air and
water pollution are reaching critical levels.
The Naga deserves great respect for it
breathes in polluted air and leaves fresh air for the survival of all
living beings. This is why it is the main adornment of Lord Shiva.
Nagas are also guardians of the waters and are part of the pantheon of
god Varuna. These are the well-known reasons why the Nag Panchami
festival is celebrated in Nepal. In Kathmandu Valley today, the air and
waters are so dirty that the nagas have deserted us. Let us respect
nature and the positive values of our tradition by celebrating Nag
Panchami and cleaning our environment.
The Myth of the Nagas Installation
A River Greenway to Restore the Quality of Life
in Kathmandu Valley
To compensate for the
loss of open spaces and increasing congestion in city streets which
prohibits pedestrian access; we propose a series of linked greenways -
nature corridors - from the Shivapuri watershed to the Chovar Gorge.
This will demarcate the ecological and legal boundaries of the
waterways, which is imperative for a society where the overwhelming
majority of its citizens walk as their primary means of mobility.
In collaboration with scientists and
naturalists, we will design a landscape plan reintroducing native trees
and plants as well as indigenous animals into the ecosystem. This will
enhance the biodiversity of the valley and provide space for the rivers
to assume their more natural state. In addition to promoting
biodiversity, the greenway will encompass the renovation of important
cultural and historic sites along its course. It is thus conceived as
both an ecological and cultural pilgrimage routes.
Red Earth of Nepal / Earth
Bamboo Doko, namlo, red earth and sand
These two sculptures are a metaphor for the traditional and modern faces of Nepali society. The sculpture, Red Earth of Nepal,
symbolizes the older, more environmentally sound values. The importance
and value of red earth can be seen in the variety of purposes for which
it is used: construction, art, and ritual. By contrast, Earth
makes reference to the loss and abuse of soil in the Kathmandu Valley
today. Earth is now replaced by sand, which fills the unfinished doko
and symbolizes the unfinished task of nation building.
In collaboration with Deepak Joshi
These five frames are conceived as a prototype for a full size comic book. The myth represented here is based on the Nepala-mahatmya,
an ancient text that describes the Kathmandu Valley as a magnificent
forest of trees, waterfalls and rivers. Because of its natural beauty,
Shiva and Parvati decide to make their home here. All of the gods
eventually follow them and they live in harmony with nature.
Mandala: Naten Chutuk dedicated to world peace and the protection of the environment Colored sands
Monks from the Tse Chen Shedup Ling Sakya Monastery
Clay vessels, earth, water, and tree saplings
Rejuvenating nature is the
main theme of this sculpture. The clay vessels symbolize the value of
earth and the saplings are the trees of the future. These vessels
traditionally hold water and here they nurture small native trees:
walnut, magnolia, bamboo, and
lapsi. The triangular composition abstractly refers to the male and
female counterparts of nature. The work is a model for an outdoor
sculpture. When the roots eventually break through the vessel, the
small trees will be transplanted directly in the ground.
The Valley of Rivers
This work presents Kathmandu Valley's rivers. Through photographs, the environmental condition of the watershed is documented.
Panorama of Shankhamol
This depiction of Shankhamol, located
along the Bagmati River, represents the present state of the riverbank
and the large open spaces that can be transformed into a greenway. The
plan, as envisioned in the Myth of the Nagas, calls for the
linkage of all such spaces along the Bagmati and its tributaries in the
form of a nature corridor. In addition to the revitalization of nature,
the design also includes the renovation of temples and bathing
ghats. The greenway also features outdoor sculptures to help stimulate
a renaissance of Nepali contemporary culture. The drawings exhibited
below show the native trees that would be planted.
Color; 30 minutes
This video contrasts ancient serpent sculptures throughout the valley with Katmandu's present environmental condition
We were able to communicate our ideas to a
large and appreciative audience, including the Prime Minister of Nepal