Other guthi, guthiyar (member of the guthis), took care of the temples and organize festivals, but these guthi members were not just priests but also farmers, sweepers or other members of the society too. The unique parts of this guthi were the land endowment to these temples and the rituals the guthi performed in return for income for the guthi family. In ancient times, when people or royals built temples, stone sprouts, or rest houses, they kept land endowments for repairs, restoration, and rituals. The purpose of the endowments varied, from small rituals like offering betel nuts to the temple to organizing big festivals. The land endowments were related to religious piety, as people believed that the offerings would bring good welfare and bless families over the ensuing seven generations. In addition the land endowments were also used for avoiding land confiscation during times of political turmoil, as it was considered a grave sin to revoke the guthi land.
Since the society was agrarian and the land of Kathmandu Valley was very fertile, land endowments were a perfect fit, leading to numerous festivals, temples, and monuments. Priests, sweepers, craftsmen, and others were paid on the agricultural products or piece of land for the service they provided. Most festivals and rituals follow the agricultural calendar. For example, during monsoon season, when there will be lot of work in the fields, there are no festivals or celebrations.
The guthi system continued for several generations uninterrupted, even though there were no strict instructions for the guthi members regarding their functions, and guthi members did not get anything except for being part of it. Still each guthi knew their responsibility of taking care of temples or organizing festivals. But the dynamics of guthis are changing and some guthi have even ceased to exist. The fate of guthi started to change in 1769 when the Malla kingdoms of Valley went to the Shah kings and created a power shift.
After eighteenth century, the new rulers used guthi land to fund wars. Later vast lands were used to build the palaces for the Ranas inspired by the European architectures and the gardens. When it came to the later half of the twentieth century, guthi land was used by the Nepal government for official buildings, hospitals, and even airport. In 1964, the government nationalized all guthi land and formed guthi corporations in return; the corporation started to fund rituals, festivals, and other events. This corporation was bureaucratic and based on a top-down management style, which was much different to the traditional grass-roots form of guthi management. These new approaches destroyed the way of safeguarding the heritage of Kathmandu Valley. The people in the guthi corporation did not understand the nature of traditional guthi or its functions. Much of the income generated from the land funded staff salaries. At the same time, a lot of land was lost due to embezzlement. The traditional guthi still get the same about of money they used to get decades ago despite high rates of inflation during the same period. These circumstances have caused many guthi to stop their functions, which has led to the extinction of many mask dances and rituals.
On a positive note, most of the traditional festivals celebrated in Kathmandu Valley are still done by traditional guthi as well as temples are still taken care by the traditional guthi members in turn. The irony is the unique centuries old practices are not recognized well in formal heritage conservation in Nepal. Community participation, which is often in conversation about heritage conservation practices, was already being implemented in the guthi system. The serious need is to build on the practices that already exist not necessarily to introduce completely new forms of heritage conservation strategies. If we look closely at the heritage conservation in Nepal, traditional community-oriented heritage conservation and formal heritage conservation are running parallel and have not yet converged. The most urgent need is to recognize the importance of the guthi system before it is swept away from modern Nepali society.