Monday, February 20, 2012

PoD Nepal Volunteers Ready to Celebrate!

Shiva Raatri bonfires

Happy Shiva Raatri!  Today is the Hindu God, Shiva’s, birthday.  To celebrate, all of Nepal comes out to build bonfires and explode sugar canes.  We are getting ready to hit the streets tonight and join in the festivities.  But before we go, I thought I would let you know about all of the wonderful festivals we enjoy in Nepal.

Festivals here are fun, frequent and fantastic.  A popular quip is that there are 365 days in a year and 366 holidays in Nepal! Our festivals are spectacular to watch and join in with.  They are also a great way to learn and experience our culture and customs.  No volunteer’s trip to Nepal would be complete without a good celebration.  So, use our list of festive highlights below to plan when you will come!

The Lord Buddha’s birthday happens in this month.  The main festivities happen in Lumbini, the Buddha’s birthplace, but you can also celebrate in Kathmandu on the steps of the major Buddhist temples where you can see Bodhanath’s collection of rare thangkas and take in the spectacle of colourful monk dances.

Towards the end of June volunteers can take part in Pokhara’s local rice planting festival.  Billed as an opportunity to see traditional farming methods and learn how to tend to rice crops, it is in reality a giant mud fight.  Locals and foreigners play with and against each other in mud races, tug of wars and buffalo chases.  A very messy but unforgettably fun experience!

Dashain Swing
Teej is the big event this month.  This 3 day long festival is celebrated by women who fast, bathe, dance, sing, eat and generally have fun for three days.  This city becomes filled with crowds of women dressed magnificently in red and gold saris and occasionally drag volunteers and tourists in for a dance, sweet or just to laugh along.

This month sees the celebration of Dashain the major festival of Nepal, attributed the same status and significance as Christmas at home.  Businesses and schools close up as employees head home to visit and celebrate with family and friends.  Huge bamboo swings are built and enjoyed by young and old alike.  Goats are slaughtered, local wine is drunk by the gallon and everyone just generally lets their hair down and parties.

Tihar is a five day festival towards the end of October which starts with offering rice to crows, the second day sees bemused dogs garlanded with flowers and tikkas and cows get their horns painted on the third day.  This day is also Deepwali, the festival of light when everywhere sparkles with colourful fairy lights.  Laxmi, the goddess of wealth, is lead into homes by paths of elegant oil lamps and colourful painted designs.  Men take advantage of Laxmi’s presence at this time of year by gambling the nights away in the hope that she will bless them with some decent winnings!  The last day of Tihar is Bhai Tikka where brothers and sisters meet to exchange tikkas, gifts and money.

The Pokhara Street Festival celebrates Christmas and the turn of the Gregorian New Year.  There are boat races, street races, food stalls, games, parties, fairgrounds and all sorts of other fun and games to be enjoyed by both Nepalis and foreigners alike.

Crowds of colourful people celebrate Holi
Shivaratri  celebrates the Hindu God Shiva’s birthday.  Main festivities take place at Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu.  Holy Sadhu’s give blessings to swarms of devotees who go on to dip in the holy waters of Bagmati before partying all through the night in a blaze of colour and chaos you will never forget!  Here in Pokhara will be able to enjoy the bonfires and exploding sugar canes.  You have to heat the cane in the fire, then slam them into the ground.  The result is a huge ‘crack’ and an explosion of sparking sugar shooting up.  It’s fantastic to watch, so long as you keep your wits about you and dodge the burning sugar raining down on your head!

The second big festival this month is Holi.  This wonderfully colourful festival sees men, women and children joining in a massive water fight on the streets, and as if that isn’t fun enough the water is mixed with brightly coloured powders which turns the entire town and population into a running, laughing and dancing rainbow.

So, there you have it.  A Nepali calendar of events.  Use it to make sure you get the most out of your time here whilst making a real difference in the lives of others.

For more information on our work in Nepal and how to join our our team, look at our website or contact Becky in the UK on 01242 250 901.  If you would like to help, but don't have the time to come in person right now, you can always make a donation to the PoD Charity and help fund our work here.