Festival of lights (Deepawali) in Nepal

Nepal is a land full of cultural diversity as people following different religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and other religions live together in harmony. The month of October – November sees a lot of tourists in Nepal because it is the main trekking season and today we are going to tell you one another good reason to travel Nepal in October – November.

The two great big festivals of the Hindus of Nepal, Dashain and Tihar (Deepawali) fall during the month of October – November. The first big festival Dashain is celebrated for 15 days and the second big festival Tihar (Deepawali) is celebrated for 5 days. Dashain falls between late September to mid October and Deepawali falls between late October to early November.

During last October, some of our volunteers got to witness the great Nepali festival of Tihar (Deepawali) and celebrate it in Nepali way. There were three Australian volunteers in Nepal working in an orphanage with 40 kids. The children of the orphanage celebrate the festival every year by visiting different houses and showing their dancing and singing talents in order to raise funds.

The 3rd, 4th and 5th days of Deepawali are the main days where children and youngsters go to different houses of their neighbors, friends or relatives to play Dheusi and Bhailo. Dheusi and Bhailo is the typical act where they sing the typical Dheusi and Bhailo songs and other Nepali songs. They dance with music and some people even play Nepali musical instruments like Madal and even western instruments like Guitar. They go to houses after houses and entertain the people living in the house. This is done because of the cultural reason and for fun. The people living in the house can also sing and dance and they exchange good wishes among each other. They can play Dheusi and Bhailo for a short time or it can go for hours as well. By the end of the Dheusi and Bhailo, It is a tradition that the people living in the house have to give some money to the people who came to the house to play Dheusi and Bhailo. The people who came to play Dheusi and Bhailo leave the house by giving blessings. This is also the festival when people get to play with firecrackers, play cards, meet distant relatives, and eat varieties of food, sing and dance. The festival brings everyone together and celebrates good time with family and friends. The joy of the festival drives everyone happy from children to elders.

Another big significance of the festival is that Hindu people worship goddess Laxmi (the goddess of wealth) by making every corner of the house bright. They light candles, oil lamp, and colorful lights and decorate the houses. Even the streets get decorated. This is why Tihar (Deepawali) is also called the festival of lights. In the 3rd day of Tihar, people worship cow which is holy and seen as the form of goddess Laxmi. In the 4th day, people worship bull. The 5th and the final day is Bhai tika or brothers and sisters day where the sisters put 7 colors tika on the forehead of the brothers, worship them with garland made of special flowers, give them sweets, fruits and different varieties of food to eat. In return the brothers have to give some money or present to the sisters.

During the festival of lights our volunteers who were in Nepal especially got to be a part of the festival and experience it from close. One of the volunteers, Lauren spent most of her time with the kids of the orphanage by giving them a helping hand in preparing many things needed for the festival celebrations. She made garlands, went with the children to different houses to play Dheusi Bhailo and made many Nepali brothers at the orphanage. We saw Lauren even got a Henna tattoo on her hand which the orphanage kids made for her. Nepalese ladies get Henna tattoo especially during festivals and different joyful occasions. So Tihar or Deepawali is the festival which you should not miss if you are planning to travel Nepal.

 

 

volunteers making MoMo for the kids

It was a day filled with excitement as we were making momo’s for the kids of the orphanage. Momo is a popular dish, which every Nepalese love and anyone who visits Nepal must taste it. We were making momo’s for about 35 kids of the orphanage and the staff’s. Actually the plan was of one of the Danish volunteer who was working at the orphanage and another volunteer, Lauren decided to go ahead. It was not a simple task as making momo’s takes long time and lot of work like chopping vegetables, making sauce, making dough, giving shape to momo’s and other things was needed to be done.The volunteers were making momo for the first time and it was also the first time that the children at the orphanage were making momo at their home.

The volunteers bought the necessary ingredients from nearby shop and we started up with the preparations at 3 PM which was already late. Cutting, chopping, preparing this and that takes long time and we were making momo’s for about 45 people in total. It was so nice that some of the older kids came up to help, some chopping onions, chopping cabbages, some making dough. When the onion was killing one’s eye, the next kid was ready to help finish chopping onions. It was fun working as a team making momo’s but we were not sure if we would be able to finish making it on time and feed the kids as the dinner time was around 6.30 pm. After 5 hours of work finally it was at 8 pm when we gave the first set of momo’s  to the smaller kids. Then we gave momo’s to the older kids.

We were not sure how many momo’s to make and could not estimate but we did make a lot of momo’s and all the kids were full and happy at last. Yummy! the momo’s were really good and it gave us immense satisfaction that we did it and the momo’s were the best made! The volunteers left for their host family at around 9.30 pm. What a good moment it was, mostly we were happy to see the kids eating lots of momo’s and asking for more and more.

volunteering with children in Nepal

Well it’s a bit hard to write about my experience as a volunteer here because I just got back from Annapurna Base Camp trekking. I went to Annapurna Base Camp trek and Poon Hill trek, did it in 10 days with my friend and saw the REAL Nepal. I am about to leave Nepal tomorrow. But I am thankful to Nepali Host Family; you really made me feel like home. I volunteered in two placements during my stay in Nepal. In the school, I was during the exams, so I helped the kids with some info and ask them a lot of questions to think about. In the Orphanage, I went after school to help the kids to prepare for their exams.

I am impressed how bright and kind are the Nepali children. I learned to be honest and to observe because this way I can help even when they don’t know how to ask for help. I taught some things which I teach back at home in Bulgaria, some Leadership training skills. The volunteering work at the orphanage gave meaning to my Nepal stay.

I will miss you all
Marieta
Gabrovo, Bulgaria.

volunteering, traveling and trekking in Nepal

My journey to Nepal began on the 16th of August 2011 and lasted a month and a half. I had recently turned 30 and had quit my job with a merchant banking firm, deciding I had had enough of the rat-race.  I decided my travels were to be more than a vacation and they were to lay the foundation to a future I wished to have. Volunteering in Nepal for a month and spending the rest of my time there exploring and appreciating the country’s wonderful people and culture seemed to be the perfect solution.

I was drawn to Nepali Host Family as it seemed to offer everything from a challenging teaching experience, to cultural tours of Kathmandu, to momo-making lessons, to helping with making all the arrangements for the Everest Base Camp Trek I had in mind, and I have to say, Nepali Host Family far exceeded my expectations!

Here is a glimpse of my life in Nepal –

Teaching in Nepal threatened to be a daunting experience, but from the very first moment I stepped into “Compact English School” it was nothing less than an utterly enjoyable and an absolutely rewarding experience. The location of the school was in about 40 min. walk from the hostel was a perfect way to start the day. Walking through the bustle of the city woke you up to the reality of the wonderful world that is Nepal. The children at the school were absolutely adorable and I left school each day feeling such a sense of joy over having done something worthwhile. We played games that required all the students to interact with each other in English, pored over the world map for long, discussing the locations and cultures of different countries, went over the curriculum and had discussions over their class work, and on some days we would just take pictures, sing songs and dance to popular Nepali songs. The principal of the school is an amazing and dynamic lady who ran through the school attending to an unending list of responsibilities that kept her from being comfortable ensconced in her office, even for a moment. Aarti Mam would often share lesson plans with me and always made herself available to any of the necessities I might have had of the school. The local teachers were just as wonderful and any nervousness I might have felt initially was forgotten after day one.

Traveling and trekking in Nepal offered a thrill and excitement few other countries can match. The country presents such extremes as snow capped mountains, to the chaotic city life of Kathmandu, to pristine agrarian villages, and finally even forests. Most weekends I occupied myself with out-of-town trips, be it the lake-side adventures of Pokhara – hiking up to the World Peace Pagoda, boating in the Phewa lake, biking to the bat-caves, or just chilling at the Busy Bee with a chilled beer, or be it the exciting jungles of Chitwan offering jungle safaris, jungle walks, elephant bathing, bird-watching, etc. Then there were the sights within the city of Kathmandu such as Kathmandu Durbar Square, Patan Durbar Square, Swayambunath Temple, Pashupati Temple, Boudha Stupa, and the hour’s bus-ride to Bhaktapur, an ancient Newar town. These travels, of course, turned out to be an excellent way to bond with the rest of the volunteers when we first arrived and also a great way to see Nepal. The experience that topped it all for me was the Everest Base Camp (EBC) trek. It is hard to put into words the experience of that breathtaking walk through the heart of the Nepalese Himalaya. I wasn’t prepared for the beauty I witnessed; it was both awe-inspiring and magical at the same time. Apart from being the highest mountain in the world, Everest is also a true beauty. Staying in mountain guesthouses offered an excellent way of learning all about the culture and way of life up in the mountains, which is just as hard as it is beautiful. However, the warm hospitality at the mountain lodges is something you will not easily forget. Overall, it was a life-altering experience traveling through Nepal, something I would highly recommend.

Living in Nepal, in a country between two world super-powers, India and China, offers a diversity which in no way oppresses upon the national unity and pride of the Nepali people. More so even than India, ancient traditions and beliefs are endlessly expressed and respected. Living at the hostel was a great way to get immersed into the community and get involved with everything. Taking the micro-bus everywhere, or even just walking through the city makes you feel like so much more than just a tourist. The hospitality of everyone at the hostel and the warmth you experience at the hands of perfect strangers makes you forget all of your home-sickness. My journey might have come to an end but the memories and friendships I have made in Nepal will be something I will hold on to my entire life.

I have met some amazing volunteers through Nepali Host Family, all doing quality volunteer work in their respective placements. They were all, just like me, looking for a worthwhile experience and a unique way to plunge themselves into the immensely beautiful community and culture of Nepal. Thanks to Nepali Host Family, my trip has been a truly unforgettable one.

Aparna
India.