If there is a time of year which defines Nepal as a country, it is the 15 day festival of Dashain. Like Easter, it is literally a ‘moveable feast;’ the dates varying according to the phase of the moon. Dashain falls some time between the end of September and beginning of November.
Dashain – half price medical check-up
All festivals in Nepal have religious significance and Dashain is certainly no exception. With aspects relating to various Hindu legends particularly concerning the goddess Durga. Each day devotees offer different forms of worship. Some days are more auspicious than others and we have now reached the most important – days 7-10. Yesterday there were processions to various temples and today is the day for animal sacrifice, during which many goats will meet their fate.
A goat going to butchers slab
Dashain is the main time for being with family. The buses have been particularly busy with people rushing to their home village in time for the celebrations. Others come back to Nepal travelling from distant parts of the globe. Many Nepalis are employed as migrant workers because jobs in Nepal are in short supply. Recent harrowing stories from the Middle East have highlighted how they can be made to work under terrible conditions. (See: http://www.theguardian.com/football/2013/oct/04/world-cup-2022-fifa-sepp-blatter-qatar-worker-deaths)
Phillipa had never seen the landlord’s wife smile so much as when she told her that her ‘maailo chora,’ (second son) and his family are coming from England for Dashain. It is only coincidental that Phillipa’s parents also came from the UK along with our ‘maailo chora,’ James and his girlfriend Katie; although we would have taken any excuse to see them all!
Having a welcome coke on a hot cycle ride with James
There are some parallels around Dashain for us with the preparation for Christmas, especially the crowded streets in the bazaar. However, here everything is ‘spring cleaned’ and gets a fresh coat of paint – including the walls and flower pots in our garden.
Garden at Dashain – painted wall and flower pots
Tailors are also busy, as Dashain is the time for new clothes – for the poor, these will be the only new clothes they get each year. For the middle class, however, it is also the time for new furniture and curtains. Special offers for Dashain are advertised in many shop windows. Rather more frustratingly it is also a time for ‘hoicking’ up prices of fruit and veg. We are not sure if that is supply and demand or opportunistic profiteering.
Dashain Furniture Sale
Most noticeably, however, it is time for fun. Children can be seen flying kites – the only time of year when they do so. This is apparently to remind the gods to stop sending rain after the monsoon. Yes, we have all had enough rain. I guess if you live above the clouds it is easy to forget the effect of persistent rain for those on the ground.
A boy prepares to fly his kite
Communities construct large swings, which have huge arcs of motion. In Nepali they are called ‘ping’ which I find a little disconcerting, imagining this as the noise made when the ropes exceed their tensile limit or the sound your shoulder makes as it dislocates after you hit the ground.
Children play on a “ping”
Schools are closed for a month and many offices shut for two weeks over the holiday which frustratingly means Dan’s medical registration has been further delayed. But it is good to see everyone having fun, except of course for the goats, although even some of them get a ride on a motorbike!