A few excerpts from Eleanor’s blog, writing of her experiences in Kathmandu.
Tihar: Just twelve days after Dasain 5-19 October ( Nepal’s biggest festival of 15 days, celebrating the triumph of good over evil, surrounding the belief of the victory of the goddess Durga over the demon king Mahisasur) finished it was time to celebrate Nepal’s second biggest festival, Tihar, from 1-5 November. Tihar translates as ‘the Festival of Lights’ and is the Nepali equivalent of the Indian Festival, Diwali. What makes the festival even more significant for the Nepali people is that it encompasses the worship of people, their gods, and animals which have a close functional relationship with them. I’m not a religious person in any sense; however, something I like about most Hindu festivals is that I can easily see where their ideas of worship come from (I still remember worshipping the fire during the cold Dharamsala winter). Hinduism is one of the world’s oldest religions, and there is something in its primordial nature that I find appealing. If it’s cold we’ll worship the fire, we’ll worship the cow as it gives us milk and helps us plough our fields. My Nepali friend apologetically explained the days of Tihar to me. “On the fourth day people worship cow dung, I don’t know why they do such a silly thing”. But to me it made perfect sense, cow dung can fertilize the fields, can be used to fuel fires, and build houses. There is something basic that makes sense to me in Eastern religions that I just don’t see in Western religion. It seems to be me that religion is playing on humans’ most basic needs and I can rationalize and enjoy its purpose in our day to day lives. Saying that, I’m not planning on becoming any sort of religious, but I do enjoy the festivals.
On political unrest with upcoming elections 19 November: National Shutdown Nepal Bandh. During a Bandh [a national strike – this one organised by an alliance of 33 minor political parties] the whole country shuts down. Firstly they don’t allow any vehicles on the road, leaving everyone to travel by foot. Furthermore, all the shops have to remain closed If people don’t comply to the Bandh there can be violent retributions including the torching of vehicles. If there is a Bandh all the normal everyday people stay home and do nothing. Ambience International school has remained closed On the strike front everything seems under control now. There are lots of army and police officers patrolling the streets. Still seeing lots of motorbike rallies for different political parties (and being woken up by them at 6am). If I was Nepali I think I’d vote for the party that disturbed my sleep the least!