We are now coming up to festival season in Nepal! Every year, some of our producers will be away from the workshops for a month for Dashain and then Tihar (Divali) festivals – as they are usually a week or so apart, many of our producers will travel back to their family villages to catch up with relatives for the festivities, as they have to take a long bus journey and walk miles to remote locations! As the festival dates are based on the lunar calendar, they can vary year on year, though they are usually at some point in October or November. We have to factor this into our sampling and production schedules, as it is difficult to get work done in this time - another reason why we have to carefully plan our winter production schedules well in advance!
I have been in Nepal for both festivals several times over the years and though very difficult to get much work done, it is a fun time to be in Nepal with all the festivities. The first festival, Dashain, is the biggest festival in the Nepali calendar and celebrated across Nepal with family gatherings, rituals and communal processions of deities in different communities.
For the Nepalese, Dashain is about spending time with your family, but I also love the other signs of Dashain around the city, especially the kite flying and bamboo swings! Here are some of the main festivities that I have seen go on during the festival around Kathmandu:
Kite flying – people all ages fly kites from their roofs shouting ‘changa cheit’ when they manage to cut the string of another person's kite! Colourful kites made from sticks and plastic offcuts can be seen on the market at local shops. Flying kites was considered one way of reminding god not to send rain anymore.
- Playing cards – older members of the family play cards with each other for money and fun – it can get quite heated!
A controversial part of Dashain is the tradition for ritual animal slaughter to appease the gods, especially in the Durga and Kali temples and for feasts. Animal rights activists have campaigned in opposition to these inhuman acts, suggesting people offer fruit and vegetables to the gods, as Hindu religious books do not specify animal sacrifices.
- Bamboo swings constructed by community members with traditional methods (ropes from tough grass, bamboo sticks and wood) in communal areas around the country – some are over 20 ft in height! I love this part of the festival, as it is fun and full of community spirit with people of all ages using the swings – its great to see throughout the city – though I am yet to have a go on one!
Happy Dashain everyone!