Guthi - Newa Social System
Guthi is a system that has been a part of the Newa social system in the Kathmandu Valley since the 5th century BC. The Guthi system is a trust where land is donated to the trust. This land is then tilled upon by members of the local community, and the revenue generated is not only a source of economy for the community but is also utilized to undertake various works within the community such as restoration of temples, rest houses (pati), priest houses (math), stone water spouts (dhunge dhara) and so on. This revenue is also used to carry out various festivals, customs and rituals. It was the system that engaged the local community in terms of not only tilling the land but also engaging a group of people such as masons (dakarmi), woodcrafters (shilpakars) and helping them to develop their skills. As such, the Guthi system helped to uplift the local community economically through the revenue generation and also provided a framework within which the local community could protect their tangible and intangible culture, enabling them to protect their very identity.
Donation of a land to the Guthi is considered to be a very good deed and is believed to have religious merits according to Nepalese culture. Historically, kings and the royals as well as local people would donate land to the Guthi with the belief that it would bring spiritual deliverance for seven generations. Donation of land to the Guthi was also a symbol of status in society and was highly regarded. Furthermore, another reason for endowment was to prevent the State to confiscate property as it was considered a great crime to confiscate Guthi land. All these reasons helped in the pooling of land within the Guthi system thereby generating regular income and to undertake various activities.
The Guthi system was basically associations formed by groups of people based often on various castes, which were in turn formed in the past based on occupations. Guthi existed for the Gods, the living and the dead and all activities concerning these three themes were carried out by the members of the Guthi. Although most of the Guthi system is now slowly diminishing due to changes in the social structure of communities and more so due to significant changes in the past fifty years such as the nationalization of the Guthi System and land reform campaigns, most Guthis do still exist although the activities that they conduct may have diminished considerably.
The Guthi system is therefore integrated into the social structure of the communities and hence was not only successful but also highly sustainable. It is a system like no other in the world and can be highlighted as a model of a system that worked not only to preserve tangible but also intangible aspects of culture within the Kathmandu Valley.