Swagatam — Welcome to Utpalasia! We are a family of multi-disciplinary artists – dancers, choreographers, musicians, designers, and cultural gurus who perform with resident demons and dance with gods, all to foster appreciation, understanding, and preservation of Southeast Asian and Himalayan traditional heritage.
For almost 2,000 years, the Daphne Cannabina, also known as “lokta”, has been prized as the source for handmade paper in Nepal. It grows at an elevation of 2000 to 3500 meters in the understory of forests. The bush, which is an evergreen shrub and a subspecies of laurel, grows wildly and in abundance. Amazingly, once harvested, it can regenerate to a fully grown 4-5 meter plant within only 5-7 years!
The paper which is made of the fibrous inner bark of the bush is durable and resistant to tearing, humidity, insects and mildew, and it is these qualities which have made it the preferred choice for official records and religious texts.
The process of making paper is a traditional one: cook the bark twice, consecutively wash it, chop and beat it with wooden mallets, pour the soft pulp over a wooden frame, spread, and then sun dry. The consistency of the paper is rough, but attractive, and it can be made in thin to thick grades, left in its original buff color or dyed with natural colors.
Today eco-friendly lokta is gaining popularity and is being used as chocolate packaging, wrappers to keep incense, spices and medicines fresh, for origami, and (best of all!) as dress material!
With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, why not check out our limited edition selection of lokta handmade cards in our Etsy shop https://etsy.me/2GeEx23 and pen your beloved a message of love that will withstand the test of time (and bugs!)
Tihar is a five day festival celebrated in Nepal. The first day is dedicated to the crow (or kaag) who is seen as the messenger of death.
The second day focuses on the dog (or kukur). Dogs are believed to lead the souls of the dead to the underworld. They are also honored as trusted and loyal companions of man.
The third day of Tihar combines the worship of goddess of wealth, Laxmi, with Gai (or cow) tihar. People clean their houses, place lamps, candles, and bright lights everywhere to ensure the goddess will find her way into their home.
Cows are sacred animals and symbolize the role of a mother. They are honored in a similar way to Kukur tihar, by being garlanded, worshipped, and fed special food.
The fourth day of Tihar is Mha puja, or the worship of self. This is particularly important to the Newari community who also celebrates this as the start of a New Year. Other people worship the ox (or goru) since he is vital for farmers and villagers everywhere.
The last day of Tihar is Bhai (brother) tika in which sisters honor and celebrate their brothers and pray for them to have long, healthy, and prosperous lives. While sisters place a particular tika on their brother’s forehead and offer gifts, fruits, and favorite sweets to them, the brothers also offer their sisters money and gifts, often clothing.
During Tihar young people go about their neighborhoods and sing Deusi or Bhailo songs. These are a beloved style of traditional folk tunes. In return, elders will shower children with fruits, sweets, and money.
Happy First Anniversary to Cerdafied Dance Studios in Alexandria, Virginia. We enjoyed that energetic vibe and watching students sample the many free demo classes. Tasherit worked on “Slowly, Slowly” with her group and their smiles said it all! If you’d like to experience Bollywood Fusion at its best, join her every Thursday evening from 6-8pm for fast-paced, challenging classes at Cerdafied. More info here: http://www.cerdafiedstudios.com/