Imagine an eighty-eight year old grandfather re-telling you the ancient history of Kirats and their religious shrine “Sano Hattiban Kirat Manghim.” In this single temple, at least four different ethnic groups worship it in their own unique way. A way of worship that doesn’t follow any written form of worship ritual but unique oral hymns and praying methods that are not taught. How would you react to it? Would you not be overwhelmed or excited? The eighty-eight year old grandfather in our case is Manjul Kumar Yakthumba, former chairman of Kirat Manghim Development Committee. His encaptivating storytelling made us thoroughly travel through a significant history of Kirats in Kathmandu Valley and we couldn’t help but be fascinated. As he proceeded, it felt like a quick travel through time, from 1905 B.S., when Kirat first began to worship Sano Hattiban forest on the day of Yakwa Puja, to the present day. Likewise, we also got to know about the struggles of Kirats- the worshippers of nature; to protect the Hattiban forest and construction of “Kirat Manghim” in order to preserve the identity and history of their religious forest.
On the main day, the final story of two different but unique heritage sites would finally be unveiled to the public. The stories which were filled with lots of dedication, hardships and hope of retelling and preserving their identity made this QR Storytelling project possible. Be it, the effort of Dharma Lal Maharjan sir to add, adjust and compile them in their truest form or the determination of Manjul Kumar Yakthumba for fighting on with his own body while telling the story of Kirat’s heritage even though he had difficulty breathing, carrying an oxygen cylinder. These impeccable instances of pure love for their heritages led us to the inauguration of Dakshinkali Devsthal and Sano Hattiban Kirat Manghim.
When we first arrived at Dakshinkali Devasthal on the day of inauguration, we noticed that many locals, as well as local representatives, had gathered at the temple premises. They were really enthusiastic and curious to hear the tales of their sacred history. A woman from the local community greeted us and organized the inauguration ceremony at Dakshinkali Devasthal shortly after we arrived at the location. Subsequently, ward chairperson Jeevan sir inaugurated the QR storyboard and presented a speech on the ways in which digital storytelling might aid in the preservation of ancient histories and cultural identities. He was one of those people who wanted us to tell the stories of these heritage sites right away on the day of our first meeting itself. Following Jeewan sir, the Temple Development Committee chairman delivered a brief speech expressing how happy they were to have their folktales and the myths surrounding Dakshinkali Devi available in digital format. Then, the host called Mr. Diwakar Rizal, Research and Content head of Saarang Services to talk about the Storytelling board and the ways to use it. Mr. Rizal talked about his experiences with QR boards and the value of digital storytelling. After that, he urged everyone to initiate this significant process of storytelling ecosystem and guided the locals on the way to use the Storytelling QR Board.
After the completion of inauguration ceremony at Dakshinkali Devasthal, we then rushed to “Sano Hattiban Kirat Manghim” for inaugurating the QR storyboard. Upon reaching the sano hattiban forest, ward chairperson Jeevan sir shared his childhood memories associated with the forest and the experiences of playing several games like “gatta”, “lukidum” (hide and seek) while eating several wild fruits available there. His eyes seemed filled with nostalgia of his childhood. After which, Jeevan sir and the chairman of “Sano Hattiban Kirat Manghim” management committee proceeded to inaugurating the QR storyboard of Kirat Manghim and the inauguration ceremony was hosted by Shiva Pangeni sir. After a speech by ward chairman Jeevan sir, Chairperson of Kirat Manghim Management Committee Bhim Tawa sir and Research and content head of Saarang Services, Mr. Diwakar Rizal, people started scanning the QR storyboards and it marked the end of inauguration ceremony there.
Sometimes stories cannot outlast the tragic aspects in our lives. Personally, I was very sad to hear about the demise of our beloved eighty-eight year old Manjul sir. He told us that he also wanted to start the process of telling the stories of our own heritage sites but couldn’t due to his illness. However, that did not stop him from sharing the story of Kirat Manghim. This journey of storytelling was truly an inspirational experience but what’s more is that until the end, he believed in the power of storytelling.