A segment of Freak Street at present
The 1960’s, defined as the Hippie counter-culture craze invaded the lives of millions of people all around the world. The flower power generation or the movement idea of utopian society, where young people questioned materialism and hence the middle class drug culture emerged. The impact good or bad, 1960’s Hippie movement cannot be denied. The movement influenced popular music, television, film, literature and the arts. Westerns were getting to know more about spiritualism and started to follow more of eastern philosophy which led them to eastern lands. Among which Nepal was a popular destination where they poured.
A trademark colorful vehicle of the HIPPIE ERA- Still rolling in Freak Street
Jochhen- “Jo” meaning “straight” “Chhen” meaning “house” refers to straight line of houses at Old Freak street which was the epicenter of the Hippie trail. During that time the main attraction drawing tourists to freak street was the government –run hashish shops. Hence, Hippies traveled from different parts of the world to Freak Street in search of legal cannabis. The street nurtured the way of bohemian life, free from conformity and no social expectation. The best rumor till today is that the God of the Guitar “Jimi Hendrix” himself once traveled to the Freak Street and yes The Beatles and Jim Morrison also have been reported seen here. As implausible as it seems, it is amusing to hear about the crowd that it attracted and the fame that it garnered and Bob Segal having written a song titled Kathmandu is appreciated.
Is it what the Hippies thrive for?
The movement was highly influenced by the arts and music. Basantapur is filled with temples and sattals, where carved wooden pieces of gods and goddesses with minute details are placed. The folk genre has a vast verity of classical instruments and folk lore is definitely touchy. The enormous cultural and religious ways of the combined Hindus and Buddhist worshippers is a huge attraction. The mystically magnetic land and the welcoming people with cheap accommodation, meals and the idea of long travel fulfilled every expectation of the Hippies.
Yet, the then plum position in the heart of Kathmandu today, still has the leftover of the flower generation. Youth today have opened clubs to keep the place intact, where foreigners and new generation get to go around the legendary hub of the Hippies. The area at present is under UNESCO World Heritage Site, and tourists have package to go for a day Sightseeing Tour inside the area.
UNESCO World Heritage Site flanks the Freak Street
Text Credits: Bishant Bista
Photo Credits: Karan Kunwar
The images of a couple resting on a window rail looking out over the passing scene.
You may find these statues looking out from the first floor window of an ancient house at Basantapur Durbar Square (UNESCO World Heritage Site). The couple is none other than the divine couple Lord Shiva and his consort Parvati. In bygone days denizens of the valley believed that Hindu God of Dance, Lord Shiva and his consort Goddess Parvati visited Kathmandu to see the divine dances performed during the festivals. King Rana Bahadur Shah, the third ruler of greater Nepal, had this house built for the divine couple. The house, which is elaborately decorated, lies on a raised plinth which has a grandstand view of the Basantapur Durbar Square. The images of Shiva and Parvati rest on a window rail looking out over the passing scene.
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Though the actual festival is celebrated on 19th March, Kathmandu is already celebrating Holi – the festival of colors. According to the valley’s custom the festival commences with the erection of the ceremonial bamboo pole, known as ‘Chir’ at the centre of Basantapur Durbar square. The ‘Chir’ is already standing aloft at its place with devotees having erected it on March 13th. The valley’s denizens began the festival by offering the first colors of Holi or abir (colored powder) to the pole. The festival reaches its climax on March 19th, when the whole city is a riot of colors with friend as well as strangers applying Holi on each other and splashing water from ‘pitchkaris‘ (sort of water gun), water balloons or buckets drenching all and sundry. There is much laughter and merriment as people join in the festivities.
Holi – Festival of colors
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Basant Panchami marks the end of cold Winter season and the onset of Spring. Basant Panchami is also dedicated to the Hindu goddess of learning, Saraswati. This year Basant Panchami fell on 8th February, Tuesday. In Kathmandu a special function was organised at the Basantapur Durbar Square to mark the occasion. President Dr. Ram Baran Yadav and Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal among other officials attended the program.