09 Apr - 19 Apr 2015 Bhaktapur

Bisket Jatra in Bhaktapur
Matt: Plunging head-first into traditional Newari culture, watching many boisterous chariot movements and ecstatic processions, and celebrating the upcoming Nepali New Year 2072 in good company with plenty of spicy Newari food, smooth chhaang and strong raksi.

“Tradition becomes our security, and when the mind is secure it is in decay.”
(Jiddu Krishnamurti)

Matt: Making myself at home in my friend Ravi's cosy homestay +9779841791469, socialising with his welcoming parents and siblings Rajan, Raziv and Neeru, enjoying tremendously their genuine Newari hospitality and learning about the distinctive culture, language and traditions (…many thanks for the excellent, lovingly distilled moonshine aka aylā aka raksi), meeting up with many old friends in Bhaktapur and getting used again to the familiar taste of Nepali beer: (i) 650-ml bottles of Everest Premium Lager Beer (c. 5 % alc./vol.) for NPR 170.- or US$ 1.70 per cold bottle from K.G. Supermarket and (ii) 650-ml bottles of Nepal Ice Strong Beer (c. 7 % alc./vol.) for NPR 175.- or US$ 1.75 per cold bottle from a friendly small corner shop nearby.

“The older I grow, the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom.” 
(H.L. Mencken)

Matt: Celebrating the start of the Nepali New Year 2072 with the Bisket Jatra Festival, held annually on the advent of spring in the Nepali month of Baisakh: (i) excited crowds drag mighty, tottering chariots through the winding backstreets of  Bhaktapur, pausing for a quick tug-of-war and a brawl with the riot police, (ii) a huge 25m-high wooden pole aka lingam is erected in a stone base shaped like a yoni (Siggy Freud says Hello) and, as night falls the following day, the pole is pulled down in another violent tug-of-war, and (iii) a substantial number of innocent animals (e.g. buffalos, ewes, chicken) are brutally sacrificed in the town's many Bhairav and Bhadrakali shrines and eaten afterwards by the agitated Hindu devotees.

“Immorality sanctified by tradition is still immorality.”
(Bernard E. Rollin)

Matt: Meeting traditional mask makers in Thimi (minibus from Bhaktapur: c. 5 km, ¼ hour, NPR 20.- per person) who provide Bhaktapur's Dashain dancers and tourists with the spirits of the Navadurga, which literally means Nine Forms of Goddess Durga, and constitute, according to Hindu mythology, the manifestation of Parvati in nine different forms: Śailaputrī, Brahmachāriṇī, Chandraghaṇṭā, Kuṣhmāṇḍā, Skandamātā, Kārtyāyanī, Kālarātrī, Mahāgaurī and Siddhidātrī.

"The human face is, after all, nothing more or less than a mask." 
(Agatha Christie)


Matt: Going on errands during a day trip to Kathmandu, thus taking a local bus from Bhaktapur's distinctive but unmarked bus stop for Bag-Bazaar-bound public buses to Kathmandu's hidden Bhaktapur Bus Park (c. 25 km, ¾ hours, NPR 25.- or US$ 0.25 per person), and (i) buying a 15-day visa extension for NPR 2,984.70 or US$ 30.- from the relaxed Department of Immigration (requirements: on-line application form, one passport photo, NPR 2,984.70 in cash; visa extension being issued hasslefree and within one hour), (ii) registering my planned independent trek to the Annapurna Sanctuary at Kathmandu's well-oiled Tourist Service Centre by obtaining a compulsory Green Trekking Information Management System (T.I.M.S.) Card for the stiff rip-off of NPR 2,000.- or US$ 20.- (requirements: application form, copy of passport, two photos), and (iii) paying the compulsory national-park fee of NPR 2,000.- or US$ 20.- for the Annapurna Conservation Area, also at Kathmandu's money-gobbling Tourist Service Centre.
"I hated the maze of bureaucracy with a passion, but I've found the best way to deal with it is to smile and act stupid. That way, no one gets confused.”
(Kim Harrison)

Matt: Hugging my Newari friends, taking a local bus from Bhaktapur's unmarked bus stop for Gongabu-bound public buses to Kathmandu's large and hectic Gongabu bus terminal (c. 30 km, 1 ¼ hours, NPR 35.- or US$ 0.35 per person), thereafter a local bus with Prithwi Rajmarga Bus Sanchalak Samiti from Kathmandu's Gongabu bus terminal straight to Pokhara's dirty (old) city bus park near Prithivi Chowk (c. 210 km, 7 ¼ hours, NPR 410.- or US$ 4.10 per person) and meeting up here with the courtesy driver from my next guest house, the charming and recommendable New Summit Guest House +97761461421, located in one of the quieter parts of Pokhara's Lakeside district, the springboard to the Annapurna region and one of the worst tourist ghettoes I have ever been to: bland Western food, overpriced curio shops, spoiled locals...
Wer viel reist und sich laengere Zeit in unterschiedlichen Laendern und Kulturen aufhaelt, kann das Neujahrsfest gleich mehrere Male im Jahr feiern! Wieso? Ganz einfach: Die Menschen benutzen verschiedene Kalender, so dass das jeweilige neue Jahr in der Welt an ganz verschiedenen Tagen beginnt und entsprechend gefeiert wird.
Das Chinesische Neujahrsfest (Beginn des Jahres des Feuer-Affen am 08 Feb 2016 CE) und das Juedische Neujahrsfest (naechstes Rosch ha-Schana am 15 Sep 2015 CE) sind nur zwei Beispiele von vielen anderen, die es neben dem weltweit verbreiteten Gregorianischen Solarkalender (naechstes Neujahr am 01 Jan 2016 CE) ausserdem noch gibt.
Meine Newari-Freunde in Nepal hatten mich zum Neujahrsfest fuer das Nepalesische Jahr 2072 (Bisket Jatra am ersten Tag des Baisakh-Monats, am 12 Apr 2015 CE) nach Bhaktapur eingeladen. Dort haben wir dann zehn Tage lang sehr ausgiebig und bis in die Nacht hinein gefeiert, getrunken und gegessen. Grosse hoelzerne Wagen wurden mit langen Tauen durch die mittelalterlichen Gassen gezogen, ein 25 m hoher Holzmast zum Hochklettern wurde errichtet, lebhafte Umzuege und Prozessionen mit Musik versperrten die Strassen, die Leute bewarfen sich mit rotem Farbpulver und die Familien, in traditioneller Kleidung, trafen sich zu einem Festessen in ihren haeufig doch recht baufaelligen Haeusern. Leider wurden in sinnloser Weise in den Tempeln auch viele Tiere rituell getoetet und danach aufgefressen. - Wann und wie feiert Ihr Euer naechstes Neujahrsfest? From Nepal, with Love!

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