Monday, October 29, 2012

Celebrating Dashain

I recently wrote blog post describing the festival of Dashain. Now, one week on, Dashain is finishing.

Ama giving Tikka to all the children
We have been celebrating with our local family and friends the good winning over evil. It is amazing to see the whole country on the move, travelling hundred of miles to be with their families, leaving the bustling cities and heading for the hills where they orignally came from. It's a weird feeling walking through Mahendra Pool, usually a hectic place, where you have to watch every step to avoid motorbikes with 5 people on them, buffalo taking over the pavements and people hanging out of the local buses turned into a ghost town, every shutter down and literally no traffic on the roads!

Happy Dashain everybody
We spent the main day of Dashain having a picnic in the park with the Street Kids. We even had goat curry which had been sacrificed the day before in honour of the festival.

Ama, the mother at the Street Kids Centre, took her time to give everyone of the children (and us) a beautiful Tikka. Not just your usual red color Tikka but one made out of rice, yoghurt and sugar. It is placed on your third eye for protection. You are also given baby rice leaves behind your ear and a small donation of money. After eat! And boy did we feast!

Flying Kites in the park
Normally after I eat a large meal I like to take it easy for the day, but not when you have 11 kids to entertain! We were then into full swing of making their new kites and testing them out! Frisbee and football all afternoon didn't seem to wear them out, but by the time all the volunteers got home, we were certainly ready for a rest!

Dashain swings!
We also all had a go on the amazing swings that get erected during Dashain. it is said that your feet must leave the ground at one point during the festival, so the way to do this...?! Swing! They are huge, beautiful creations made of bambo, if only the could stay up the whole year. 

Today though, it is back to work for a few weeks, before we have another holiday to celebrate Tihar, the festival of lights. One of my personal favourites!

Some volunteers also got invited to houses of local families that they have gotten close to in their time in Nepal which was a huge honor for them. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

SOS Bahini have opened their new cafe!

SOS Bahini is one of the most amazing projects that we work with at PoD Nepal. They are a local NGO that help vulnerable and disadvantaged girls get back on their feet. They offer a safe enviornmet from them to grow up and not only give them education but provide them with karate lessons, art classes, dance classes and vocational training. PoD volunteers often head there on a Saturday morning to hold conversational English classes.

One of the trainings that they have started recently is a new Cafe! The girls have been taught how to cook and have now set up their own restaurant! Bahaini Cafe!! And now they are sucesfully running their own business.

PoD Volunteers enjoying their dinner at Bahini
Last Friday was their opening night, and all the PoD volunteers headed down their to try their culinary delights and we were not disapointed! It was by far the best meal I have ever had in Lakeside. The whole of their menu was amazing and everyones meal was incredible.

We now have a great new coffee shop to hang out in after a days volunteering!

If your in Lakeside, make sure you check out Bahini Cafe - it's a great cause.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Happy Dashain!

This week sees the start of Dashain festival in Nepal. Dashain is the biggest Hindu festival held annualy in Nepal celebrated by the whole country. The fifteen day celebration is timed so that it ends on the day of the full moon. 

A traditional Dashain swing that gets put up through the festival. 
Dashain commemorates a great victory of the gods over a wicked demons. One of the victory stories told is the Ramayan, where the lord Ram slaughtered Ravana, the fiendish king of demons. It is said that lord Ram was successful in the battle only when goddess Durga was evoked. The main celebration glorifies the triumph of good over evil. Dashain is celebrated with great rejoice, and goddess Durga is worshiped throughout the kingdom as the divine mother goddess.

In preparation for Dashain, every household is cleaned and beautifuly decorated (similar to Christmas celebrations in England) and painted to invite the mother goddess in so that she can bless the house with good fortune. Locals seek out gifts for their loved ones and prepared feasts of goat meat, chicken and water buffalo ('buff'). 

The first day of Dashain is called Ghatasthapana, which literally means pot establishing. On this day the kalash, (holy water vessel) symbolising goddess Durga is placed in the prayer room. The kalash is filled with holy water and covered with cowdung on to which seeds are sown. A small rectangular sand block is made and the kalash is put in the centre. The surrounding bed of sand is also seeded with grains. The ghatasthapana ritual is performed at a certain auspicious moment determined by the astrologers. At that particular moment the priest intones a welcome, requesting goddess Durga to bless the vessel with her presence.
The room where the kalash is established is called 'Dashain Ghar'.

As days passes by regular rituals are observed till the seventh day. The seventh day is called 'Fulpati'

The eighth day is called 'Kal Ratri', the dark night. Hundreds of goats, sheep and buffaloes are sacrificed at the mother goddess temples. The sacrifice continues till dawn. While the puja is being carried out great feasts are held in the homes of common people where large amount of meat are consumed.

At my Nepali family home celebrating Dashain with a feast!
The ninth day is called Nawami: Temples of mother goddess are filled with people from dawn till dusk. Animals mostly black buffaloes are slaughtered to honour Durga the goddess of victory and might and to seek her blessing. Military bands play war tunes, guns boom and officers with beautifully decorated medals in full uniform stand there. When the function ends the courtyard is filled ankle deep with blood. On this very day the god Vishwa Karma, the God of creativity is also worshiped. All factories, vehicles, any machinery instruments and anything from which we make a living are worshiped. We also give sacrifices to all moving machinery like cars, aeroplanes, trucks etc. to get the blessing from goddess Durga for protection for vehicles and their occupants against accidents during the year

The tenth day is the Dashami: On this day we take tika and jamara from our elders and receive their blessing. We visit our elders in their home and get tika from them while our younger ones come to our home to receive blessing from us. The importance of Dasain also lies in the fact that on this day family members from far off and distant relatives come for a visit as well as to receive tika from the head of the family. This function continues for four days. After four days of rushing around and meeting your relatives Dashain ends on the full moon day, the fifteenth day. In the last day people stay at home and rest.
Tika for all

For the next two weeks, all our schools will be on holiday so we will be spending our time working at the Street Children'sCentre and the Asha Foundation as well as doing some maintenance work redecorating some of the Government schools that we work for. We will also be celebrating Dashain with some of our local friends, enjoying the parties, feasts and blessings. 

Happy Dashain everybody, enjoy!

For more information on our work in Nepal and how to join our team, look at our website or contact Gemma 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.