I was very happy to hear that my stay in Nepal coincided with Holi, or better known as the Festival of Colour. I geared up and headed out..
Certainly the festival brings smiles to everyone. After all there is nothing like acting as a child again, drenching whosoever dares to pass near enough to you. Being on the back of a motorbike, racing through the alleys of Bhaktapur receiving water from all directions was something which I won’t forget soon. Women pouring buckets from windows, gangs of kids on rooftops squirting down on you with water guns, not to mention the ground-assault of water balloons.
I think it’s fair to say being one of the only Westerners there, our motorbike was targeted more than others, but this was something I relished. The colour as well was great. It was the norm to see people walking past you with faces that looked like they had face-planted into a pool of colour. Reds, blues, yellows and purples were everywhere you looked.
I was told a little about the reasons of the festival. Firstly it is seen as the coming of spring (hence the colours) and better weather. Secondly it represents good overcoming evil and this was most definitely indicated in the smiles, laughs and joy of everyone involved. Ages from toddlers to the elderly all joined the fun.
The only down-side, and something which I was stupid to do, was that in the midst of it all my phone and camera broke. Quite simply, do not take your electronics with you and if you must ensure they are safely sealed in a Ziploc bag. Luckily this did not detract from the fun I had in the day!
Here is some information regarding this festive New Year celebration in Bhaktapur on April 14th:
Bisket Jatra is the annual celebration of two of the most important deities of the town of Bhaktapur, the wrathful god Bhairab and the goddess Bhadrakali.
Bisket Jatra heralds the start of the Nepali New Year and is celebrated with the most intensity in Bhaktapur. In one of the most exciting annual events in the Kathmandu valley, a huge chariot carrying images of the god Bhairab is hauled by dozens of young men to Khalna Tole. The creaking and swaying chariot lumbers around town, pausing for a huge tug of war between the eastern and western sides of town. The chariot also rests at certain time-honored places in the city and people come out to throw offerings of flower, rice, coins and red sindur powder.
After the battle, the chariots head to Khalna Tole, where a huge 25m-high lingam (phallic symbol) is erected in the stone yoni (female genital symbol) base.
In the evening of the following day (New Year’s Day), the pole is pulled down by contesting terms of men, a moment of danger and excitement and in an often-violent tug-of-war. As the pole crashes to the ground, the New Year officially commences.
Long banners hang from the pole, symbolizing the conquered in a mythological battle. On New Year’s Day, contesting terms of men pull the pole to the ground, a moment of danger and excitement.
I visited the Bhouddhinath Temple the day before Losar (Tibetan New Year). It was crowded with monks, tourists, and locals coming to enjoy this monumental Buddhist temple, with its white dome and gold pyramid top with two giant blue and red eyes. Nick, Savannah, and I walked clockwise around the temple and then entered and made a second circle. The square was humming with the sounds of monks chanting, beating drums, and bells ringing in preparation for Losar. It was only a 40-minute journey by bus and definitely worth seeing!