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Blog – Explore Himalaya Travel & Adventure

Teej festival- the largest celebration of Hindu women in Nepal

Teej literally means “third” and the third day after moonless night of Srawan Month of Hindu calendar is an auspicious celebration of Teej. Teej is the biggest festival for Hindu women of Nepal. The festival falls either in late July or in early August according to Gregorian calendar. The festival that commemorates Goddess Parvati wedlock with Lord Shiva is observed for everlasting intimacy between married couples, well being of family and purgation of soul and body. A three-day-long festival allows delicious late night feast as well as tests endurance during 24 hour long tough fasting.

Teej Celebration in Nepal

The first day of Teej, Dar Khane Din (feast day prior to fasting) kicks off in a grand way. Women married and unmarried especially of Chettri and Brahmin ethnical tribes gather at their maternal locality. Everyone in red and green attire bedecked with jewelries gather at a place where they enjoy singing and dancing. Songs normally have words that describe the holiness and divine power of Lord Shiva. The musical celebration goes till midnight. Meanwhile, men of the maternal family host feast for their sisters, nieces, cousins and daughters offering them complete liberty to enjoy this particular day. After the feast, a 24-hour long fast begins. Teej, a traditional festival where women also express their pains through the lyrics of the songs they sing while dancing.

The second day of Teej is a fasting day. Some women go through tough fasting (24 hours without food and water) while others prefer liquids and fruits. Both married and unmarried women undertake fasting. Married women fast for the blessings of longlife, peace and prosperity of their husband and family. Unmarried fast to be blessed with rightful husband. Women sing and dance to the nearby Shiva Temple to be a part of mass fasting, dance and music.

The Final day of the festival is Rishi Panchami- a day dedicated to holy saints (Rishi refers to saints). After completion of prayer the previous day women satisfy seven saints offering them food, money and different gifts. They also offer prayers to saint deities bathing with red mud, and brushing with datiwan (a type of bush tree). This final ritual of Teej purifies body and soul of women freeing them from all their sins.

Teej in Pashupatinath

This temple dedicated to Shiva is painted red and green throughout during Teej. Several hundred thousand Hindu women throng to Pashupatinath. It looks like women hold 99% of total population of Kathmandu. Everywhere we see women and girls in beautiful red and green attires waiting to enter the temple. Inside the temple thousands stand in a line to enter main temple of Pashupatinath, thousands gather at a place to dance with the music and another thousands are wondering to figure out what to do next. It looks like a world of women devotee fasting hard for the longevity and prosperity of their men and family. Unique in a sense- women celebrate but worship a male deity and hardship of fasting women suffer is credited for wellbeing of a men.

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35,000 plus Nepali converge to create biggest human flag in the world

Biggest Human flag

More than 35,000 Nepali gathered in Tudikhel last Saturday (August 23, 2014) to stand during the historic moment that created the biggest National Flag. Participants who paid NRS 100 to stand united to form Human Flag that covered the total area of 238,455 sq ft, were thrilled to become a part of historic event that would possibly set a record in Guinness World Records Book.
Bhawesh Khanal, president of Human Values for Peace and Prosperity, the event organizer said, “Our aim is to show that there is unity among us.” He also added that a portion of money collected would be donated to the victims of Sindhupalchowk landslide.

Photo credits: ekantipur.com

 

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Kanchenjunga Base Camp Trek- offbeat trekking destination in Nepal

Lonely planet describes, “The sunrise view at Kanchenjunga 8586m is a kind of view that inspires religion.” Truly, trekking to the Base Camp of Mt. Kanchenjunga, which is world’s third highest peak, is fascinating experience. Kanchenjunga Base Camp Trek best suits to enthusiastic trekkers who strive to experience something pleasantly odd out of offbeat trek in Nepal. Trekkers have a choice; either to visit south Base Camp at Ramche 4360m or to cross over Mirgin La Pass 4663m to explore both South Base Camp at Ramche and North Base Camp at Pang Pema 5140m. Located in extreme northeast region of Nepal, Kanchenjunga borders Indian State, Sikkim to the East and China to the north.

Camping Trek to Kanchenjunga Base Camp

Kanchenjunga Base Camp Trek- gaining elevation as high as 5140m

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Cutting edge ridges of Chang Peak aka Wedge Peak 6800m

Here we have a brief travel guide on Kanchenjunga Base Camp Trek, which would really help all those trekkers planning to Trek to this part of Nepal.

Getting to the starting point

By road- Board a bus at Kathmandu and drive to the major Eastern city of Nepal, Biratnagar. Ten to twelve hours of road journey could be intriguing but often it is exhausting. Overnight stay at Biratnagar and next morning drive 3-4 hours to reach the trek starting point, Phidim (a beautiful small town in the eastern mid-hills)

By air: Skipping a roadway saves your time but could be little more expensive. Instead, take a short flight to Biratnagar and drive on a same day to Phidim to begin the trek next day.

offbeat-trek-in-Nepal-Kanchenjunga

A typical Limbu house- an ethnical tribe in the region

Offbeta-trek-in-nepal

Freezing Himalayan breeze floating above Mt. Kanchenjunga

Trek Type

Trek to Kanchenjunga Base Camp these days could be arranged in teahouse basis. However, we do not recommend you for such treks. Limited resources for accommodation and food may ruin the pleasure of entire trek. So, we encourage Fully organized treks. Though expensive, comfortable sleep in tents every night and 3 meals of hygienic food every day, cooked by professional Sherpa cooks is highly recommended.

Guides and porters:

Depending on a group size, one or two Sherpa guides lead the trek. One Sherpa cook with one or two kitchen boy, 2-3 porters per guest trekkers to carry necessary logistics  accompany the group of trekkers to Kanchenjunga Base Camp.

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 Alpine wilderness of Kanchenjunga

Trek Highlights:

Although, the entire trekking trail to Kanchenjunga Base Camp offers high degree of adventurous thrill, many of these highlights imprints permanently in the memories of trekkers.The Trek to Kanchenjunga Base Camp highlights extreme wilderness in nature, adventurous trekking thrills and traditional authentic culture of Eastern Nepal.

Himalayas

The jaw dropping views of the Kanchenjunga from the North Base Camp at Pang Pema (5140 M), the exceptional beauty of Kanchenjunga Glacier, sharp ridges of Chang Himal (Wedge Peak) 6800m soaring above Kanchenjunga Glacier, the magnificence of Taple Shikhar, The Twin Mountains, Pyramid Peak and Tent Peak are fascinating highlights of Kanchenjunga Base Camp Trek. Similarly, Mt. Kumbhakarna, an extreme vertical white mass towering above Mt. Khabur and Mt. Phole is one of the rarest views during any trek in Nepal. Picturesque backdrop of Chijma Peak against stunning Lhonak Glacier, the appealing beauty of Rathong and Kabru Dome Peaks and the excellence of Yalung Glacier are also major highlights of Kanchenjunga Base Camp Trek.

Offbeat trek in Nepal

The panorama of Eastern Himalayas perfectly blends with culture of the region

Trial

The trail offers a pleasant trek through the dense alpine woodlands that include bamboo, bright red rhododendron, oak, chestnut, pine and juniper trees. Trekking along the deep valleys formed by Baby Rivers that emerge from Himalayas and witnessing unstoppable vertical flow of these Rivers while crossing them over narrow suspension bridges is a sheer adventure. Crossing over high passes of Dhupi Bhanjyang  2540m, Lamite Bhanjyang 3410m, Deurali Bhanjyang 3800m and Mirgin La 4663m from one valley to another is wonderful experience on offbeat trekking trail in Nepal. Since Kanchenjunga Base Camp Trek is one of the least frequented trekking regions in Nepal, trekkers rarely encounter with human. Sometimes walking for days even do not bring a single human into the sight. So, the trek creates enough opportunities to witness alpine wildlife that include musk deer, blue sheep and elusive snow leopard. World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) working region to protect snow leopard Kanchenjunga Conservation Area Project, has GPS collared snow leopards roaming in the region. Also, walk through sparsely populated pleasant villages in the highland makes the trial uniquely awesome.

Offbeat trek in Nepal

Amazing culture in the Highland regions of Kanchenjunga

Experience

The biggest achievement is to complete four-week long strenuous trek in the most remote corner of Nepal. An opportunity to live few days with highland Nepali communities such as Rai, Limbu, Sherpa and Gurung and have an insightful peep into the culture of these people are experiences larger than life. Exploration of highland monasteries and experience of the hospitality of highland folks, electrifying walk over Yalung Glacier and challenges to overcome of high mountain passes are also the biggest experiences of Kanchenjunga Base Camp Trek.

Offbeat trek in Nepal

Walking can hilariously adventurous 

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Few Cultural and religious Faux Pas in Nepal

Clockwise circumambulating at Boudhanath

Clockwise circumambulating at Boudhanath

The land of Gautama Buddha is also the land brave Gurkhas. Nepal, a unique destination where every corner contrasts to another is one of the fascinating travel destinations of South Asia. Nepalese can adopt the cultural changes quite easily and regarding the foreign visitors, Nepalese treat them very respectfully. Mostly in the urban areas while greeting, Nepalese are fine with handshakes or hellos but appreciate a Namaste gesture, they do not mind eating with left hands and the most interesting part, they smile for the criticism of Nepalese politics and bureaucracy. However, 21st century Nepal has few areas in which they expect some respect. It is not like that offending a Nepali would put you in the position of facing a Gurkha- Nepalese are also very forgetful people.

Religiously Nepal is the origin of the oldest Religion (Sanatan Dharma) but Nepal respects every other religion unbiased. However, Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism are two prevailing religions in Nepal and hence, the major religious faux pas travelers may experience in Nepal are related with the practices of Hinduism and Buddhism.

Here we have three religious Faux Pas that you would never like to commit while you are traveling in Nepal.

NO to Beef: The most important thing every traveler to Nepal should know is that the restaurants in Nepal do not cook or sell Beef cuisines. In fact, cow is the Nepalese National animal as well as a highly revered religious symbol. Killing of cow is a legal crime in Nepal.

Cow, a scared animal in Nepal is also its National emblem

Cow, a scared animal in Nepal is also its National emblem

Remember Clock-wise: Unless you are circumambulating a Bon Monastery at other occasions when you are walking around any religious shrines in Nepal walk clock-wise. Every Hindu and Tibetan Buddhist shrines in Nepal are circumambulated clock-wise.

Death Ritual: The Hindu death rituals are conducted normally at Riverbanks. The corpses are burnt there. However, mistaking it with pile of woods burning on the riverside and photographing it is a terrible faux pas. Undoubtedly, the mourning relatives of the deceased one could be offensive. Film it but make sure you are not being noticed.

Regarding the faux pas in the rural regions of Nepal, have a look at the list what might put you in awkward situation

Nepalese living in the rural regions prefer “Namaste” while greeting.

How to do Namaste properly: joining two hands at the chest level and pronouncing Na- mas-te with a smile on a face.

Look at the kid in the center of the photograph-its a perfect Namaste

Namaste Tradition in Nepal

Kids greeting with Namaste- A perfect Namaste

Especially, for women trekkers wear the dress that doesn’t reveal much. Go for the long comfortable trousers. Sorry, but the Nepalese in the mountains are not used to seeing women wearing short pants. So, it is better to respect the perception of natives.

While on treks, allow the teahouse you are staying to serve your food. Sounds ridiculous but it is the fact. Teahouses generate profits by serving foods not by providing accommodation. We urge you not to ignore it and put yourself and the guide in awkward position.

Culture of Nepal has huge contrast to the west. Every daily life activity here in Nepal might grab your attention that you would prefer to capture into your camera. Make sure you are at reasonable distance while photographing or take permission, most of the times you won’t be denied.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Festival of holy thread- Janai Purnima aka Rakshya Bandhan

Rakshya-bandhan

Nepal celebrates numerous unique festivals every year. Unique in terms of practice in the other parts of the world; Nepal shares its cultural bond somewhat with India however, the celebration of festivals having same religious importance are different. Among many unique festivals of Nepal, Janai Purnima-the festival of holy thread stands out unique as mantra poured strings are considered powerful protection bonds.

Janai purnima, a holy thread festival for the Hindus most of the years fall on full moon day of August. On this day Hindu men, especially the Brahmans and Chettris perform their annual ritual bath and change their old holy thread (janai) with the new one diagonally across their torso. However, this holy thread is granted to only Hindu males during the religious ceremony, Bartabandan that indicates them of entering the manhood from the childhood. Devotees throng to Kumbeshowr Mela Lalitpur on Janai Poornima to offer prayers to Lord Shiva and tie the thread knot around the wrist. This knot is also called as Rakshya Bandan. Hence, the festival is also celebrated as Rakshya Bandan.

Rakshya refers to “protection and bandhan refers to “bond” so the  knot tied around the wrist is basically a protection bond as per Hindu myth. Regardless of gender and caste, every Hindu ties this protection bond around their wrists during Rakshya Bandhan. Males tie it on right wrist whereas; females tie it on left. Pashupatinath in Kathmandu, Kumeshowr in Patan, Gosain Kunda in Rasuwa, Dudh Kunda in Solukhumbu, Ganga Dhanusagar in Janakpur, Dansadhuma in Jumla, and Vageshowr in Dadeldhura among others, are the major destinations where Janai Purnima or Rakshya Bandhan is celebrated hugely. The major dish during the festival is kwati (a sprout dish of nine types of beans)

The same festival is celebrated as Rakhi in Terai Regions of Nepal. Sisters tie colorful threads on their brother’s wrists. They exchange gifts and brothers vow to protect their sisters lifelong on this revered festival. The Indian communities living in Nepal also celebrate Rakhi.

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Nag Panchami, Worshipping the Serpent God

Nag-panchami- Nepal1

Myth of Nag Panchami

Picture source: wikipedia

A Hindu festival that falls on the fifth day of bright fortnight of Shrawan according to the lunar calendar, Nag Panchami, is the celebration of worshipping serpent gods and deities in Nepal. According to the Gregorian calendar, Nag Panchami falls on July/August, which announces the beginning of the trekking season in Nepal.

According to a well-known myth, Takshaka, the serpent king bit Parikshit to death. Janamaejaya the son of Parishit organized Yagya to eliminate the entire serpent race including Takshaka to avenge his father’s death. The group of highly learned Brahmin sages began the Yagya and hence the serpents were drawn towards the sacrificial pit to death. The powerful mantras scared Takskaha who fled to Indra seeking protection. However, the tempo of mantra became faster and more powerful. Sacred community of Gods pleaded Manasadevi to stop the Yagya and hence Astika was ordered to do so. Astika reached the Yagya site and stopped the Yagya by winning a blessing from Janamajaye demonstrating his unparallel skills. The day was fifth day of bright fortnight of Shrawan month and since then Nag Panchami is observed to celebrate the lives of serpent race including Indra and Takshaka from the rage of Janamajaye.

Nag Panchami is observed by worshipping the copper, silver or stone statues and images of Serpent Deities. People of Nepal put the colorful images of serpents on the doors of their houses; they offer especially cow’s milk to these serpent deities. In some places, people worship the real serpents. Rituals of Nag Panchami vary at places. Celebration of Nag Panchami in Kathmandu can be seen at Changu Narayan and Nag Pokhari. Nag Panchami is observed very enthusiastically at Nag Pokhari. Devotees throng to Nag Pokhari to worship a statue of serpent God that stands tall in the middle of small pond.

 

 

 

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