As I mentioned (in my Pokhara post), it is Tihar, the festival of lights and the Nepali new year. Tihar, also known as Diwali, is one of the most important Hindu holidays, second only to Dasain (here in Nepal) — which was celebrated in October (remember the slaughters while trekking? yeah, that was Dasain). This festival starts with honoring crows (they are messengers of death), dogs (they guide souls in death), cows and then siblings.
My last night in Pokhara was beautiful — with colorful mandalas made in front of all the stores and restaurants. As the sun set, candles were placed out front, lights were strung up on all store, bar and restaurnat fronts accompnaied by garlands of marigolds. Kids were making their way from place to place chanting and singing.
The first night is when the girls are suppose to go around singing, chanting and dancing – though in Pokhara I saw both — girls going to store fronts and doing traditional dances. But the strangest was in the middle of the street – a large group had gathered. There was a Nepali/Hindi ballad playing and a guy, dressed in a Michael Jackson-esque style, was dancing, in a Michael Jackson-esque way. It didn’t quite fit in…
The lights, music, chanting and singing went late into the night – groups of kids visiting every household – getting a bit of a handout at each place.
On the trip back to Kathmandu, we could tell people were getting ready for the big Deepawali (festival of lights) as there were slaughters of water buffalo, flowers out in front of their houses, paths from the mandala into the house (so Lakshmi – goddess of wealth – can know which way to go) and lights being strung up in front of the houses. Then, back in Kathmandu – most of the store fronts were closed – but the side streets were PACKED with people buying items from street vendors. It is kind of like the day before Christmas and all the last minute purchases!
On the Bhai Tika day, the 5th day of Tihar, siblings meet and place tikas on one another and there is a big meal with families. We joined Lisa’s family for this — we all got a multicolored tika and sat down for a delicious meal with lots of sweets (I could not tell you what most of the food was – but there was dal and rice and curried veg and fried fish and chicken and lots of other dishes as part of it. the sweets were a mix of Nepali and Indian sweets — all delicious – many of the fried items I have seen on the street and have wanted to try, but haven’t!).
Just like thanksgiving, the aunties were there trying to get me to eat more food! Everyone sits around and eats a lot of food, then some more and then everyone sits around in a food coma. Just like thanksgiving! It was great!
Here is the Tika process: