Enduring month long strict fasting in devotion: Swasthani Barta Katha

Enduring month long strict fasting in devotion: Swasthani Barta Katha

Posted Feb 5th, 2015 under Culture & Festivals, Photo Essay, Pilgrimage, Special Events,
Swasthani an epic book of Hindus is a collection of religious tales that describes the power of Goddess Swathani. Hindus believe that Goddess Swasthani generously fulfills the wishes of her devotees if the book is read during particular time of the year with absolute devotion. Devotion relates to the purity of body and soul.  Especially Hindu women from Poush Shukla  Purnima to Magh Shukla Purnima as per  Nepali calendar, which falls between January to February in Gregorian Calendar endure the hardship of fasting for a month. Located 17 km northeast of Kathmandu, Salinadi (River) is a popular place for Hindu devotees, being the destination blessed by Goddess Swasthani as per the Hindu myth. The myth says, a fairy from heaven who was indulged in devotion of Goddess Swasthani at Salinadi felt pity on seeing the misery of cursed Chandrawati. She suggested the god damned Chandrawati to worship the powerful Goddess and get her wishes fulfilled.   Chandrawati went through all the hardships to please the Goddess Swasthani and was able to find peace in her life. Since then Salinadi  is the most revered place in Nepal when it is the time to endure the strict fasting hardship to please this mythically powerful Goddess Swasthani. Here we have few photographs captured on the last of Swasthani Festival 2015 at Salinadi. Festivals of Nepal

Devotees at revered Sali Nadi on the Final day of Swasthani 

Festivals of Nepal

The holy Sali Nadi (River)

Festivals of Nepal

Devotees indulged in final procedure of the month long fasting festival

Festivals of Nepal

The devotees who were at Sali Nadi for a month abiding strict rules of fasting

Festivals of Nepal

Hardship doesn't restrict devotees to have fun

Festivals of Nepal

Faith that overcomes the fear of failure

Festivals of Nepal

Holy saints expect some gifts from the devotees

Festivals of Nepal

And the revered book -Swasthani

The biggest festival in the city of festivals,Kathmandu- Indra Jatra

Posted Sep 10th, 2014 under Culture & Festivals, Photo Essay, Pilgrimage, Special Events, Tourism News,

Festival in Kathmandu- Celebrating Indra Jatra, hundred thousands throng to Kathmandu Durbar Square for a glimpse of Living Goddess, KumariObservers waiting for the glimpse of Living Goddess, Kumari during Indra Jatra, Kathmandu Durbar Square

Introduction Known as “Yenya” in Newari dialect, Indra Jatra the biggest carnival of Kathmandu Valley is dedicated to the king of heaven also the provider of rain, God Indra. Celebration of Indra Jatra in Kathmandu is associated with interesting myth of Indra being captured by the natives of Kathmandu. The eight-day long festival is celebrated from Bhadra dwadsahi to Ashwin Krishna chaturdashi according to the lunar calendar, which falls during the months September or October as per Gregorian calendar. Indra Jatra Celebration at Kathmandu Durbar Square- Linga dragged from Nala in Kavre erected on the far end of Kathmandu Durbar Square

Artistic medieval monuments, pigeons, devotees and the Linga- Kathmandu Durbar Square during Indra Jatra 

The myth- “Holding the provider of Rain captive, the natives of Kathmandu desperately wanted rain” Indra’s mother Dagini wanted jasmine tree in the gardens of heaven to perform some ritual and hence Indra disguised as human and came to Earth to fetch the plant. While Indra was stealing the plant from a garden in Kathmandu Valley, the natives captured him. Unknown to the fact that the God of Rain was captured Kathmandu suffered extreme dryness; however, the capturers would not free Indra. Dagini came down to the earth in search of her son and discovered that the people of Kathmandu held him captive. Upon Dagini’s request, the people of Kathmandu agreed to free Indra. Pleased with the generosity of the people of Kathmandu, Dagini promised for the timely rainfall and good harvest. She also took all the people of Kathmandu who died that year to the heaven. Since then Indra Jatra is observed enthusiastically in Kathmandu. Indra Jatra, the biggest festival of Kathmandu

When it is a festival time the people of Kathmandu do not care about anything- Rain??? Their kingdom was conquered  when they were celebrating Indra Jatra

Sweta Bhairav being demonstrated during Indra Jatra at Kathmandu Durbar SquareDevotees offering prayers to Sweta Bhairav during Indra Jatra- a part of ritual of the festival

“History of Indra Jatra in Kathmandu” King Gunakamadeva introduced the festival in Kathmandu during 10th century. With time, the celebration of this carnival modified. During 16th century, King Mahendra Malla established the ritual of “Mata Biye” where the Newar Communities of Kathmandu honored family members passed away in past year by small butter lamps processions that covered the traditional routes through the old part of the city. In 18th century, King Jaya Prakash Malla added the processions of Living Gods and Goddess, which include the beautifully carved and adorned chariots processions of Kumari, Bhairab and Ganesha. The degree of fun during Indra Jatra is manifested by King Prithivi Narayan Shah’s conquer over the kingdom while the entire town was celebrating Indra Jatra. kumari-indrajatra

Kumari leaves her home during Indra Jatra- An opportunity once a year to watch this sacred beauty being carried to her chariot before her procession

The blue Bhairav performs religious dance during Indra Jatra

Religious dance performed by Blue Bhairav at Kathmandu Durbar Square during Indra Jatra

Celebration of Indra Jatra in Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Square (Kathmandu Durbar Square) The festival starts with the erection if 36 feet long pole carved from a tree and dragged from the forest of Nala, 29 km North of Kathmandu to the erection site at Hunamandhoka Durbar Square. This pole “Yasingh” symbolizes Shiva Linga and dragging the pole to the valley eventually signifies the arrival of lord Shiva in the valley. The festival is also dedicated in honor of “Bhairav” the fearsome form of Lord shiva and the destroyer of evil. This event is followed by the display of head “Aakash Bhairav” in Indra Chowk. It is believed that “Aakash Bhairav” was the first Kirat King, Yalamber who witnessed the battle of Mahabharat. Simultaneously, “Sweta Bhairav” is manifested at Hanumandhoka. The Bhairav with large red mask pours “Rakshi”   (Nepali local liquor) from his mouth. Similarly, “Baka Bhairav” is demonstrated at Wotu- next to Indra Chowk. The integral part of Indra Jatra is the procession of the three golden chariots, which are pulled by locals along the trails of the old city for three days. As the processions arrive at Indra Chowk, Goddess Kumari bows down before Aakash Bhairav that shows her devotion towards the masked deity. The Lakhey- protector of valley children performs during Indra Jatra

Lakhey performance during Indra Jatra

Masked dancers known as Lakheys who are believed to be the protector of the city children perform spiritual dances symbolizing the human incarnation of lord Bishnu. Majipa Lakhey along with his musical band performs flawlessly through the crowds and into the city spreading the festive mood. The “sawa bakkhu” dance group from halchok, located in the east of the city also performs during the festival, which consists of the dancers and a impression of Bhairav in blue carrying a sword and his two disciples dressed in red. Majipat Devi Nach , Yeravat Hathi (pulu kishi) from Nardavi , Mahakali and Kathi Maka Nach from Bhaktapur are also performed around Hunaman dhoka Durbar Square during Indra Jatra. High Government Officials, including the Prime Minister and the President of Democratic Republic of Nepal and expats of several countries living in Kathmandu also attend the third day function of Indra Jatra at Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Square. Arrival of high officials and expats to Kathmandu Durbar Square

The army parade to welcome GoN high officials and international expats to the Hanuman Dhoka Palace 

The festive mood continues The Linga “Yasingh” is pulled down and taken to Teku where Bagmati and Bishnumati Rivers confluence. At the site, the linga is submerged declaring the end of Indra Jatra. The end of Indra jatra also announces the beginning of “Dashain” and “Tihar” which is celebrated with a great gusto in Nepalese culture. Article researched by: Anmol Shakya    

Teej festival- the largest celebration of Hindu women in Nepal

Posted Aug 29th, 2014 under Company News, Culture & Festivals, Photo Essay, Pilgrimage, Special Events, Tourism News,
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.

Festival of holy thread- Janai Purnima aka Rakshya Bandhan

Posted Aug 12th, 2014 under Culture & Festivals, Pilgrimage, Tourism News,
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.

Nag Panchami, Worshipping the Serpent God

Posted Aug 8th, 2014 under Culture & Festivals, Pilgrimage, Travel Guide,
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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