It’s quite understandable that Nepal always conjures up the world of towering mountains, distant valleys, misty grooves and highland cultures in everyone’s mind. And there comes the instant urge to ramble on the rugged trail and hug the mountains. However, Nepal is not just about meeting mountains only. It’s also a wonderful cultural trove of South Asia- immensely unique and surprisingly vibrant! We can encounter some of the best kept secrets in every nook and corner of this Himalayan Kingdom. Nuwakot’s Devi Jatra, popularly known as Sindure Jatra, is also one of them!
Every year, Newari people of Nuwakot, 75 km north of Kathmandu Valley, celebrate Sidhure Jatra, which literally means “vermillion powder festival”, in the month of Chaitra or Baishakh (April). This festival starts from Chaitra Sukla Chaturdashi (14th day of bright fortnight as per lunar calendar, this year from 18th April) and continues for next 12 days. It takes place in Nuwakot Durbar Square, a historically and culturally important place having a significant connection with King Prithivi Narayan Shah, the founder of modern Nepal. During the festival, people worship Goddess Bhairabi, perform various rituals and feast with family members and relatives.
The major highlight of this festival is the chariot procession of Goddess Bhairabi, one of the Das Mahavidyas, the Divine Mothers and the patron Goddess of Nuwakot. Considered as the longest chariot procession in Nepal and one of the oldest festivals dating back to pre Malla period, the festival is unique in its own way because of its association with tantric cult. The legend behind the festival is unknown but it is believed to be an ancient celebration rite to commemorate human ability to summon God in one’s body and attain “siddhi” or the mystical unison with the divine power. So, unlike other festivals, the chief figure is not a priest but a Dhami, a Shaman who is believed to possess the power of Goddess Bhairabi.
Beside its religious importance, the festival is also about people of Nuwakot and their way of life! You can see hundreds of people milling in the Durbar Square area from far and near. The colorful street markets, busy shopkeepers, awestruck devotees, enthralled musicians, jostling chariot pullers, the pervasive smell of the ritual assortments and the occasional gun salute – well this festival is quite an extraordinary experience that awakes all your senses!
Day 01: On the first day, the Dhami dressed in white receives an ablution ritual by Living Goddess Kumari of Nuwakot. The bath ritual that symbolizes the purification process takes place in an open altar in front of Bhairabi temple. Afterwards, he is dressed in a red ceremonial costume along with elaborate silver and golden accessories that include crown of nine headed Nagas, earrings, bangles, chain necklace, Astamatrika necklace etc. Then, a Bajracharya Guru, who performs all the rituals for the Dhami throughout the festival, offers a special sacrificial ritual to Goddess Bhairabi in the temple. The Bajracharya Guru is also the one who summons Goddess Bhairabi in the body of Dhami. Later on, a procession of Dhami, Dhamini (Dhami’s wife), Bajracharya Guru and other attendants proceed to nearby Budi Devisthan, the maternal home of Goddess Bhairabi. On the same day, another interesting ritual of erecting two wooden poles also take place, marking the official beginning of the festival. One pole is erected in the premises of Bhairabi temple. Another is erected at the maternal home of Goddess Bhairabi. Each pole should measure 42 haat, approx. 63 ft.
Day 02: The second day starts with a feast ritual in which Dhware, a State Representative, offers clothes to Dhamini and head dress to Lord Kumar, Lord Ganesh and Dhami. Vermillion powder is also put along the hair partition of Dhamini. After the state feast, the procession proceeds to the temple of Taleju Bhawani, the Guardian Deity of Malla Kings, where special ritual is performed by the Bajracharya Guru. After that, Dhami, Dhamimi, Bajracharya Guru and other devotees proceed to Devighat along with the chariot of Goddess Bhairabi carried by 36 Tamangs from Lachang. The chariot has the masks of 12 different God and Goddesses including Goddess Bhairabi, Astamatrikas, two dakinis Syangini and Byangini and Ganesh. Along with the chariot, one attendant also carries “Khadga”, a sacred weapon wrapped in white piece of clothes.
The chariot procession takes about 4-5 hours to reach Devighat, which is a confluence of two rivers Tadi and Trishuli. It is a home of Jalpa Devi, Goddess Bhairabi’s sister. These two sisters meet only once a year during this festival. Devighat also has a special mention in the history of Nepal as King Prithivi Narayan Shah was cremated on the bank of Devighat. After reaching Devighat, the Bajracharya Guru performs esoteric tantric puja with sacrifice of a black uncastrated goat. The Dhami, by the power of the Goddesses, gets the insight to foresee the country’s future, which he secretly tells the State Representative who later on sends the message to the State Head. After the whole ritual finishes, at about mid-night the chariot is brought back to Nuwakot Durbar Square. However, the procession doesn’t go to the temple directly. They rest at Dharampani, a nearby place approximately 500m down from the Durbar Square.
After resting there for few hours, in the late afternoon the procession continues to the temple accompanied by State Army with great fanfare. A group of people also play traditional music. Once the procession reaches Bhairabi temple premises, Bajracharya Guru again initiates a puja and scatter Sindur (orange vermillion powder) followed by Dware. Other attendants also smear vermillion powder to each other, the ritual after which the festival is named. Then after, the procession moves to Taleju Temple where the whole attendants have feast. After the feast gets over, Dhami and Dhamini return back to their residence near Bhairabi Temple and keep a night vigil performing various rituals.
Day 03: Early morning, the overnight puja ritual concludes with a sacrificial ceremony. Two buffaloes and one uncastrated goat are sacrificed in the open altar, in which the Dhami sucks fresh blood and eats raw flesh of the sacrificed animals. The Dhami is believed to have possessed by Goddess Bhairabi during the ritual. This particular practice seems to be bit unusual in one regard as the tantric ritual that particularly relates to consuming blood and meat is distinctly private in nature. However, this one is done as a public performance. Viewer’s discretion is quite required here if one can’t stand the sight of blood and violent scenes as the sacrificial ritual is quite extreme one. Then after, the Bajracharya Guru wraps up the ritual indicating the end of the major part of the festival.
Day 04-10: During this time, the Gods and Goddesses in the chariot are restored in their own respective places in Bhairabi temple. Devotees and locals those who belong to Newar community have family feasts.
Day 11-12: In the final days, locals gather around Bhairabi Temple to lower down the wooden pole raised on the first day. The other one in the Budi Devisthan is left for the next day’s ritual. The second wooden pole is also pulled down following the same ritual as the previous day. Chhyama Puja, a ritual asking for forgiveness for any mistakes, is also performed in Bhairabi and Taleju temples. With this, the festival finally comes to an end.
This year also a team of 18 doctors, nurses and health assistants from International Medical Relief (IMR) conducted Medical Camp for 5 days in 4 different places in the rural vicinity of Kathmandu. The Camp was organised from 24th to 28th March. The first two days’ Camp was held in Nuwakot Health Post, Nuwakot, and the other three days’ Camp was held in Tarkeswor, Godawari and Farping. The Medical Camp, which was aimed at providing free medical facilities and medicines to the locals, benefited about 600 people.
Day 01/02: On 24th and 25th March, a team of 18 health practitioners conducted two days’ medical Camp in Nuwakot Health Post, Nuwakot, 75 km away from Kathmandu. The Camp which started at 12 o’clock on the first day and 1 o’ clock on the second day, was run till 5 o’ clock on both days. Services like general medical check-up (diabetes, blood pressure etc), eye check-up and dental facilities like teeth removal and fluoride treatment were provided to the villagers. The total number of 200 patients (110-first day, 90-second day) received the facilities during two days.
Day 03: The third day’s Camp was conducted in Children Herald School, Jaranku, Tarkeshwor (about 12 km away from Kathmandu City) on 26th March. The same team of 18 along with two Nepali dentists provided general health screening, eye check-up and dental treatment along with free medicines. Altogether 300 students and locals were benefited from the Camp.
Day 04: The forth day’s Camp took place in Godawari Health Post, Godawari (about 15 km away from Kathmandu City) on 27th March. A team of 3 IMR doctors and 2 Nepali dentists served 61 patients of Godawari area. The Camp was conducted from 9:30 to 3 in the afternoon. In this place also, the doctors provided general test, eye check-up and dental treatment. They also distributed free medicines. A total of 61 patients received the services.
Day 05: The last day of the Medical Camp was set up at a community building in Farping, (about 19 km away from Kathmandu) on 28th March. The same team of 3 IMR doctors and 2 Nepali dentists provided medical facilities to 40 patients. The Camp was run from 10 to 2 in the afternoon.
After the 5 days of busy schedule, the team had a sightseeing tour in Kathmandu Durbar Square, Boudha and Pashupati on 29th March. During the visit, they had a wonderful opportunity to witness the architectural and cultural grandeur of Nepal. The visit served both as a new experience and a refreshing break from their hectic schedule. On 30th March, after a week’s stay in Nepal, the team departed from Kathmandu.
What is happening?
Now it’s all certain! Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA)/Kathmandu Airport will close from 10 pm to 8 am every day for runway maintenance from April 1st to June 30th 2019. This operation is going to impact all international and domestic flights but the most affected will be the flights to Lukla. Every season thousands of tourists fly to Lukla to complete their dream of trekking to Everest Base Camp, climbing Mera Peak, Island Peak or Lobuche Peak. Besides, all Everest expeditions from the south side also operate via Lukla.
What does this mean to you?
During this time, all flights to/from Lukla are rerouted from Kathmandu Airport to Manthali Airport, Ramechhap as the Kathmandu Airport will be shut down completely from 10 pm to 8 am every day.
Though the flight time will be comparatively shorter (50 minutes for round trip), you are required to travel to Ramechhap from Kathmandu to catch your Lukla flight and retrace the same route while returning back to the city. Due to this new arrangement, there are certain things you should know before travelling to Lukla.
In the meantime, please be informed that there will still be a couple of flights from Kathmandu to Lukla after 8 am once the airport opens but we don’t think it will be sensible to wait for those flights. The air traffic and landings at the airport can cause delays and we all know that the weather in Lukla is slightly notorious. The later the flights, the higher the chances for the weather in Lukla to go unfavorable. So, the best option is to fly to Lukla via Manthali Airport.
Where is Manthali Airport?
Manthali Airport (493 m. /1617 ft) is situated approximately 132 km east of Kathmandu on the bank of Tama Koshi River in Manthali, a municipality and headquarter of Ramechhap district. As it is the closest airport in the eastern part of Nepal from Kathmandu, the airport poses itself as the best option to fly to Lukla in the present situation. The airport also used to operate Lukla flights during air traffic congestion at Kathmandu Airport (TIA) in the past.
How to get there?
You can travel to Manthali Airport by road. It takes about 4-5 hours to reach there depending on the traffic. As you will have to reach Manthali early to catch your flight, you can either travel there one day prior to the flight or leave Kathmandu very early in the morning around 3 am. In both cases, it’s better to take a private transfer to Manthali as the local transfer timings do not match with the flight timings. More specifically, you don’t get any early morning local buses. And in their regular run also, you can never be sure about their punctuality.
*If you have booked your travel arrangements from travel agencies or directly with the airlines, they should take care of your transportation, which in most likely case will be a private transfer.
Where to stay?
Manthali is not a very well facilitated place as it is not used to receiving a huge number of travelers. Accommodation facilities are limited and the service is basic. Due to the present situation with many travelers travelling via Manthali this season, it is very likely that you will not find an accommodation easily. Also, flight crew and staffs from the airlines will be occupying most of the hotels in the area.
So, in this situation, a better option for you is to go for accommodations at Mulkot, from where Manthali Airport is just an hour’s drive. Accommodations at Mulkot are far better and you will also save the trouble of finding an accommodation in Manthali.
What we think is best for you?
To tackle this situation, Explore Himalaya made a recent trip to Manthali to plan our operations and find the best solution for you. We think that driving early morning to Manthali for 4-5 hours and then boarding the Lukla flight half asleep will be very inconvenient for our clients. It will make your day very hectic and not leave you in a good spirit to start your trek up to Phakding or Monjo.
The best way to deal with this change is to drive to Mulkot one day earlier. Mulkot is a small settlement, from where Manthali Airport is just 37 km away (1 hour’s drive). This not only breaks the monotony of a long drive but also makes things comfortable for you as Mulkot has good standard accommodation facilities, which Manthali lacks. One can stay comfortably in a hotel in Mulkot, wake up at 5 am the next morning and drive an hour to the airport for the flight. This will not make the day tiring at all and the schedule of your trek will also not be affected.
Another reliable option – if you have pretty deep pockets – would be opting for a helicopter upgrade and flying to Lukla straight from Kathmandu. The Kathmandu helipad area will not be affected and you can have heli flight to Lukla from 6.30 am onwards. The upgrade could cost you a top up of USD 250-500 per person depending on the payload and availability.
We hope that this blog has been helpful to you. For any further queries, please feel free to contact Explore Himalaya at +977-1-4418 100, 4418 400 or write us to firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s no more a hidden fact that Nepal is a trekker’s paradise. Why wouldn’t it be, after all it’s the Land of Superlatives! Most of the highest mountains on Earth including the highest one Everest, the deepest gorge Kali Gandaki Gorge, the highest navigable pass Thorang-La, the highest Lake Tilicho are just a few of the wonders that Nepal has. However, dramatic landscape is not the only highlight of Nepal. Nepal is also a land of unbelievable natural beauty and rich cultural heritage. So, since Nepal opened its door to the world in 1950s, it has been welcoming quite an impressive portion of trekkers and wilderness fanatics to its iconic trekking regions. Let’s take a peek on top 5 trekking regions of Nepal.
1. Everest Region
Why Everest Region is the most favored trekking destination is quite self explanatory. However the region is not just the home of Everest! The Region, also known as Khumbu region, nestles an endless range of many other Himalayan giants, rich biodiversity of Sagarmatha National Park, the UNESCO World Heritage Site and unique Sherpa culture. In addition to that, the trail is quite well facilitated with comfortable local amenities, which gives the mountain lovers one more reason to visit the land of Everest.
2. Annapurna Region
When it comes to beauty and diversity, no other places in the world can beat Annapurna region. Rewarding views of some of the highest peaks along the Annapurna massif, diverse landscapes from subtropical to alpine to desertic rain shadow, deep gorges, challenging passes and time tested civilizations, the region is simply unbelievable. And as a cherry on top, the region also offers some of the easiest trekking options! No surprise, the region has been a mecca for trekkers all the time!
3. Manaslu Region
Manaslu Region is comparatively less facilitated than Everest and Annapurna region. However, the fact hasn’t made people less enthusiastic about the region. In fact, those who want to avoid butt-brushing crowd during peak seasons choose Manaslu area for more solitude and pristine experience. And they also get a chance of tête-à-tête with Mt. Manaslu, world’s eighth highest mountain.
4. Langtang Region
Langtang Region is a mere 19km from the Kathmandu Valley- just a stone’s throw away! And still it has all the highlights of the Himalaya – snow-capped peaks, glaciers (actually it’s called the Valley of Glaciers), dramatic hills, freezing lakes, wide pasturelands, highland settlements, and the culture that takes you back in time. If you want the Himalayan experience in shorter timeframe, Langtang is for you. Langtang was heavily devastated by earthquake in 2015 but it’s already well on its way.
5. Kanchanjunga Region
So, finally here comes Kanchanjunga Region, the home of Mt Kanchanjunga, the third highest peak in the world. If we say, it’s a beautiful place, it would be a sheer understatement. The skyline which is always dominated by mighty mountains, wooded areas, roaring rivers, quaint villages- Kanchanjunga is sure to turn you into a mystic, maybe “Into the Wild” star of course without the bus episode!
Explore Himalaya is participating in ITB Berlin, world’s leading Travel Trade Show, from 6th to 10th March 2019. We, as an exhibitor 19, will be showcasing our products at 5.2 A/105. We are represented by our General Manager Mr. Anuj Pandey. We have been regularly participating in ITB for more than a decade. During all this time, we have been having very exciting and enriching sessions with international travel communities. We are quite happy that now we share a bigger world and stronger bond with our partners and travel friends from different parts of the world. And the whole thing started from ITB! This year, we are expecting even more eventful experience. We hope to start relations that are everlasting and the experience more meaningful than ever! Do visit our stall. We look forward to seeing you at ITB.