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June 27th, 2004

09:04 pm - Mithila to Morang
An artistic journey
by Sarad Pradhan

Only few people know how rich is the culture of Janakpur and Morang as Nepal is always treated as a Himalayan kingdom by foreigners. The image of Nepal as a beautiful Himalayan kingdom cannot be ignored but in the meantime it is important as well to look into the diverse culture of this kingdom. During religious occasions like the Vivaha Panchami and the Ram Navami, there is no dearth of pilgrimage tourists making a bee-line to Janaki temple at Janakpur. But apart this, another facet of Janakpur is the highly refined and traditionally honed artistic skills of the Maithil women . And, this kind of special ethnic painting legacy is also unique in the sense that it is unlike anything seen in the high hills or mountain regions of Nepal. If you wish to know more about it, visit during festival time. Even the innocuous-looking thatched Terai huts are enlivened with numerous varieties of mud-wall, trace and even floor painting in multiple hues.

As Nepalese people living in Terai are very close to wildlife such as peacocks and elephants, their pictures come alive on their walls, as they are believed to be symbols of prosperity and good fortune. Besides, multi-hued images of deities like Shiva, Ganesh, Rama and Vishnu, often seated on their mythical mounts, bring the traditional painting skills of the Maithil womenfolk alive. On Maithil womenfolk alive. On occasions like weddings, these women depict the brides and bridegrooms in all their local finery often drawn on the sides of the decorated palanquins that form part of the marriage processions. Colourful sketches of parrots, turtles or fish–symbolising happy martial unions and fertility–are also usual .

Another form of artistic expression amongst Maithil women is in the shape of what is known as the Alpana or Aripan. These multi-coloured flowery designs, also known as Mandalas in popular parlance, are drawn either on the courtyards or thresholds of their houses. It holds a special religious significance. Their objectives are believed to be to welcome gods and goddesses who visit the localities on particular religious or holy occasions. The Alpanas may also include images of parrots, cuckoos and other birds and animals, apart from sketches of auspicious trees, flowers and fruits. As these Alpana are for good luck and prosperity, they believe that it should not be erased before the given time. If they fade away or are washed-out by the rain-shower, the exercise are repeated on the advent an other festive season. The same, however, does not necessarily apply to their interior design painting meant to decorate their sanctum sanctorum. Apart from the usual icons and figurines mentioned above, murals depicting various events and episodes drawn from popular epics like the Mahabharata and the Ramayana are also evident in quite a few houses, and they are also meant to last longer.

In districts of Morang, Sunsari and Jhapa of eastern Nepal, similar wall murals can be seen both within and outside many Tharu houses. While some believe them to be imitations of the Maithili cultural heritage, others are of opinion that they are the reminiscent either of the rich Rajasthani styles or the famed Kangra valley paintings. As far their concept of the Alpana goes, however, it is possible that it was originally inspired from Bengal across the Nepal-India borders where, on the one hand, there also are fairly large settlements of Tharus and, on the other, the flair for exceptional Alpana art amongst Bengali women is almost universally recognised. Tattooing is also treated as a fairly common ‘folk art’ both in Mithila and the Tharu regions in the Terai. Tattooing of forearms and even calves and feet appears to be a favourite among Tharu women. Such body area bearing blue and black needle pricking may depict either their own names, the names or images of their deities, or floral designs like the lotus and the rose, besides even various animals and birds. The lotus, particularly, is relatively pervasive, as it is believed to symbolise the female creativity, sex and energy. It is also not uncommon for such tattooing to be arranged on the holy occasion known as kohber(arranged within the four walls of the bride and groom when they are together) as a part and parcel of their honeymoon celebrations.

Lydia Aran, in her book The Art of Nepal, has aptly explained what Mithila painting means for the Maithil women. Says she, “ For several thousand years now the women of Mithila have cultivated the ceremonial art of drawing and painting on the mud walls of their house, the floors of their courtyards and, later, on paper as a form of worship and instrument for ritual, and a means of communication between gods and men. Tharu women, unlike Maithil women, appear to be greater extroverts. They are believed to hold a certain command over their household chores. Tharu women often design the columns of their verandahs as special specimens of individual artistic expressions, each one often different from the other, and, therefore, understandably unique. Erotic symbolism, especially on occasions like village-weddings, is not an exception either.

The local myths and legends of yore find familiar representation in both the Maithil and Tharu painting. Like in Mithila area, Tharu women are also prone to wash away one set of traditional paintings and replace them with another as a new festive occasion approaches. A tour of the Maithil and Tharu areas may give a unique and memorable experience to those who wish to see the real indigenous art of Nepali women living in Terai as they are as rich as mandala paintings of high Himalaya of Nepal.

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09:00 pm - Popular treks and rafting rivers of Nepal
The Mount Everest Region

This is one of the most popular treks in the world, through the land of the Sherpa people, with views of the world’s great 8,000-meter peaks.
Many trekkers walk in from Jiri, through the rolling hills of Solu. Others fly in to Lukla, just a few days from Namche bazaar and the Sagarmatha National Park.

Langtang and Helambu
Only a short distance from Kathmandu is a land of alpine pastures, lakes, glaciers and snowy peaks. The valleys of Langtang and Helambu are separated by a snowy range, atop which lies the sacred lake of Gosainkund.

The Annapurna Circuit

This trek begins at the lovely lakeside resort town of Pokhara and circles around the Annapurna Massif. One climbs through dramatic changes of vegetation, climate and culture to the Tibet-like highlands near the town of Jomsom. Further on is the sacred shrine of Muktinath, just before a high pass leading into the untrammeled valley of Manang.

The Annapurna Sanctuary

On the southern slopes of the Annapurna Masif is a lovely area of fir and rhododendron forests, protected by the Annapurna Conservation Area Project. A short and relatively easy trek brings one into view of Manaslu, Dhaulagiri, Ganesh Himal and the Annapurna range.

Only recently opened to trekkers, the route to Lake Phoksundo takes one into the southern reaches of the large Shey-Phoksundo National Park. Here one can experience the unique vegetation and wildlife of the Trans-Himalayan plateau that extends down into Nepal from Tibet.

Rara Lake
Among hills covered with pines and rhododendrons, sits the deep blue Rara Lake, with tall Chankheli peak looming large across the gorge of the Karnali River. Starting from the village of Jumla, one passes through forests and alpine pastures on a route through the dry terrain of western Nepal.

Only recently opened and restricted to special organized groups, this trek takes one through some of the country’s most pristine forests. Lying in the far eastern edge of Nepal, these valleys have scarcely ever known a footprint.

R i v e r s

The Trisuli begins high in the mountains north of Kathmandu. It is Nepal’s most popular river, convenient to Kathmandu for day trips and overnights. It is a relatively mellow river with some exciting spots of white water. One can float down the Trisuli right into the jungles of Royal Chitwan National Park.

Also called the River of Gold, this is acclaimed as one of the best white water runs in the world. The trips are ten days, with sandy beaches every night and thrilling white water every day. It’s the river of choice for intenational river-runners.

The lower reaches of this river have recently been opened to rafters. The best feature of the Bheri, besides the good water, is that it flows through Royal Bardia National Park, and it’s an ideal location for a combination raft-safari adventure.
Other rivers include the Arun, Marsyangdi, Seti, Tamur, Karnali and Kali Gandaki. Each river has its own level of difficulty, its riverside culture and natural history, and each can be combined with trekking or a safari. Rafting agencies will be glad to give you information on the more out-of-the-way rafting trips, and help you design a voyage of your own.

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08:57 pm - Newars of the Kathmandu valley
Newar is not just one caste or community of people but the culture of the valley that has evolved over a long period of time and survived in its own way against political domination and foreign cultural invasion in the past centuries.

Newars, who used to be almost the entire population of Kathmandu Valley before the invasion of the Shah dynasty in 1768, are inheritors of the rich history and culture. Prior to the Gorkha conquest of the valley, the three neighboring cities of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhadgaon (Bhaktapur) were the capitals of autonomous Newar kingdoms. Even today the populations of both Patan and Bhaktapur are largely Newar. But present day Kathmandu plays host to a large number of migrants from different parts of the country and also the neighbouring countries.

The economy of the valley depended on the rice cultivation and the trade between India and Tibet. Reflecting on the fertility of the valley and its strategic position for trade between India and Tibet, it could be said that Newars were primarily farmers and traders. Sound economic position and the stable and strong Malla regime gave the people abundant time development of art, architecture and culture. This led to the growth of major urban complexes; the cities. The prosperity is still visible if we go to the Durbar Square.

Newars speak Newari, which is an independent language with its own script and a rich literature. It belongs to the Himalayan group of the Tibeto-Himalayan branch of the Tibeto Burmeli sub family of languages. It seems likely that the earliest stratum of the Newar population may have come from Tibet and then over a long period evolved into its present form through the inter-mingling of immigrant people, including indo-Aryans from the South.

In Nepal the historical research is still in its infancy and very little is known concerning the development of Newari culture and society. But there are very good grounds for believing that the Newars were Buddhist in religion. The ancient Newars were predominantly Buddhist but with the political domination of Hindu rulers, the Newar religion has grown complex with new practices and beliefs. Many Newars today practice Vajrayana tradition of Buddhism but they also have very strong faith in Hinduism and perform Hindu rituals of feast and fasting as well. There is no line of distinction between Hinduism and Buddhism among Newars.

But there is a queer division of Newars on the ground of caste introduced by a Malla king. The Newars are divided into levels corresponding to the occupation they are engaged in and their social position in defined accordingly. The highest class is of course the priestly class. Priesthood is handed down to the sons by their fathers. Shakya, Bajracharya become priests by birth. Then comes Pradhan, Joshi, Rajbhandari etc. who used to be recruited for governmental services and as the advisors to the king. Then there is the workers’ class. The farmers, artisans and craftmen belong to this class. There are untouchables who are supposedly the cleaners and butchers. The whole social structure of Newars is built on this caste system. With time and the changing mores the attitude towards caste system is definitely changing but even today we find many Newars pursuing their traditional occupation because it is assigned by their castes.

Today we find Newars scattered in various parts of the kingdom but they essentially originated in the valley. Newar is not just one caste or community of people but the culture of the valley that has evolved over a long period of time and survived in its own way against political domination and foreign cultural invasion in the past centuries. In today’s fast life we see that Newars are still finding time for jatras, pujas and social ceremonies with equal enthusiasm to continue their unmatched cultural heritage.

Ihi or Bel Sanga Bibaha

Normally Newar girls are married thrice in their lives. the first marriage is called “Ihi” (Newari) or “Bel sanga Bibaha” (Nepali). And then they are married to the Sun which is called “Bara Tayegu” (Newari) or “Gufa Rakhne” (Nepali). When they get into human conjugal relationship it’s actually their third marriage. These marriage ceremonies are conducted both among Buddhist Newars and Hindu Newars.

hi or pre-puberty rite among Newars

Before Newar girls reach their puberty they are married to the fruit of wood-apple tree called Bel. It is performed at the girls’s odd age like 5, 7, 9 before they start menstruation. Ihi is a two-day ceremony commencing with purification rituals and ending with “Kanyadan” of the girl by her father meaning “giving away of the virgin”. This Kanyadan ceremony corresponds with the Kanyadan performed in Non-Newar Hindu marriage. So Ihi could actually be taken as the first marriage of Newar girls expect for that they are married to an icon of Suvarna Kumar, the immortal God.
Ihi is regarded a very sacred Newari ritual and it’s a must for all Newar girls. The ceremony is conducted bya Priest called “Gubhaju” for Buddhist Newars and “Deobhaju” for Hindu Newars. The rite is held whenever sponsors are prepared to meet the considerable expenses. Though a number of girls are always jointly initiated, the scale can vary from just a few closely related members of the same caste to as many as three or four hundred drawn from a wide range of castes. Ihi is often held in conjunction with some other ceremony, such as old age ceremony.

The first day of Ihi is called dusala Kriya. On this day, early morning, the girls prepare at home with the purification bath and dress in new clothes and put on ornaments. The girls then assemble at previously purified courtyard accompanied by a senior woman of the father’s lineage. They all sit in a neat line around the edge of the courtyard. And then for the next couple of hours the priest, with the help of his wife, takes the girls through a sequences of ritual actions of purification. The second stage of the ritual is the worshipping of a beautiful image of Suvarna Kumara, the golden Bachelor son of Lord Shiva who stands near the center of the courtyard. The event of the day closes with mutual blessings.

The main event takes place on the second day. Once again the girls assemble in the courtyard. Now the girls are dressed elaborately in glittering bridal suit comprising of ankle length skirt, blouse and shawl. They put on more ornaments and red tika on their foreheads to give a bridal look. The day begins with purification rituals and proceeds to Kanyadan. The father gives the girl’s hand to Suvarna Kumara Kanyadan concludes with the giving of a set of clothes worn by married women to the girl by her parents.

So far there is no satisfactory explanation why Ihi is performed. Some simple explanation is that it is from various dangers, in particular the possibility of attack from malicious spirits. But by far the most commonly given reason is to protect the girl from the awful stigma of widowhood. Ihi links the girl in an eternal marriage with a God. Therefore the death of a mortal human spouse cannot deprive her of her married status thus freeing her from the custom of having to burn on one’s husband’s funeral pyre which was prevalent among Hindu communities a few centuries ago. Ihi rite also enforces the right of a widow’s remarriage in the Newar community, thus liberating the women from the Hindu orthodox viewpoint of one life one marriage system for women. Though the original rite seems to have been lost with the cultural invasion in Kathmandu Valley, Ihi is still performed among Newars with compulsion.

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May 29th, 2004

10:27 pm
hey so i'm Maya and i was born in Nepal but i was adopted when i was 18monthes old and brought to the US but yea so that's the dealio with me!! haha but yea was so happy that i came across this community!! whoop whoop!! haha but yea so plz ppls write to me and tell me about Nepal and all!!
Current Mood: excitedexcited

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May 26th, 2004

07:13 am
Here are some articles in the recent Nepal Digest which I found insightful so I want to share:
"Active UN role in Nepal" By Kamala Sarup

"Gender Impact of Armed Conflict" By Bindu Chaudhary

"People’s Power" By Pramod Mishra

"Resolving the National Conflict in Nepal" by Dr Poorna Kanta Adhikary

And some news from the Nepali Times

- a non-Nepali Nepali

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April 14th, 2004

03:05 am - :: more Nepali words
Some Nepali words (related to religion)

Dharma = Religion
Deuta/Ishwor/Bhagawan/Pravoo/Aaradhya Dev = God
Pooja = Worship
Aarati = Light (usually lamp oil)
Ekata = Unity
Manavjati = Humankind
Awatar = Prophet
Astitwoo = Existance
Shanti = Peace
Om = The Holy character, used everywhere to recite the Verses of God form Holy Books
Shreemad Bhagwat Gita = The most Holiest Book for Hindus
Puran = Religious books about life after death
Bedas = Holy Books about life & duties in the world
Bayoo = The Air
Aagni = The Fire
Jaal = The Water
Prithvi = The Earth
Chandra = The Moon
Surya = The Sun
Sworga = The Heaven
Narka = The Hell
Pap = Sin
Punya/Dharma = Good-deeds
Aashirbad = Blessings
Prarthana = Prayers
Pooja = Worship
Mantra = Chants
Aakas = The Sky
Patal = Below Earth
Abhishek = Anointing
Yugas = Ages (Satyug, Tretajug, Dwaparjug and Kaliyug)
Pralaya = Deluge
Asan = Meditative pose
Utpatti = Creation
Nash = Destruction
Kam = Sensual enjoyment
Manushya = Man
Asur = Demon

The Most Sacred & Powerful Prayer of Hindus: The Gayatri Mantra
In Sanskrit (World's the most ancient language):

Om Bhurbhuvah Swah Tatsaviturvarenyam Bhargo Devasya Dhimahi Dhiyo Yo Nah Prachodayat.

It's meaning:
We contemplate the glory of Light illuminating the three worlds: gross, subtle, and causal. I am that vivifying power, love, radiant illumination, and divine grace of universal initelligence. We pray for the divine light to illumine our minds.

Man is the master of his own destiny. If one can change his thinking process, he or she can control the circumstances.

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April 10th, 2004

10:03 pm - Jhankris : The faith healers of Nepal
By Adrian Storrs

They are magico-religious specialists, part herbalists, part priests. their technique is spritual rather than biological. Their business is to determine the nature of the spirit, and then either to placate it or drive it from the ill person's body.

In most countries of the world, faith healing and herbal medicines are widely used. Nepal is no exception. From time immemorial, Jhankris, as the Nepalese faith healers and medicine men are called, have given medical care to the rural people. They are magico-religious specialists, part herbalists, part priests. Their technique is spiritual rather than biological, relying on the belief that ghosts and spirits are the causes of illness. Their business is to determine the nature of the spirit, and then either to placate it or drive it from the ill person’s body. To get an idea of how a Jhankri works, one must visualize an imaginary case.

The scene is a village in the remote hills. In a clay and thatched-roof farmhouse, a young man lies sick. Beside him on the cold earthen floor squats a Jhankri. All around, in the gloom of the dimly lit room, the young man’s family watches anxiously. Far from a health clinic and worried about their son’s fever, the parents called in the village healer, the only medical help available to them.

The man who is closely examining his patient is no ordinary healer by Western standards. To foreign eyes, his methods of diagnosis and treatment may seem bizarre. His medical kit has no place in a physician’s consulting room, and his dress is highly unorthodox.

The Jhankri wears a long white robe and a dark waistcoat. Over one shoulder hang strings of beads, charms and little bells. On his head is a circlet of feathers, under which are two scarves, one red and the other white, which trail down his back almost to his knees. In one hand, he holds the round, flat Jhankri drum, and in the other a thin curved stick. This drum, with its decorations and red trident markings, is an important tool of his trade. Beside him, spread out on leaves or in small pots, are his herbal medicines.

Quietly and carefully, the Jhankri continues his examination. Then, having lit a small oil lamp in front of his patient, he begins his treatment: the slow beating of the drum. The Jhankri begins to sway, backward and forward. Quickening the beat of the drum, he goes into a trance, in which state he can make his diagnosis and determine the illness’s appropriate cure.

As the ritual proceeds, the Jhankri begins to shake. It is at this stage that people believe that the Jhankri, who belongs to the material world, is on the threshold of the spiritual world and thus in contact with the cause of the illness. There is a deep-rooted faith that Jhankris, because of this spiritual contact, can bring about the withdrawal of the cause. In other words, Jhankris do not necessarily treat the disease itself but rather whatever causes it. They are assisted by the fact that their patients have implicit belief that they will be cured.

The Jhankri goes on beating the drum, slowly, then quickly, then slowly again; sometimes close to the patient, then at a distance. It doesn’t take long for the drumming, together with shaking and swaying of the healer’s body and the flickering lamp flame, to put the patient into a hypnotic state.cAt intervals the Jhankri moves around his patient in a characteristic twirling dance, drumming all the time and murmuring incantations. He is then at the height of his trance. (The ritual continues for many minutes, the time depending on the tenacity of the spirit or the difficulty in placating it). At last, the Jhankri is satisfied that he has found the cause of the young man’s illness and that he has exorcised the spirit. Suddenly, he bangs the drum loudly close to the patient’s head to get him out of hypnosis. Afterward, he prescribes some herbal medicines which he mixes himself to reduce the boy’s fever.

Jhankris can recognize and know how to treat many disorders, the most common being those of the respiratory and alimentary systems, as well as such ailments or illnesses as boils, fevers, allergies, typhoid, jaundice, urinary infections and malnutrition. Most Jhankris will prescribe medicinal herbs, of which they possess considerable knowledge. Most of the herbs they use can be gathered locally, though some are obtained from specialist dealers in the cities.

Much of the Jhankris’ success is due to the fact that they are well known, respected and accepted, especially as intermediaries between man and spirits. Furthermore, the Jhankris will go to patients at any time and treat them in their homes. They do not separate patients from their families. This is very important for the simple, unaffected rural people among whom family ties are very strong.

In some societies, such as the Gurungs, Jhankris are also respected for their ability to counteract the power of witches. The belief in witches is very strong among many Nepalese. Witches, the people believe, can cast spells causing misfortune, either by looking at their victims or by making incantations over food that the victim later eats. A Jhankri can nullify the evil spell if he can work out the incantations used by the witch.

It is also believed that at night witches take on forms different from their everyday appearances. This form is hairy and has backward pointing feet. It is interesting to note that in West Africa there is a belief in ‘Little People’ who inhabit the forests and whose feet also point backward.

Jhankris may be of any caste, and their practicing age varies from 20 to 70. They often become possessed at any early age and from then they start training. This training is long and comprehensive and involves, among other things, learning about plants, their medicinal properties and how to prepare the medicines.

They must learn to recognize physiological disorders, but above all, they must acquire a good understanding of human nature. A village Jhankri knows all his potential patients, their backgrounds, their personal problems, and their relationships with their families and with others in the community. A Jhankri also learns to treat everyone with absolute equality irrespective of caste, wealth, religion or sex.

Sometimes Jhankris are called upon to treat animals, and thus also serve as the local veterinarians. They may be asked to foretell a client’s future, or to officiate at domestic ceremonies such as marriages and funerals. Unlike the lamas, who never perform animal sacrifices, a Jhankri will do so if necessary. An experienced village Jhankri is a man of many skills and duties.

Payment for their services is usually made in foodstuffs such as rice, fruit, etc., but only if the patient is cured. If no cure is effected, then the charge may be just a few paisa. Many Jhankris, however, give their services free, particularly those who have other occupations.

To outsiders, the rituals, antics, and incantations may seem ridiculous and the use of herbal medicines old-fashioned. But let us not be scornful; after all, hypnotism is used in some modern medical treatments, and in many of the highly technical societies, herbal remedies are coming back into use. Perhaps the Jhankris have some extra special power that makes them aware of things beyond the ken of science. One thing is known: the Jhankris’ record of success indicates the existence of something beyond the knowledge of modem science.

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09:43 pm - Heroic Role Of Climbing Sherpas
By Pema Sherpa

The whole process of accomplishing success on mountain summit is sheer hard work and strong determination of climbing Sherpa to fight against all odd elements above the snow line.

In the Himalayan kingdom of Nepal there are plethora of snow capped mountains, some even more challenging than Mt. Everest, but the quest to summit Everest during the climbing season brings a pool of mountaineers, both professional and amateurs from across the globe. Except few Alpinist and famed mountaineer like Reinhold Messner, average summiteers have hired climbing Sherpa in their bet to the summit. Traditionally, Sherpas have stationed their support system in base camp, for which they are required to spend maximum time and energy in facilitating expedition. For high altitude climbing Sherpa, base camp (5309m) has become their secondary home.

Climbing Sherpa’s role as a strong support system begins right from the day one of group’s arrival in base camp. Sherpas make it a point to please their group by readying items (equipment, food accessories and other essentials) that are required in high altitude camps much in advance. No Sherpa would like to step on mountain slopes without having paid respect or sought blessing from mountain goddess, Chomolongma by offering thick smoke of junipers and Climbing Sherpa’s role as a strong support system begins right from the day one of group’s arrival in base camp. Sherpas make it a point to please their group by readying items (equipment, food accessories and other essentials) that are required in high altitude camps much in advance. No Sherpa would like to step on mountain slopes without having paid respect or sought blessing from mountain goddess, Chomolongma by offering thick smoke of junipers and reverberating prayers facing Everest. The day two affairs gives a sense of belonging to the group because cutting across the caste, creed and the country, everybody partake in the ritual, strictly in honour of mountain gods and goddesses. While for Sherpas it is necessary, for others, it is a rare moment to experience the host culture.

From the day third, climbing Sherpas have to show their optimum physical ability in ferrying equipment to high altitude camps that includes right from aluminium ladder to paraffin stove. It begins before the dawn with 15 to 20 Kg pack besides bottled oxygen for their personal use and by 6 am they would be able to reach camp 1. It is found that physically fit Sherpa make it to camp 2 on the same day. In the process of establishing higher altitude camps, Sherpa run more than 10 times to and from base camp and while they work, they have to keep in mind the time limits.

Having established the camps, the next job a Sherpa would be given is to guide expedition members to the summit depending upon their pace and health condition. For Sherpas who live on mountain for half of the year, climbing Everest is not a challenge, but source of livelihood. Similarly safety of clients is their priority and thus remains far from the rules of success and failure game. But this doesn’t imply misgiving in their attitude towards the group and its objective because very often Sherpas work hard to make climbers’ dream realized on the summit in various ways. Great mountaineer Appa Sherpa said, “At times Sherpas have to literally pull them up or give support from below until summit is reached.” What climbing Sherpa does on mountain ranges from ferrying equipment, cutting ice walls, fixing ropes, making routes with dexterity, pitching camps, bringing down the injured and sick for recuperation and mop up expedition gears after completion of expedition right from South Col. However, Sherpas do not take much time to bring supplies down to base camp.

In less than twenty-four hours they descend to base camp from camp II with double load because everybody desires to run home as quickly as possible.
During climbing season in Nepal, success story is written and rewritten on Everest summit, but lay man’s vision has not gone far from the pointed peak and spontaneous expression of greatness that climber holds for. Even though climbing is said to be a solitary sport depending upon the individual capability, the efforts of team member is tremendous.

Team member or service providers like Sherpas are experienced mountain climbers who have gained mastery in climbing techniques without formal training. It is interesting to learn that they have acquired technical terms in climbing at their own convenient way. For them ‘crampon’ is ‘kharampos’, ‘ice -axe’ is ‘i-sac’, ‘ but these very people lead the expedition team. It is said that one of the most formidable challenge expedition party have to over come is to come across Khumbu Ice Fall. Climbers have to battle against snow ridge, seracs, snow filled depression, snow ridge, ice walls and blocks, crevasses and deep snow, snowstorm before reaching the ultimate camps. The Khumbu Ice-Fall is considered as ‘Iron gate’ to summit Everest.

Climbers say that since Khumbu Ice-Fall is steep with protruding cornices, nothing can help except using vertical ladder with perfection and care because deep and wide crevasses are found everywhere. There is one extra ordinary Sherpa named Gyalzen Sherpa of Pangbohce village, who makes icefall route of Mt. Everest an easy task. His mastery over this task has earned him the nickname of ICE FALL DOCTOR. Members of various expedition teams collectively uses aluminium ladder installed by Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee (SPCC) in Khumbu icefall. It remains under the strict supervision of SPCC designate climber to deal with untoward situation. However the ladders, which bridge the gap between high altitude camps and base camp, are removed after stipulated time. It is entirely up to the expedition members to complete their task or abandon it without much success.

It can be concluded that climbing Sherpas who spend half of their life in providing high altitude service are all living heroes and mountain tigers. Their task of heroic deed and extra ordinary feats is unbelievable for a visitor.

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February 10th, 2004

09:36 pm
I would like to post a link to this paper by Thomas Marks on the insurgency in Nepal. It comes from the perspective of a U.S. "military scientist". It contains a recommendation for the "vigilante groups" a.k.a. paramilitary units that HMG was going to create on U.S. recommendation before, and then all the human rights groups in Nepal and Amensty International and many other international groups and the U.N. office on human rights all cried unanimously against -- and here he is recommending it again. Will some people never learn?

Don't read this as me being for the Maoists, because I think that the Maoists are also playing into the hands of greater powers who want access to Nepal's hydropower potential so close to India and China's emerging markets at this time of world oil peak and collapse.

There is an axis of human experience between control and peaceful chaos. Between a mindset of scarcity and one of abundance. Between feeling and acting from fear and feeling and acting from love.

Unfortunately, there are too many people acting from fear these days. The conflict in Nepal is one symptom of the new world disorder.

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February 1st, 2004

12:48 pm - Gaines are us
The songs of the gaines carry the Nepali soul

It’s a long way from his home in Gorkha for 13-year-old Rubin Gandharba. He is in Kathmandu this week with a mission to revive the gaine musical tradition, established by his ancestors centuries ago. “People in the capital should know who we are and about our contribution to Nepali culture,” says Rubin, who is joining 19 other gaines to participate in the three-day Gandhaba Festival in Patan starting 30 January.

‘Gandharba ka Saathiharu’, a Kathmandu-based community of journalists and musicians, have come together to promote the music of the gaines, Nepal’s travelling minstrels. In the caste system of cable and FM, this sublime music played to the wail of sarangi and beat of the madal falls at the bottom of the pecking order.

Most Nepali folk songs are inspired by the gaines. With them lies the genesis of Nepali folklore, song and music as we know it today. The modern folk genre is commercially successful but its proponents are predominantly Brahmins, Newars, Gurungs and Limbus. While neo-gaines gain nationwide popularity and become wealthy celebrities, the gaines are neglected and on the verge of extinction.

Amrit Gurung, lead singer of Nepathya and Aavaas, a contemporary music composer and singer, went on a talent hunting mission to Kaski, Tanahu, Gorkha, Lamjung and Syangjha districts. Despite the accompanying danger of police harassment, bomb explosions and army-Maoist encounters, the two found 150 gaines and invited 20 to perform at the Gandharba Festival.

“It’s sad that real musicians like them are not getting any opportunity at all. Nepali music will not advance by just copying the modern Western style but by modifying our own indigenous music,” says Aavaas. Gaines are not just singers wandering around with four-string sarangis, but are communicators and reporters, keepers of the collective memory of our land. In the days before mass communication, their music was the medium for rural Nepal to learn of and remember battles, brave soldiers, natural disasters, joys and sorrows of everyday life.

The people listened attentively to the gaines and repaid their service with food, clothes and other necessities. Until just before the Maoist war flared up, when people were not as blasé about death as they are now, gaines composed songs about life’s end. “But with so many deaths everyday, people are not shocked or even curious anymore,” says Aavaas.

Today most Nepalis view gaines as a nuisance—they are shooed away from bus windows, ignored on the city streets or humiliated by packs of young people. Frustrated by their waning popularity in the changing social sphere, alcoholism is on the rise among gaines. “Foreigners have done more for us than Nepalis. They have more respect and value for our music,” says Krishna Bahadur Gandharba from Tanahu. He speaks of several gaines who were sponsored to travel abroad to participate in the folk music concerts. Lal Bahadur Gandharba went to Vienna two years ago and was surprised to get such a rousing round of applause from hundreds gathered to see him perform. “It was the happiest moment of my life,” he recalls. “We should no longer be ashamed to say that we are gaines and of low caste.”

The old generation says it is up to the young to keep tradition alive. “First of all, they should not be ashamed to carry their sarangi and sing anywhere,” says Krishna, who has given up trying to motivate children from a 17-member clan to follow his footsteps. Krishna feels the only way to prevent his people’s music from becoming extinct is to document the gaines knowledge and skills.

Gandharba Festival
30 January - 1 February 2004 at Yala Maya Kendra, Patan Dhoka, Lalitpur.

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