Navadurga Festival

Splat! I felt something burst against my shoulder followed by giggling and the pounding of little footsteps against the pavement. A water balloon had hit me within the first ten minutes of entering Bhaktapur. It was the day of the Navadurga Festival and all the children were running the streets and being a white tourist makes me an automatic target. I laughed and waved at the children, but realized that in order not to get soaked I was going to have to keep my eye out for traps.

Nick, Savannah, and I headed for Durbar Square where the main festivities were taking place.  We turned down a small alleyway where we saw around fifteen boys, all under the age of twelve, sitting on the top of a wall eyeing us and giggling. As we got closer we realized that we were about to head in to a war zone of water balloons so we looked at each other and Nick said, “Run!”  The three of us turned and began to run in the opposite direction. The boys jumped off the wall and began to chase us down the street yelling after us. Luckily, they eventually gave up. Smiling and laughing, the three of us stopped to catch our breath. There were no casualties and we managed to make it out unharmed and dry.

At Durbar Square, kids were running around, eating popsicles, and break dancing in small circles. We got popsicles and snacks in the square when we heard the sound of tons of little kids screaming and running down the street. We went to investigate, and saw what the Navadurga festival is known for: a parade of people following around a masked man while all the young children yelled and ran away only to run back and repeat the cycle. Unfortunately I did not take any photos of the masked man because he is the representation of a Hindu God so it is not respectful.

As we watched the festival many children walked over to me, asking me my name and where I was from followed by the inevitable question: “Candy? Chocolate? Biscuit? Money?” I did not come to the festival prepared with any of these things so I had to improvise, “No, but I have a camera.” I repeatedly took out my camera, shot a couple photos of the children, and then showed them the pictures. Many of them have never seen a photo of themselves so they love seeing the pictures. Once the sun began to set, I my walked back to the Bhaktapur Guesthouse. As I headed out of Bhaktapur, it seemed that the whole town was in good spirits and the feeling was contagious.  I couldn’t stop smiling.

Hinduism

Hinduism is most common religion in Nepal, and is considered the world’s oldest and third largest religion. This 3,000 year old religion is not unified and does not have a single founder or prophet. Hindus believe there are many deities.  Hinduism is the conglomeration of a variety of different religious groups, which come out of India.  Many believe Hindus worship many gods, however many Hindus would claim to believe in one eternal god (Brahman), which is indefinable and celebrate other deities. They recognize the other gods as different aspects of the Brahman.

Karma is central to Hindu faith. America’s concept of Karma is basically reaping what you sow.  According to Hinduism the soul goes through a cycle of lives and the next incarnation depends on the previous life. Our actions in the previous life keeps us in this world, this bondage is known as “Karma”. While good actions can cause us to be reborn to experience good results, bad actions can cause us to be reborn again and again to undergo suffering and pain.

Another concept many of us are familiar with is the Caste System which is based on  The four castes are – the Brahmins (educational system), the Kshatriyas (military), the Vaishyas (economics), and the Shudras. (workforce) are described in Hindu texts, but have been exploited by some Hindu societies to oppress lower castes.

These two websites provide a good overview of Hinduism

1. Thamel.com : Provides an excellent overview of Hinduism in Nepal. Check it our here

2.The Himalyan Academy: This site is filled with details about the practices and beliefs of Hinduism. Check it out here