Khokanā (खोकना)

Khokanā is a traditional village that has still retained much of its traditions, cultures, and heritage from the 13th century Malla era. Having been situated around eight kilometers south of Kathmandu; it is still untouched by the postmodern time and lifestyle. The village itself has more than half a millennium year’s old history of its existence, cultural development and evolvement over times.  Prior to finding history written on/about it in some manuscript and stone slates, not much had been precisely known about it except from mythology. Still today, it reflects medieval times and serves as a depository of its stubbornly unyielding lifestyle that prevail all odds of our time. Thus, living museum, as it depicts the country life that resembles the medieval age, might probably be a justifiable remark to portrait Khokanā in a big brushstroke.

It is widely known for its pure mustard oil produced from traditional wooden mill press. These mills are run by shareholders. The concept of the shareholder in oil mill in Khokanā, as it is believed, precedes the western industrial revolution.  The shareowners were classified according to their portion of the share. They are “Sā:nāyo,” “Bāymho,” “Pāymho.”

Photo: Bikash Dangol, Khokana

There were four main public mustard oil mills in 2000 AD. Now all of them are barely in use. Each mill has its members from almost every household in the past. In the course of time, a large number of members sought their fate in other professions, since they could not compete with the corporate products. Eventually, the members ebbed away. The gradual declination in use of mills over a decade and unhealthy market competition were the obvious reasons behind the extinction of traditional oil-mill for a time being. However, UNESCO backed the shareholders of the mills to renovate and bring them back into use. This oil is primarily used for cooking, but also used it for therapeutic massage.

Khokanā was proposed and nominated to be enlisted in the World Heritage site for its unique model of medieval settlement pattern “representing vernacular and pure mustard seed oil.”[1] Medieval city planning of Khokanā can be a model for even today.  The emergence of new concrete buildings challenged the medieval settlement model. Thus, much of its infrastructure has been changed over past decade. Still, we can trace its earlier form in the aerial picture.

Forefathers settled this village on the high hill with four main entrances that connect each other. There is a main road that goes through the center of the village. It dissects Khokanā in two parts where street # 1, 2, 3, and 4 at one side and St. # 5, 6, 7, and 8 at other side. Since, paved link roads are structured in a ring road system, you can start your journey from one point and come to the same point without deviating from the link road."The Lower Civic Center"

What is more distinctiveness of Khokanā is the sewage and irrigational system. As the country is positioned on the hill, water drains quickly all the way down to rice fields during rain. Another worthwhile mentioning asset of the land is two civic centers (lãkshi), full of courtyards (Ba:hã), water wells, and communal ponds in neighborhoods.  Major cultural, religious, and social activities take place in the civic centers, whereas other social and cultural functions such as drama, local traditional band performance, holding feast etc. occur in the courtyards.

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