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Tihar Vibes in Kathmandu Streets

Posted Oct 18th, 2017 under Culture & Festivals,

Sometime preparation is more exciting than the festival itself. Tihar, Nepali’s second biggest festival is probably one of them. The festival, that immediately follows Dashain, the biggest festival, is one of the highlights of autumn season in Nepal. Nepal’s autumn is normally not considered to be as colourful as the one in the west. To be honest, we don’t have the second spring with all those colourful maple leaves, mellow pumpkins and scary stories! However, autumn is not less exciting as we have Tihar, the festival of lights and flowers!

Shoppers at Ason

People milling at Indra chowk for Tihar shopping

 

Flowers at display in New Road

Flowers at display in New Road! The street looks unusually quiet, thanks to the Traffic Management Team! 

Preparation of Tihar is all about buying, buying and buying! So, as the days draw closer, you will come across an unmistakable crowd in almost every chowk of Kathmandu. The streets of main bazar get thronged with people from early morning. They get so full that if you can save yourself some space to behold the spectacle or can make it to the other end of the street without squeezing yourself, you are lucky!

Flower vendors in front of Annapurna Temple at Ason chowk

Flower vendors in front of Annapurna Temple at Ason chowk

As the festival is all about rituals, flowers, lights and delicacies, the shopping list goes really long. And equally long is the row of different stalls on the either side of the streets. The stalls are laden with flowers, jhilimili (electric lights, paper decoration etc), bhai masala (a concoction of nuts and dry fruits for brothers) and an exhausting array of ritual items. Every item is weaved with myths and equally important. So people don’t miss any of them, which is why the shopping spree seems to be never ending. Evenings are really beautiful as the shops are lighted with all those colourful lights. If you are around New Road, you won’t want to miss the extravagant decoration of jewellery shops there.

itensil shops in Indra chowk

Local utensil shops with extra extension displaying ritual wares for Tihar shoppers

So walking down the streets during Tihar can be a rewarding experience as it offers you not just the fun of a festival, but also the chance to witness a different dimension of Nepali culture! Just be a bit prepared for the impatient crowd and unruly traffic, and the fun is all yours!

temporary stalls at Ason chowk

Just name it, and we can do it: Stalls at Ason chowk!

Flowers:

Flowers are the foremost prerequisite for Tihar. The flowers used in the festival are exclusively sayapatri (marigold), godawari (chrysanthemum) and makhamali (globe amaranth). Sayapatri (literally hundred petalled), with its golden hue is the flower that matches the mellowness of the season. Sayapatri is used for both garlands and house decoration. Whereas, makhamali and godawari are used just for garlands only. It is believed that makhamali never gets withered. So, sisters offer makhamali garland to brothers on bhai tika, the fifth day of the festival, with a wish that their brothers would remain immortal like the flower.

Globe amaranth garlands are offered to brothers by sisters on Bhai Tika

Globe amaranth garlands are offered to brothers by sisters on Bhai Tika

 

Array of Marigold garlands at public footpath in New Road

Array of marigold garlands at public footpath in New Road

 

A walking garland showcase in New Road

Why to worry if you can carry: A walking garland showcase in New Road

Lights:

Another thing people don’t miss in Tihar is lights. Lights are used for both ritualistic and decorative purpose. People light their houses with colorful lights from Laxmi Puja, the third day of the festival. People use diyo (a small clay lamp with a cotton wick), candles and electric lights that come in different shape and size.

Candles of different shape and size

Candles of different shape and size

 

Artistic clay lamps used during Laxmi Puja

Artistic and plain clay lamps used during Laxmi Puja

Bhai Masala:

One of the main delicacies of Tihar is bhai masala. It is the concoction of nuts (cashew nuts, almond, raisin, walnut etc) and dried fruits, offered by sisters to brothers on bhai tika. A stall or shop without bhai masala is a rare sight. 

Bhai masala at display

Bhai masala at display

Ritual Items:

The shops and stalls are heaped with different ritual items ranging from walnut to seven colored tika. Some of the items that include the seemingly endless list are rato mato (red mato), amala (Indian Gooseberry), citrus fruits, coconut etc. Though it seems like a herculean task to know the name of all items at once, you would enjoy the neat arrangement displayed in all its glory!

Motley of ritual items

Motley of ritual items: walnut, Indian gooseberry, groundnut

 

A type of citrus fruit used in Bhai Tika

A type of citrus fruit used in Bhai Tika

 

Dhaka Topi, national cap made from local fabric called Dhaka, is presented to brothers by sisters on Bhai Tika

Dhaka Topi, national cap made from local fabric called Dhaka, is presented to brothers by sisters on Bhai Tika

 

Vendors selling varieties of colours (used for Bhai Tika and Rangoli decaoration) at Ganesthan, Chabahil

Vendors selling varieties of colours (used for Bhai Tika and Rangoli decaoration) at Ganesthan, Chabahil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second Globeriders Himalaya Expedition’18

Posted Sep 28th, 2017 under Luxury Tours, Special Events,

The second Globeriders Himalaya Expedition’18 is already underway and the participants have today crossed the Nepalese border to enter India and further ride to Bhutan. After the successful recce ride in 2015 with many learnings about the route, this year’s expedition started in Chengdu and will end in Bangkok (the opposite route done in 2015).

Explore Himalaya is managing all the logistics for this expedition which consists of 4 riders and 1 pilon rider including the leader- world famous Helge Pedersen. Pedersen is a well-known name in the Motorcycle world and also the owner of Globeriders.

The group will ride for 62 days in total starting from China thorugh Nepal, India, Bhutan, Mynamar and ending the journey in Thailand spanning a total of approx 8300 Kms.

For daily updates of the Expedition – http://www.globeriders.com/live!journal_pages/ghe17_live!journal/ghe17_main.shtml

For information about Himalayan Expedition 2018: helge@globeriders.com

TIBET BORDER OPENS FOR INTERNATIONAL TRAVELLERS- Things you need to Know

Posted Sep 5th, 2017 under Company News, Special Events,

Tibet has been a fascinating destination for international travelers for a long time. To enter the roof of the world, Nepal has been a popular gateway where tourists drove through the 1000km long Friendship Highway that joins the capital city Lhasa of Tibet to the Himalayan nation.

Hundred of international travelers did the overland tour to visit the mystical land through Nepal via the Kodari/Zangmu border. But the border was highly affected by the 2015 earthquake forcing closure of the border that killed the hopes of many international tourists who wanted to visit the Tibet- The Last Shangri-la.

However, some good news came last week from the Chinese government mentioning that the Kerung Border, which was already open for Nepalese and Chinese has now been opened for foreign tourists as well. As this news was as important one for the cross border tourism, our team drove up to the border to gather some concrete information and plan the operation of the Tibet overland tours via the newly opened Kerung border.

Road Condition: It is about 9-10 hrs long adventurous ride going through narrow tracks and turnings in the Hill side all the way to Rasuwa starting from Kalikasthan to Syabrubesi and further to the borderland called Rasuwa Gadhi in Nepal side and Kerung in China. From Syabrubesi to border is mostly rough road. Main hurdle could be the landslide area between Ramche to Dhunche, about 7-8 km is slightly disturbed in small sections and are muddy and bumpy. This could be a problem mostly during the Monsoon season. Also being the only Highway in use for transferring Export/ Import goods from China, you can see many huge trucks passing through all the way.

There may be another shorter route to Kerung border from river side of Betrawati to Syabrubesi, avoiding the drive up to Kalikasthan, Dhunche, which is under construction at the moment. If this route is open, overland tour from Tibet to Nepal would be more convenient and shorter for the tourists.

 

Duration & Distances:  It is about 170 km distance from Kathmandu and takes about 9-10 hrs drive from Kathmandu to Rasuwa Gadhi (Kerung Border). From Syabrubesi it is about 30-45 minutes drive.
For the Tourists traveling to Tibet by overland from Nepal, it is wise to have a overnight stop at Syabrubesi and continue next day to the border which is about 30-45 minutes drive to the check post at Timure. After crossing through the both side’s immigration and Border, it is 26 km further drive from Kerung border to Kerung City in China.

Border Structure: Nepal immigration office and the Custom Check posts are at Timure. For the tourists entering from Tibet, after passing through the China customs and crossing the Bridge joining China and Nepal, will have to walk about 5-10 minutes to the Immigration office for Visa and Entry process. There may be few checking and searching by Duty officers for Security reasons starting from Border Check posts until Kalikasthan check posts.
Nepal entry check post, Immigration office and Customs are all in different places within the area, as such it could be quite confusing to the Tourists. Private vehicles can go near to the Bridge side for now, however depending on the traffic as the huge Cargo trucks occupy most of the area and could block the way to drive in. It is mostly crowded during the rush hour (office working hours).

Customs working time: The border gate opens at 8 am to 3 pm (Nepal time) for both sides and China part only will be closed during their lunch hours i.e. 10 am-11.30am (Nepal time). Tourists or the locals are to enter or exit the Border gate within the mentioned time frame. There is not One Day pass system for Nepalese Nationalities like it was provided in Kodari border. But the local people form that area only are allowed to pass through during the opening hour.

 

Comparing Chinese border securities and structures in Kerung side seems to be well planned and settled, while Nepal officials are still struggling to have a permanent office settled so as the road structures, parking arrangements all seems to be not well prepared for welcoming the flow of Foreign tourists already. The check posts, immigration and customs are all in separate building or small posts. After the damage by Earthquake to the historical remaining of the fort and the road structures, the situation seems to be even worse. Hopefully this situation will be better eventually, when the flow of tourists’ arrival increases through this route.

In conclusion, it is an adventurous ride overall passing through as low to the ground level of Trishuli river to the Hill top, could be interesting and thrilling experience to the adventurers, while for some it might be tiring and frightening if not mentally prepared well in advance.

Monsoon: Season of Festivals

Posted Jul 30th, 2017 under Luxury Tours, Photo Essay, Special Events, Tourism News,

Monsoon season in Nepal brings joy and happiness for everyone. It is the main season for agriculture as well as the season of the festival in Nepal. A monsoon festival falls on different date every year.

 

During monsoon season, Seasonal tourism activities in Nepal are low in numbers and trekking in monsoon season is not favorable time. However, during monsoon season, Pilgrimage tourists are high in number; especially from India. They prefer to visit Muktinath and Mansarovarduring monsoon season as these places are rainy shadowed area. But from the cultural point of view; monsoon season is best time to observe Nepalese cultural way of Living, festivals, Monsoon cycle of agriculture and Lush green valley’s with seasonal crops.

Festivals fall on Monsoon

                Enjoying throwing Hilo ”wet mud” during Ropai ” Paddy Plantation

15th Ashar (June) is celebrated as Paddy Plantation day  “RopaiJatra” all around Nepal. RopaiJatra“is a most awaiting and cheerful time for farmers. This day symbolizes the end of the rice planting period, a day when all farmers enjoy the end of the plantation of rice and wishes for good production. As an entertainment, they will sing a Nepalese folk songs and dance in rhythm on field while cultivating the crops mainand as lunch they will have homemade yogurt and beaten rice and drink a special kind of local drink called ‘Chyang’, which basically is made up of fermented rice.

On this day, especially Pokhara and Kathmandu (being a touristic area), different programs are being held targeting the foreigners, on the muddy flied to show Nepalese culture and traditional way of farming. This festival has been able to attracted many tourists though the festival is quite weird, yet fun. And the number of tourist wanting to participate on this festival is increasing. On this day especially for the foreigners, a travel and tour offices organizes a program/event for “Paddy Plantation” festival. This program is all about planting rice, playing around with mud, dancing in a traditional Nepalese folk song and not to forget to test traditional foods. Not only that, you can have an opportunity to communicate with Local Nepalese families which will help to learn about the Nepalese life style, culture and tradition.

                          Nag Panchami and JanaiPurnima/ RachayaBandan:  

This following year Nag Panchami and JanaiPurnima festival falls on same day.The festival Nag Panchami,Picture of Nags is posted above the doors of Nepali households with the belief of keeping away the evil spirits.

Normally, the priest visit door to door carrying the poster of Nags, Dubo (Cynodondactylon. Priest paste the poster of Nag with the help of cow dung, post a coin and Dubo. People offer milk in the temples of Nag Pokharai (snake pond) Naxal /Kathmandu and NagDaha (Snake Lake) in Lalitpur.       

                                             Naag Poster, Doro and Rakhi”

According to the Puran”Ancient Scriptures”, the earth is lifted by Shesh Nag on his head with Lord Vishnu Sleeping on its coil inside the ocean. Shesh Nag, BasukiNag,KaliNag,AsthaNag,Padma Nag and Karkot Nag are the most powerful Nags in Hindu religion.

Ancient Scriptures also mentioned that without Nags, the rainfall will not be possible, that’s why people worship Nags for causing the rain fall.

Janai Purnima is the festival of the Holy Thread which is also falls on same day of NaagPanchami

On this day every Hindu/Buddhist tied a Yellow, red colorful cotton strings in wrist of right hand. Nepalese people call it Doro.Especially Brahmins and Chettri change theirJanai, once a year. White cotton string wears on his chest or tied around the wrist of his/ her hand.  In every house this day, cooks mixed of every grain Quawati “and eat together with family members.

Similarly, this is also a day of Rachaya Banda, Rachya means to protect and Bandan means bond of togetherness. Where sister tie the rakhi on brother wrist, pray for the long life and success of her brother.Brother promise sister to protect from every harm and give gifts and sisters

                      Brahmin “Priest: tiding a sacred thread   Sacred thread (Local Nepali Word “Janai”

                                                                                    Gaijatra:  August

 Gaijatrais the festival of cows is one of the most popular festivals of Nepal. GaiJatra festival came in the tradition of the medieval period of Nepal, under the reign of the kings JayasthitiMalla.  

According to traditions since time immemorial, every family who lost a family member during one year period must participate in a procession in the streets.Bhaktapur, Kathmandu and PatanNewar community follow this tradition. If a cow is unavailable then a young boy dressed as a cow is regarded as a fair substitute.

In Hinduism, a cow is regarded as the most respected among all pets. It is believed that the cow, venerated as a sacred animal by Hindus, will help the deceased parent’s journey to heaven.

Stick dance (Typical Newari word: Ghintangghisitwakin Bhaktapur

                                                        PATAN: KRISHNA MANDIR

Krishna Janmastami is one of the popular festivals in Hindu religion. It is a festival celebrated as the birthday of Lord Krishna. Krishna is believed as the eighth incarnation of lord Vishnu and powerful. It is celebrated as victory of good over evil and their power.

All the devotees gather in Krishna Mandir, the ancient Krishna Temple in Patan other temples which is the symbol of Lord Sir Krishna.

                                        Baby dress up like Krishana

                                                                    Teej:  August

Teej is also known by the HariTalikaTeej. It is biggest festival and celebrated by Nepali women all across the world. Every Married women,Child and Young girls wears red and green attire decorated 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 married sisters and daughters offering them complete liberty to enjoy this particular day.

Foreigners Joining Dance with Local Nepalese Women in Teej Festival

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.

According to the Holy Purans say that “on this day the Himalaya’s Daughter Goddess Parbati had finally receive Lord Shiva after her long time of devotions towards him.From this day, Teej festival was celebrated.                        

Married women’s take fast for the long life of their husband, good health of their children. And young ladies take fast in desire to get their dream husband.

Rishipanchami:

Rishipanchamiis the last day of Teej and women worship Sapta Rishi (seven saints). In Hindu religion, menstruation is taken as a symbol of impurity and women are not supposed to take part in religious performance during their periods. Hence, it is believed that Rishi Panchami is the occasion to wash off one’s impurity of the entire year

 IndraJatra: September

 Indrajatrais the celebration of God Indra” the god of Rain, King of Heaven”. This festival begins each year from the day of BhadraDwadasi to Aswin Krishna Chaturdasi according to the lunar calendar, which falls during place to celebrate is in Kathmandu Durbar Square which is known as Basantapur Durbar.

Bhairav a fierce manifestation of Lord Shiva

The Kumari (living goddess), departs the shelter of her temple in a palanquin and leads a parade through the streets of Kathmandu to thank Indra. The main attraction of the festival is the procession of chariots and masked dancers representing deities and demons.           

According to myth, Indra’s mother Dagini wanted night-flowering coral jasmine “PARIJAT” tree in the gardens of heaven to perform some ritual and Indra disguised as human and came to Earth for the plant. While Indra was stealing the plant from a garden in Kathmandu Valley, the communities 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 caged

Upon Dagini’s request, the people of Kathmandu agreed to free Indra. Pleased with the kindness 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 IndraJatra is observed enthusiastically in Kathmandu Durbar Square.

                                                                           Chariot of living Goddess Kumari

“Pottery Making Culture in Bhaktapur”

Posted Jul 24th, 2017 under Special Events, Tourism News,

“Enjoy the authentic traditional lifestyle in the world of pottery”.

Apart from all challenging trek and adventure in the natural world of Nepal, there is another beautiful “world of Culture & Traditions” that takes you deep into the traditional local lifestyle. That is pottery making culture in Bhaktapur. Pottery is the art of shaping the clay into various things.

              A clear view of Pottery Square in Bhaktapur. (Photo Credit: Ujwol Buddhacharya)

Whenever we think about the pottery making, the first thing that comes in our mind might be a beautiful flower pot/vase made of clay (Gamala) or might be a piggy bank (Khuturke).

Flower Pots (Gamala) displayed for selling in Pottery Square. (Photo Credit: Ujwol Buddhacharya)

If anyone would like to get the experience of making the clay pots and the local traditional lifestyle in Bhaktapur, then spending around a week in the pottery square of Bhaktapur can fulfill one’s enthusiasm and enjoyment of local life. Pottery Square is a beautiful place in the south of Bhaktapur Durbar Square. The settlement of a specific ethnic group of “Newar “ community called “Prajapati “can be seen here living together in unity and harmony. These people are hard working and artistic in nature that are not only dedicated in their work, but also are equally accountable for hospitable environment.

Pottery Making Process: The pottery making is a process and Yes, it is not a simple task as it seems. Being a kind of family business, all the family members have their own part of the role, working together in creating a finished pot. Firstly, the special clay “Black Clay”, supple in nature has to be brought from the field by digging out around 10-12 feet down the surface and need to be smoothened. After that, the old men, the experienced experts, craft the clay into spectacular shape/vessels, and women are in charge of looking after the pots kept for drying and coloring.

Pottery making in a traditional wooden wheel (Photo Credit: Ujwol Buddhacharya)

                              Coloring process (Photo Credit: Ujwol Buddhacharya)

The whole pottery square area is filled with these colorful pots during the sunny day. Younger men/women are often engaged in carrying heavy heaps of pots from one place of the square to the other.

Pots drying out on a Sunny day. (Photo Credit: Ujwol Buddhacharya)

The final process includes the firing of pots, which is one of another highlight of pottery making. All the prepared raw clay pots are placed along with straw in the layer wise. After all the pots are kept, it is then covered by ashes from the top, while the fire is given from the bottom and takes 3-4 days to get fired. It is the traditional way of pottery firing. 

Preparation for firing the pots with straw arranged in many layers (Photo Credit: Ujwol Buddhacharya)

In this way, the pots will be ready after all the hard working of artists. However, it would not get the complete fairness in terms of learning process until you go there and work as a local people, playing and shaping the clay by your own hands.

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