I was not particularly looking forward to this Christmas. A long way from home, friends and family. None of the familiar comforts and traditions. Where I ended up I could not have predicted. Christmas day dawned with the now usual magnificent Himalayan sunrise – not that I get to see too many, usually it is still far too cold to crawl out of my sleeping bag and I wait until the sun hits our side of the mountain, my breathe disappears and the night frost thaws.
The previous night Manoj had informed me there was a large gathering on the cold side of the mountain (like this side is not cold!). There was to be a death ceremony, which was the start of a thirteen day celebration with villagers coming from all over the surrounding area to pay their respects. It was obligatory that we attend. After about an hours walk, we arrived and I was surprised to see the huge number of people, two hundred plus had made the trip specially from Pokhara and even further afield
I found Ratna and Bhabana amongst the women, they took me round and ensured I missed none of the ceremony. No sooner than I had arrived than we were off following a singing group of feathered men back down the mountain and through the forest. A long procession of people eventually arrived at a clearing on the edge of the forest overlooking the valley and things hotted up. I can’t say I have a full understanding of all that
happened, but it involved a lot of dancing, whooping, cymbals clashing and noise, a charge by the feathered men, then a group of women wrapped another masked man in goat’s intestines. Ratna explained he was an evil spirit who needed to be subdued. More chanting, the women circling a mat with a decorated pillow – I am guessing the deceased’s spirit was hanging about somewhere – the devil wrapped in goats intestines joined in. Then a lot of food burning before a procession back to the house where the main activities were more food, dancing and general celebration.
As the only westerner attending, they were keen to see me dance. I did my best to impress but wiggled out quickly. For the record Nepalese dancing is not a group affair, it mostly involves two or three in a group and often just one person dancing whilst everyone else watches and claps along. So nowhere to hide for the shy!
All in all a happy gathering and a very different Christmas on my part, not a bauble or mince pie in sight J