Walking through the old cities inside the Kathmandu Valley even after rapid urbanization, concretization rather, we still see the amazing remains of the past. Some objects, temples, houses, lanes or windows staring and waiting to tell the stories of its glorious past. One of them is the magnificent wooden window in a simple house at Nardevi known as “Deshemaru Jhya”.
The literal translation of “Deshemaru Jhya” is “only once piece in the whole country” and as the name says the window in the house of Yetkha is only of its kind in the whole country. It is really interesting as well as mysterious to see a wonderful piece of art in a normal looking house. Even before the rebuilding of this house in a modern style, it was just an ordinary Newar house. Therefore, some local people even claim that the way of saying “Deshemaru” was a sarcastic way of telling “showoff”.
Actually this window is a blind window without opening and this type of window is mostly used in the first floor of the Newar house, known as “Tikki Jhyaa”. Normally these types of windows are plain-looking with the lattices so that it gives privacy in the room refraining from outsiders to look inside while from inside through the holes the outside view is possible. Mostly the windows in the second floors of traditional houses are richer and lavishly decorated and known as “Saa Jhyaa” with the open access. In contrast to the normal Tiki Jhyaa this one is designed with multiple frames – one overlapping the other with a total of eleven frames and in the center is lattice, providing the three-dimensional look.
While much information is not available regarding its origin or how the plain-looking house ended up having such an amazing art. Even many tourists come to have a look at this outstanding piece of art, according to the shopkeeper in the house Rico Sthapit as is featured in the tourist guidebook. But neither he nor the owner of the house has much details regarding the window.
In the window there is a piece of wooden plate with some text and number written as Yet Tor Nambar (7)9 and according to Prof. Kashinath Tamot it means Yetakhaatolayaa 79 lyaayaachhen – 79 house number of Yetkhaa. It was the census of the houses done during the Rana time.
This window not only tells the story of the glorious past but also the present – the state of heritage conservation of Nepal. Despite being an example of excellent craftsmanship, it is not in a proper condition now. The window is in a concrete house where it’s clamped with the cement while wooden pieces are in the phase of deterioration. The room with that window is now leased by a tuition institute. Neither the owner of the house nor the government seems to be giving attention to the famed window.
According to some locals, the government wanted to take that window when the house owner was rebuilding the house. But the owner opposed and in order to avoid the Department of Archeology claiming the window, the owner built the house with the window hanging and then built the wall over it. If the authorities responsible had managed to pursue the house owner to build the house in a traditional manner, the fate of the window would have been different. In addition to that we must also consider the fact that heritage conservation then was mostly guided by the objects and antiquities and they had not embraced the holistic way of heritage conservation. But the irony is almost decades later the mindset of the authorities does not seem to change.
It is clear that nothing has been done for conservation of the “Deshyamaru Jhyaa” but everyone of us carry it in our Nepali passport page number 25.
The author is researcher at CIDEHUS – Centro Interdisciplinar de História, Culturas e Sociedades da Universidade de Évora, Portugal.