5 Days Tihar Festival

Tihar is the five days celebration in Yama Panchak.

Tihar is the most celebrated festival after Dashain in Nepal. It is a five-day festival celebrated in late autumn. It has its unique ways of celebration.

Story behind Tihar
There are various stories about the celebration of Tihar. One of the famous stories behind the celebration of tihar is related to Yama the god of death and his sister Yamuna. Yama had been staying away from his sister for a long time. His sister wanted to meet him so she asked various sources to visit him and ask him to give her a visit. She sent crow, dog, and cow and at the end she went herself to see her brother. She worshipped him with tika and flowers, she put him five colored tika. Yamuna made a circle with mustard oil, Dubo Grass (Cynodon Dactylon) and put Makhmali Mala (Globe Amaranth) and asked Yamaraj not to go till the oil, Dubo Grass and the flower gets dry. Therefore, every sister worships her brother keeping him in the circle of mustard oil, putting mala (garland) of Makhmali flower and Dubo grass.

tihar-depawali-festival

Happy Deepawali

First day – Kag Tihar (Crow Puja)
On the first day of Tihar, crows are worshiped and fed early in the morning. People leave different food items outside for crows to eat. Crow is considered to be the messenger of death. People believe the crow gets the messages to the house in the morning. People worship it to bring good luck themselves.

Kaag Tihar

Kag Tihar (Crow Puja)

Second day – Kukur Tihar
The second day of tihar is dedicated to the most loyal friend of mankind. Kukur, the dog, Puja is done by putting a red tika on dogs forehead and flower garland around the neck offering him foods and sel roti. Generally male dogs are worshiped. It is said dog can see endangers and the death coming.

Kukur Tihar

Kukur Tihar (Dog Puja)

Third day Gai (cow) Puja and Laxmi Puja
On the third day of tihar Cows are worshipped in the morning. Cows are worshipped with sesame oil light, garland of flower and red color (abir). Wheat flour, sel roti, rice and dal are feed to cows. Disciples try to pass in-between four legs of the cow. Cow is regarded as mother in Hindu religion, as we grow up drinking her milk. Some look cow as Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity.

In the afternoon we clean our houses, paint floors with Red Mud (Rato Mato) and cow dung (gobar). Small circle are made in front of the main gate and decorated with colorful designs. Some people call it rangoli.

Small designs of footsteps are painted from the main entrance to the puja kotha. These footsteps are believed to be the footsteps of goddess Lakshmi. Candles or pala are lit all over the house making it bright and beautiful.

Gai (Cow) Tihar

Gai Tihar (Cow and Laxmi Puja)

There is a long tradition of going housed in the evening singing songs to ask for money and foods. Generally girls and kids go out to neighbors sing traditional songs called Bhailo songs. The tradition is called “Bhailo” and songs are called Bhailini songs.

The song starts with “Bhailini aain agana gunyo cholo magna, hey ausi ko din gai tiharo bhailo”. Badali kudali rakheko, laxmi pooja gareko, hey ajako dina gaitiharo bhailo…” Meaning Bahilini are at your door to ask for a gunyo cholo (Nepali traditional dress), today is no moon day and Cow pooja and Bhailo day, the house is clean and you have done Lakshmi puja, today is cow pooja day and Bhailo”

Fire crackers are blown in this day. People play cards in Laxmi puja to welcome goddess Laxmi in the night. People believe, laxmi comes to the house which is clean and bright.
In the evening the goddess of wealth Lakshmi is worshiped by lighting numerous lights and lightening works. It is believed that by worshiping Laxmi and pleasing her in return she gives us wealth. People worship wealth and food store this day.

Fourth day – Goru Tihar (Govardhan parbat ko puja) and Mah (aatma or self) Puja: On Govardhan puja Goru Tihar, three different Kinds of puja are performed. We perform Goru Puja, or worship Oxen. We also perform Govardhan Puja, which is done by making a hill of govardhan parbat using Cow dung. Cow dung has big importance in Hindu culture. In the old days it was used for everything from light at night (Methane) to polish mud floors of traditional houses. Still now no Puja is complete without cow dung in Nepali Hindu culture.

Mha Puja Nepal Sambat 1137

Mha Puja Nepal Sambat 1137

In this night Newar community perform Maha Puja also known as self-puja. It is done to purify our body. In this puja a Mandap decorated with Saipatri (marigold flower), sweets and fruits and a special Mala (garland) which is made of thread is kept. Each member of the family has one Mandap. A female member of the family offers the person sitting on the Mandap a Sagun with her hands crossed. Shagun usually consist of fried eggs, fruits, sweets, meat, fish, lentil and pastries. In the left hand with egg and fish and in the right hand Rakshi (homemade alcohol). This day is also the beginning of Nepal Sambat, Newari New year.

In the evening many Nepali children and young men go house to house singing Deusi song (Aahai bhana mera bhai ho deusi re bhana na bhana deusere). Deusi is very similar to Bhailo. Bhailo is primarily for female and Deusi for male. However, now a days there is such distinction. People go in group with males and females members to celebrate Bhailo and deusi both.

Fifth Day: Bhai Tika or Bhai Duj:
The fifth and last day of Tihar is Bhai Tika. This day sisters put “Tika of five colours” Paanch Rangi Tika – Yellow, green, red, blue and white on forehead of her brothers, to ensure long life and pray to Yamraja for her brother’s long life and prosperity. Sister offers brothers Shaguns of dry fruits especially walnut, hazelnut (Katus), fruits and sweets and in return the brothers give their sisters gifts and money. The brothers also put Pancha Rangi Tika to sister and bow her on her feet and assure her to protect her till the end of life.

Bhai Tika Tihar

Bhai Tika

On this day, Rani Pokhari Temple (located at central Kathmandu) is opened for those who do not have any brother or sister. This is the only time in a year the temple is open to general public.

Source: weallnepali

Shree Ram Nawami (Festival of Nepal)

Happy Ram Navami

Happy Ram Navami

Festivals of Nepal: Ram Nawami
Ram Nawami is celebrated in the mid of Chaitra (March/April) as Lord Ram’s Birthday. It is celebrated with much pomp at Janaki temple in Janakpur city, which lies in southern Nepal. Lord Rama is regarded as another incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Nepalese, therefore, have deep belief and extreme faith in him. His strength, courage, purity of heart, compassion, sweetness of speech, serenity and abiding wisdom made him the favorite idol of his people. His life story is told in the much beloved epic- the “RAMAYANA”.

Janaki Mandir of Janakpur Dham

Janaki Mandir of Janakpur Dham

Before the birth of Sri Ram, the world was under the reign of an evil and fiendish demon king Ravana. Ravana had pleased Lord Brahma, who bestowed on Ravana the boon that no God or demon could kill him. This gave Ravana immunity from everyone except a mortal man. Thus, to save the world from evil, Lord Vishnu took birth as Ram in the city of Ayodhya. King Dasharath, who ruled over Ayodhya, had one misery – his three queens bore him no sons. Lord Vishnu gave them nectar to drink, and soon the eldest produced Ram, the next gave birth to Bharat and the third had twins, Lakshman and Shatrughana. All four of them became exemplary youths but it was Ram who grew in grace and virile beauty.

Source: SamratNepal

Finnish Rock Band, Sign Language Rapper Perform Near Everest

Finnish rock band Ancara and sign language rapper Sign mark performed in the foothills of Mount Everest over the weekend to raise funds for a music school for children with hearing disabilities.

Finnish Rock Band near everest

In this Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015 photo, Signmark, whose real name is Marko Vuo, in red jacket, who was born deaf, along with Olli Pekka, in blue jacket, performs with the Finnish rock band Ancara at Dingboche, a village at an altitude of 4,550 meters (14,900 feet) and a popular stop for trekkers and mountaineers heading to Everest and other peaks, Nepal. Ancara and the sign-language rapper performed in the foothills of Mount Everest over the weekend to raise funds for a music school for children with hearing disabilities. (AP Photo/Tashi Sherpa)

Dozens of music lovers cheered the musicians at Dingboche, a village at an altitude of 4,550 meters (14,900 feet) and a popular stop for trekkers and mountaineers heading to Everest and other peaks.

The performers flew to Lukla, the only airstrip in the Everest region, on Nov. 3 and trekked to the village, stopping along the way to acclimatize to the altitude.

They had hoped to perform at Everest base camp, where climbers prepare for summit attempts, but Nepalese authorities said concert permits could only be issued for areas with settlements.

Signmark, whose real name is Marko Vuo and who was born deaf, performs his raps in sign language, sometimes with others speaking the lyrics. He has performed in dozens of countries.

Funds raised by the performances will support a music school in the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu.

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Source: abcnews.go.com

Cycle tourism becomes popular in Mustang

MUSTANG: Cycling has become an attractive activity among tourists in Mustang district. It is not only the fuel shortage that has encouraged visitors to take to cycling; the lower part of the district, in particular, offers excellent terrain and stunning scenery for adventure seekers.

Bidur Bikram Kuikel, chief of the Annapurna Conservation Area Project, Jomsom, said the region was becoming an increasingly popular destination for sight-seeing and cycling. As cyclists can stop at any place to take panoramic photos of the Himalayan region, the activity has been drawing an increasing number of tourists in recent days he said.

Mustang-cycle-tour

Michel, a visitor from Poland, said he had been attracted by the snow capped mountains and hair pin bends on the trails in the region. It is fascinating to ride a bicycle in the pleasant environment, said Michel, who was one of the participants of an eight member European team which plans to bicycle all around lower Mustang.

The present time being the main tourist season, the favourable climatic condition has also added to the enjoyment of the bicycle riders.

A bicycle trip around lower Mustang takes three to five days. Many tourists bring their own bicycles while some hire them in Pokhara before visiting the Himalayan region.

Dhruba Bahadur Thapa, an entrepreneur from Pokhara, said he had been renting bicycles to tourists for the last eight years. According to him, he has rented dozens of bicycles this year too. He added that he recently accompanied a group of cyclists travelling on the Jomsom Kagbeni Muktinath Magi route.

Thapa said most visitors who like to travel by bicycle choose the Himalayan region. The scenery and the trails are the main attractions, he added.

Meanwhile, the flourishing bicycle renting business has led to the establishment of more than half a dozen mountain bike adventure services in Pokhara, the gateway to Mustang. According to the entrepreneurs, the Jomsom Muktinath Marpha cycling route in lower Mustang is the most popular route among cyclists.

Pradeep Thakali, an entrepreneur from Thini, said tourists enjoy the snow capped mountains, lakes, traditional villages and wildlife along the cycling routes.

If we can manage the cycling route properly, we can attract a greater number of tourists, he said.

The growing popularity of cycling among tourists has encouraged the authorities in Pokhara to plan to develop it as a bicycle friendly city.

Apart from Mustang, Pokhara rural areas are also highly popular destinations among bicycle riders.

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THE KATHMANDU POST

Is it time to go back to Nepal?

On 25 April and 12 May 2015, deadly earthquakes struck central Nepal, causing catastrophic damage to Kathmandu and the surrounding valleys. Harrowing pictures of magnificent temples turned to rubble and concrete hotels collapsed on their foundations were beamed around the world. Five months on from the disaster, Nepal has declared itself open for tourism, but is now the right time to come back to Nepal, and what exactly will you find when you get here?

ADB photo

Image by Asian Development Bank

Assessing the damage
Media images at the time of the earthquakes made it look as though Nepal was completely destroyed, with its astonishing cultural heritage in ruins. The truth makes for less sensational headlines: while 130 historic temples collapsed across the country, only 14 of Nepal’s 75 districts suffered damage, and many of Nepal’s most famous sights escaped completely unscathed.

Even at the height of the disaster, travellers were relaxing in the resort town of Pokhara, unaware of the destruction to towns just 50km away. In Kathmandu, the vast majority of hotels reopened within days of the earthquakes, with just a handful of historic heritage hotels remaining closed for repairs.

This is not the first time Nepal has faced an earthquake of this scale, and as in 1934, Nepalis have stepped in to save what can be saved, and are now rebuilding for the future. How quickly this can happen will depend to a large degree on how quickly tourists return to the country and invest in the local economy.

Here is an overview of how different parts of Nepal are recovering after the disaster.

Kathmandu suffered the full force of the earthquakes, and damage was extensive, but localised to specific parts of the city. Four of the iconic temples in the UNESCO-listed Durbar Square collapsed completely including the multi-tiered Maju Deval Temple, one of Kathmandu’s most famous landmarks but the majority of temples still stand and the square is once again open to sightseers.

The royal palace of Hanuman Dhoka remains closed due to structural damage to the southern courtyards, but work is underway to reopen the museum and palace chambers. Perhaps the most photographed casualty of the earthquake was the Bhimsen Tower, which collapsed completely for the second time in its history (it was also destroyed in the 1934 earthquake). Today, it stands as a ruined plinth, but developers have pledged to rebuild it.

Other major World Heritage Sites such as the magnificent Buddhist stupas at Swayambhunath and Bodhnath were only mildly affected; restoration work has repaired the most obvious damage and the most tangible evidence for the disaster is some lingering scaffolding. The sacred Hindu pilgrimage site of Pashupatinath saw a terrible tide of funeral cremations following the earthquake but the site itself was mostly undamaged.

Patan krishna Mandir

Image by Rene C. Nielsen

Patan, Bhaktapur & the Kathmandu Valley

Despite the loss of some landmark monuments, including the famous Char Narayan and Hari Shankar temples, Patan’s Durbar Square and its stunning Patan Museum are open as normal. The quakes took a heavy toll on the traditional brick buildings of Bhaktapur, but here too, most of the medieval temples are still standing, including Nepal’s tallest, the five-storey Nyatapola Temple.

Elsewhere in the Kathmandu Valley, the damage was patchy. Some places escaped with minor cracks, while towns like Sankhu and Bungamati saw temple after temple crumble to rubble. While the valley is definitely open to travellers, it’s worth checking with locals before heading off from Kathmandu to be clear on which areas are still off-limits due to reconstruction following the disaster.

pokhra-nepal

Image by Mike Behnken

Across the country

Looking beyond the Kathmandu Valley, the historic towns of Nuwakot and Gorkha and their fortress-palaces were particularly badly affected due to their proximity to the epicenters of the two tremors, and the quakes caused extensive damage to the road to the Tibetan border and the Langtang Valley. However, away from the center of the country, there are few signs that the earthquake ever happened.

The east and west of the country were not seriously affected by the disaster, and most damage is restricted to trekking routes in remote areas. The tourist and trekking hub of Pokhara was effectively untouched and the trekking routes around it have been surveyed and declared safe. Despite damage to some villages along the trails, trekking in the Everest region has also been declared safe.

In the lowlands, the towns and national parks of the Terai were almost entirely unaffected. Wildlife safaris in Chitwan National Park and Bardia National Park continue as normal and the number of tigers in Nepal is actually on the rise, bucking the regional trend. The birthplace of the Buddha at Lumbini – an increasingly popular stop on the overland route between India and Nepal – also escaped unharmed.

lukla-airport

Image by Chris Marquardt

Travelling to Nepal after the earthquake

The key thing to note is that infrastructure for tourists was remarkably unaffected by the disaster. Airports are operating as normal and almost all of Kathmandu’s tourist hotels and restaurants remain open, or will reopen for the winter tourist season, though business is currently slim. Kathmandu’s traveller district of Thamel is much as it was before the disaster, and transportation around the city, the Kathmandu Valley and the country continues as normal.

The main roads across Nepal are open to traffic (or as open as they ever were!), and the Arniko Hwy/Friendship Hwy to Tibet and Everest’s North Base Camp (in Tibet) is due to reopen for the 2015 winter season. However, roads are still cut off in some rural areas, where earthquake damage has been worsened by monsoon landslides. This situation is likely to persist for some time, so it pays to confirm that roads are clear and that accommodation will be available before leaving Kathmandu.

local

Image by Wonderlane

So should I go ?
In August, the US and UK lifted their country-wide travel advisories against travel to Nepal, meaning that travellers and companies can once again get travel insurance for upcoming trips. Most western travel companies plan to run trekking trips as normal for the 2015/16 winter and spring seasons and some companies are even offering special reconstruction treks, though it’s now more important than ever to do some research and partner with a reliable NGO that has long-established links with the country.

Of course, Nepal still has its problems – including a fuel shortage caused by a political stand-off with India over the new Nepali constitution – but these kinds of issues are part of the landscape when travelling in the subcontinent. Despite these problems, in many ways now is a great time to visit Nepal.

The infrastructure that travellers need is in place, but tourism is down by over 50%, which means fewer crowds on the popular trekking routes and discounts for hotels and airfares. More importantly, the money you spend when hiring a guide or porter, staying in a lodge or hotel, or eating in a restaurant will directly help local people. Given that 500,000 Nepalis work directly in tourism, the country needs travellers more than ever to rebuild its economy and bounce back stronger for the future.

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Source: www.lonelyplanet.com

Asia’s Top 10 Destinations for Vegetarian Travelers

Living as a vegetarian is often a challenging life in many parts of the world. The problems may get worse if you love traveling. Luckily, there are many places which are veg-friendly. Some countries listed below have vegetarian tradition deeply rooted into their culture for ages while some of them have recently developed as veg-friendly destinations.

  1. India

India has more vegetarians than anywhere in the world. Traditional beliefs in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism inspires people to be vegetarian. The Indian menu is often filled-up with majority of veg dishes. Ingredients like heat, rice, roots and pulses are major ingredients of Indian food. You will find variety of dishes as you move to different parts of India. Dishes like Idli, Dosha, Uthappam with rice as major ingredient is found in Southern India. Northern India offer dishes like Roti, Naan, Samosa with wheat as major ingredient. Happycow has listed 440 veg-friendly restaurants but you will find thousands more when you visit the country.

Idli and Samber found in Southern Part of India.

Idli and Samber found in Southern Part of India.

  1. Thailand

With attractions like diving sites, sandy beaches, tropical islands, Buddhist Temples and archaelogical sites, Thailand is one of the major tourist destinations in Asia. Thanks to its large Buddhist population, you will be able to find plenty of vegetarian restaurants in Thailand. Chiang Mai alone has over 80 veg restaurants. Happycow list 612 veg-friendly restaurants in Thailand. Dont miss out tom yum soup, pad thai, salads and coconut-milk based curries.

Tom Yum soup in Thailand

Tom Yum soup in Thailand

  1. Israel

With numerous tourist attractions including Dead sea, Negev desert and plenty of religious and cultural places, Israel has been a major tourist attraction. There has been a vegan revolution all over Israel in past few years. 8% people in Israel follow vegetariasm and you will be able to find veg dishes almost everywhere. Vegan restaurants are being established everywhere. Happycow lists 279 veg-friendly restaurants in Israel. Dont miss out Hummus, Sambusak and Pita bread if you ever visit the country.

  1. Nepal

With 8 of worlds highest ten mountains, Nepal is a paradise for trekkers and people who love extreme sports. As the majority of the people in Nepal are Hindu or Buddhists, vegetarianism is widely adopted all over Nepal. You will often find at least one vegetarian dish in Nepalese menu. Indian veg-dishes are also available all over Nepal. Happycow lists 56 veg-friendly restaurants in Nepal but you will find thousand more if you visit the country. Dont miss Nepali Veg thali (Dal, Bhat and Tarkari), Veg Momos (Dumplings) and Ju Ju Dhau (Yoghurt made in Bhaktapur) in Nepal.

Assamese_thali

Typical Nepali Thali (Dal, Bhat and Tarkari)

  1. Taiwan

With 13% people following vegetarian diet, Taiwan is often considered a heaven for vegan travels. There are more than 6,000 places serving vegetarian dishes in Taiwan. Taiwan has the best vegetarian labelling laws in the world. Dont miss shuǐ jio (Dumplings), glǐ (Japanese style curry) and tiey ban fàn (Steel-Cooked rice) if you are vegan visiting Taiwan. Happycow has a list of 436 veg-friendly restaurants in Taiwan.

Shuǐ Jiǎo (Dumplings) popular in Taiwan

Shuǐ Jiǎo (Dumplings) popular in Taiwan

  1. Vietnam

Vietnam has risen as one of the most affordable travel destination for people who love landscapes, beaches and rich culture. Buddhism is practiced by majority of the population due to which you can find vegeterian food almost everywhere. Its better to say I only eat Buddhist foods as a way to explain being vegan as word vegan or vegetarian can often confuse people. The country has dedicated Buddhist restaurants in major cities. Dont miss out pho and spring rolls. Happycow has a list of 405 veg-friendly restaurants in Vietnam.

  1. Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka can be great travel destination if you love beaches, mountains, wildlife and Buddhist Tradition. Vegetable curries are sold everywhere in Sri Lanka as most people are Buddhists who dont eat meat. Sri Lanka ranks as one of the least meat consuming countries in the world. You would find plenty of dishes with rice and coconut being the key ingredients. Dont miss out wonderful Lankan dishes like Kottu, Happer and Kevum. Happycow lists 39 veg-friendly restaurants in Sri Lanka but you will find plenty more there.

Hoppers(appa) made from coconut milk and rice

Hoppers(appa) made from coconut milk and rice

  1. South Korea

South Korea is often considered as a paradise for meat lovers. But you will find plenty of options for vegetarians as well. The best option is to go for a vegetarian restaurant like Loving Hut which has vegan chains all over the country. Vegeterian dishes are also common in South Korean menu but its best to double check if there’s meat in any of the specified menu. Happy has listed 102 veg-friendly restaurants in South Korea. Don’t miss out wonderful South Korean dishes like Kimchi – fermented Korean side dish made of vegetables, Bibimbap (mixed rice) and Somandu (dumplings) made solely from vegetables.

  1. Singapore:

Singapore has been considered as one of the best city attractions in Asia by many travelers. It is often associated with the words safe, clean, green and efficient. Traveling in Singapore as a vegetarian is not a problem. Almost every food court or stall will have an Indian stall with more than one vegetarian option. Apart from Indian, you can also find Japanese, Malay and Mediterranean vegetarian dishes. Happy Cow has listed 362 vegetarian-friendly restaurants in the country.

Indian Rojtak, a popular dish

Indian Rojtak, a popular dish

  1. Jordan

Situated in Middle east, Jordan is often considered as a safe heaven in the middle of conflict. Meals in Jordan start with Mezze — an array of appetizers followed by a main course. As most of the main course are meat-based, mezze dishes like Taboon(bread), Tabbouleh (salads), hummus (Dips), falafel and gourmet can make an excellent meal for vegetarians.

Tabbouleh (salads)

Tabbouleh (salads)

Source: Travel Helpr