Everest or Sagarmatha?

A recent article Mt Everest! That's the height of British colonialism has struck a nerve in me. We Nepalis take pride in the fact that Nepal was never a colony of the British Empire unlike most of our neighbors. Yet, one of our main national symbols is named after a British official from the British Raj. Why doesn't Nepal use the local name of Sagarmatha?

Back in 1865, Sagarmatha was given the name of Everest by the Royal Geographical Society upon recommendation of Andrew Waugh, the British Surveyor General of India at the time, who named it after his predecessor in the post, and former chief, Sir George Everest. He took this decision since Nepal and Tibet were closed to the rest of the world. This was in 1865. But now we are in 2011. Nepal and Tibet are no longer closed to the rest of the world.

Yet we continue to call Sagarmatha by its English name. India has started renaming its cities to their original names - Calcutta is now called Kolkata, Bombay is Mumbai and Madras is Chennai. Similarly, Burma is now called Myanmar and Rangoon is Yangon. Why shouldn't we do the same? Why shouldn't we assert Nepal's "sovereign right to control affairs within (its) borders" by renaming the peak Sagarmatha.

Jeff Botz, an American photographer whose photographic project "Portrait of Everest: An examination of appearance and identity" is on display in Kathmandu since last month, is trying to create awareness about the mountain's original identity and Britain's attempt to dominate "this small but significant piece of geography" for nearly 160 years. Why does an American photographer have to tell us what to do? Why can't our Government take the appropriate steps to give Nepal's pride and identity its local name. Do we need a Facebook revolution to bring about this change?