Posts Tagged ‘Curiosities’

  • Prearranged marriages

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    Our visit to Varanasi coincide with an auspicious time for marriages. We saw many Indian couples offering “puja” to the Ganges river and many other wedding ceremonies all around. While relatives sang and danced very happily, couples seemed to be in most of the cases sad and not having a very good time. We wondered why…

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    Marriage is a very serious matter in the Indian society. Love marriages are not very usual, and are normally prearranged by the families, who decide the perfect bridal couple for their son or daughter. Everything has to correspond, from the religion to the caste, the economic status, the language, the alimentary habits and the horoscope. If these premises don’t fit the marriage won’t take place otherwise the couple risks to be excluded of the family and society. Therefore the marriages are not based on love and become a mere trade transaction between families. It is not surprising then finding thousands of advertisements on the Indian newspapers, specifically organised by religion, caste and sub-caste and profession, looking for the perfect wife or husband.

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  • The living Goddess

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    Another thing which may surprise backpackers while travelling in Nepal is to find out about the existence of a living Goddess, the Kumari Devi, a little girl living in the Kumari Bahal in Kathmandu’s Durbar Square.
    One legend explains how a paedophile king of the Malla’s dynasty maintained sexual relationships with a girl. As a result she died and the king inaugurated as a penitence the practice to venerate a little girl as a living Goddess. This girl is chosen from a Newar silver or goldsmiths caste and has to fulfil several requirements such as age, eyes colour, voice sound, horoscope… Her reign finishes with her first period and the process to find the new Kumari starts again.

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    Note that it is not allowed to take pictures of the Kumari without a special permit, so we borrowed this pic from the net.

  • Incarnations, Manifestations, Forms and Vehicles

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    While travelling in Nepal, backpackers will realise how complex Hinduist and Buddhist religions are. Nepal has a complete mastery of gods, goddesses, bodhisattvas, buddhas, deities’ incarnations and manifestations, all them worshiped through statues, images, paintings and symbols. There is a slightly difference between incarnations, manifestations and forms. Vishnu has 10 incarnations in total, Narsingha (the lion man), Krishna (the cowman) and Buddha among others. Shiva is the God with a thousand names, although they are mere manifestations (the way he shows himself) and not incarnations. Each God also has a related animal or vehicle (vahana), in which he rides, as well as a consort with different skills and features. You can recognise the God by identifying his vehicle or the symbols he holds in his hands, but it will take you a while to understand this dense mythology.

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  • God of the tooth pain

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    In one of the streets of Kathmandu’s old town, north from Durbar Square, there is a piece of wood with thousands of coins nailed to it, which are offerings to the God of the tooth pain. This is the most bizarre God that we have found so far and we suggest all the backpackers to go and find it, it’s worthy! The name of the square is Bangemudha, which means “kinky wood”.

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  • Trash piles in the streets

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    After many days of festival, Kathmandu streets become filthy and full of rubbish. The waste rots after long hours under the sun and is very smelly. There are no bins or garbage containers in Nepal and the waste collection system is almost non existent. The number of cows eating the rubbish is also not enough to get rid it. It was after 1 week when we started to see people cleaning some of the streets. As we discussed with some other backpackers, it is weird to see how Nepali people are used to live among the garbage and filth without even caring the smell and sanitary conditions, something that may discomfort some travellers.

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  • Nepal’s New Year

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    Our arrival in Kathmandu coincided with one of the biggest festivals around the country: Deepawali. We were surprised about the amount of people gathering all around the city, the firecrackers noise and the light decorations in the streets. It was the second day of the Tihar, which happens always on the new moon of October-November and which means the end of the year for the Newar community in Kathmandu’s Valley. So, without having planned it, we found ourselves involved on the celebration of the beginning of year 1128. Nepal festivities and festivals are marked by the moon calendar and happen during new or full moon periods. The official new year in the country starts on the 14th of April and its calendar is 57 years ahead ours, so while we live in 2008, they do it in 2065. At the end of the day, we just didn’t know in which year we were living and decided not to worry about the number, we are just travelling around Asia and time is not something to worry about!!

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  • Meeting the Maoists in the mountains

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    One of the biggest fears (read also expectations) that backpackers have while trekking in Nepal is to bump into the Maoists. In the past there have been several reports about violence and assaults against tourists but nowadays they just ask politely for money. We had the pleasure of meeting them just before reaching Tal, on the Annapurna’s range. After an exhausting climb of a very steep slope, we saw a table and four people seating on chairs just beside the trail waiting for the tourists to pass along. The communist red flag was standing behind them. They were asking for donations for the Maoist’s cause and seemed to speak seriously about getting them. It is funny that they called it “voluntary donations”, as the rate was fixed per person and day of the trekking. Tourists had to pay them a total of 2,000 rupees if they were doing the Round the Annapurna’s Circuit. After a good half an hour bargaining, we could finally reduce our “donation” to 500 rupees for both of us. They even gave us a receipt and then let us continue. Later we found out that some people had paid the whole amount because they were scared and some others didn’t pay at all with no consequences.

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