Happy 2076!! If many of you are confused that is completely understandable! This past Sunday was Nepali New Year. It’s the most celebrated holiday on the Nepali calendar and one that is full of fascinating cultural and historical implications. The calendar was purportedly started by the ancient Hindu king Vikram Samvat in 57 BCE and is still used to this day primarily in the Indian subcontinent and Nepal. Similar to the Gregorian calendar, the Nepali calendar is 365 days long, however, it uses solar sidereal years instead of the mean tropical year. This translates into the Nepali year being about 20 minutes longer than the tropical year! So cool!
One specific aspect of the New Year’s celebration in Kathmandu is the Seto (White) Machindranath. This 35 ton, five-story-high chariot starts its journey on or around April 14th and is pulled throughout the city as a devotion to the rain god. After approximately one month, the Rato (Red) Machindranath begins its own journey in Patan.
On Sunday, we visited the Pashupati World Heritage Site. It comprises the Pashupatinath Temple located on the banks of the sacred Bagmati River. At the temple we witnessed bereaved families and the public cremation of many individuals. Walking around the temple complex, a very public setting, as bystanders to so much grief and death shocked me deeply. It was useful to debrief with the rest of the group afterwards in order to process emotions and questions that arose.
As our Patan time comes to an end, I feel both sad about leaving and excited for what’s to come. X-Phase is just around the corner! I learned about Ayurveda in my ISP and it was quite revealing to see medicine and self-care through a new lens. Ayurveda (the “Science of Life” in Sanskrit) focuses on treating sickness with a holistic and preventative approach. It looks at the entire body as one physically, mentally, and spiritually connected system and attempts to treat the root cause of the illness. This as opposed, in my understanding, to a more traditional Western medical approach focused on specific problematic symptoms and treating them individually. Ayurveda also uses doshas and their corresponding diet recommendations in order to treat the sickness, restoring balance to the individual’s body.
When I arrived about a month ago it seemed like I would have all the time in the world to explore and discover all the hidden intricacies of Patan. I stayed busy whether it was going to ISP, buying food for breakfast crew, returning to my homestay, or meeting at the Program House. However, despite my best efforts, in the end I too fell victim to the saying, “Time flies when you’re having fun.”