Category Archive: Cultural Heritage

Nepal’s Tihar in a Nutshell

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.

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Kaag Puja

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.

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Kukur Puja

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.

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Laxmi Puja

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.

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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.

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Goru Puja

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.

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Bhai Tika

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.

Dashain Aayo!

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Pote Market
Photo: Nancy Swyers

It’s holiday time again in Nepal! Navaratri has begun and people are on the move to rejoin their families and friends for the largest Hindu festival of the year. Bus tickets have sold out and local bazaars are jammed with enthusiastic holiday shoppers looking for traditional gifts of clothing and accessories for their loved ones.

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Dashain Goats
Photo: Anish Regmi

Thousands of buffalo, goats, chickens, and pigs will be sacrificed during Dashain. Curiously, goat meat is called “mutton” by Nepalis, while mutton to Westerners means meat only from a sheep.

Dashain symbolizes the triumph of Good over Evil and celebrates the victory of Goddess Durga over the demon Mahishasur on Mahanavami (the 9th day). This year Vijaya Dashami, the 10th day of the festival, will be celebrated on October 8. The auspicious time for receiving tika from elders has been determined to be 10:35 am.

We wish everyone a most joyous Dashain with all blessings, prosperity, and happiness!

Multicultural Festival 2019

Bring the family for an incredible day of fun, food, and entertainment as the University of Mary Washington presents its 2019 Multicultural Festival, rain or shine. Shop with hundreds of vendors from around the world, watch diverse music performances, eat delicious specialties, and participate in free workshops for all ages. Kids have a dedicated activity center, too! Utpalasia will be presenting a program of original fusion, classical Indian, and folk dance at 2:15 in Monroe Hall. We hope you’ll join us! The event runs from 10am to 5pm. Parking is free.

Spring Performances

Spring is a wonderful time to get motivated, energized, and ready to hit the outdoors and the warmer weather. Bring the family and enjoy performances and workshops in Kathak, Bollywood, and Himalayan folk dance at one of our many events. Next up – UMW’s Multicultural Festival on April 13. Mark your calendars now!

Holi Hai! Celebrate with Us!

Come and enjoy cultural performances, great food, stalls, and the beloved colored powder festival that follows Durga Temple’s Holi celebration on Saturday March 30 from 2-6 pm. See you there!

2019 Move Me Festival Is On!

Join us this coming Saturday, March 16, at Kenmore Middle School in Arlington, VA for the 10th Annual Move Me Festival. The event is FREE and runs from 1 – 4 pm. See dancers from Utpalasia and India School perform Bollywood hits and classical Kathak dance. Bring the family and participate in our afternoon workshop to learn folk steps and Bollywood. Enjoy the Bowen McCauley Dance Company and a host of other local dance groups and artists. Get up, get out, get moving! Hope to see you there!

Himalayan Chintang Language Research Project

Researcher Rolf Hotz from Switzerland has been in Nepal since the beginning of 2019 working on his Masters in linguistics. His current topic involves the Chintang language, something the University of Zurich has been studying for quite some time. Their research has been so in-depth that they have even published a dictionary. Chintang is a small, endangered Tibeto-Burman language spoken in the hills of Eastern Nepal (Dhanakuṭā Jillā, Chintāṅā VDC).  The language was only recognized as being distinct from its neighbors in the early 2000’s. People live in villages near the Sunkoshi, Arun and Tamur rivers at an altitude of 900 to 1300 meters and dialects can often vary according to what ‘level’ of the steep trail your hamlet might be located on.

The Chintang Rai follow their Kiranti traditions, which are different from local Hinduism in a number of ways; they do ancestral worship, have other gods, and perform variations of puja. For example, the shaman recites the mundhum (a spiritual, rhythmic and shamanic form of scripture) followed by a veneration of 3 heart stones. Chintang celebrate Nuwagi, the first fruits offering of newly harvested rice, at the time of Dasain. There is also worship of Rajdeu, a Kiranti king (‘master or lord of the land’) and Pomnari, his minister.

Rolf’s focus is one specific aspect of Chintang Rai language: benefactive constructions, or what is usually translated as -ko laagi (‘for someone’) in Nepali. His presence in the villages of the region has caused quite a stir as people are elated to see the interest in their language and culture; he is now revered as a ‘master teacher’ and has made his debut in the local paper. We’ll be following our colleague with great interest and be updating his progress from time to time. Research projects such as this hit home the importance of preserving indigenous languages and it is thanks to individuals like Rolf Hotz that we will have not only data, but an understanding of the significance of Chintang language + Rai culture in a rapidly changing Nepal. To read more, go to https://sangalokhabar.com/57019