Tag Archives: Nepali Festival

Kukur Puja 2011

Previous Kukur Pujas: photos from 2010, from 2009

Kukur Puja is one of my favorite Nepali festivals. It is part of the Tihar cluster of events including Kag Puja (crow puja, yesterday), Kukur Puja (dog puja, today), Laxmi Puja and Gai Puja (puja for prosperity and for cow, tomorrow), Thursday is a series of pujas I’m not as familiar with (Goru Puja, Gobhardan Puja, Maha Puja and Nepal Sambat as explained by NepaliAustralian), and lastly Bhai Tikka (brother puja, Friday). In our household we usually only celebrate Kukur and Laxmi puja and Bhai Tikka.

One reason I love Kukur Puja is because I am a big “dog person.” Luckily P is too, or we would probably have a big problem!

My dad had a black lab named Jack when he married my mom and we had him until I was in fourth grade. I always remember him as an older dog, reserved and calm, and he never minded when my sisters and I would bug him, or lay all over him. Even though he was around when I was a kid, he wasn’t really my dog, he was always my dad’s.

When I was seven years old I started begging my parents for a dog of my own. I whined and pleaded in a way only a seven year old could. I remember that Christmas there was an article in the local newspaper where “Santa” was responding to a young girl named “Joleen” who was asking for a pet for Christmas, giving her a checklist of things she had to agree to do before she would be ready to have a pet. My parents told me that Santa was actually writing to me, and had accidently misspelled my name, and I cut that article out of the paper and carried it around with me, showing it to all my relatives that Christmas and explaining—“I can do #1, and #2, and #3…I promise!”

A week or two after Christmas my dad found an advertisement in the newspaper for cocker spaniel puppies, and he took me to the kennel to check them out. There were little black and white puppies scurrying here and there. One of them tried to eat my shoelaces, and I fell in love. I brought him home and named him Blackie (he was all black with a white stripe down his neck).

Blackie was my constant companion until I left home. We used to go trudging through the backwoods together, covered in mud; sledding down the hill in our back yard together, little chunks of snow and ice matting in his curly hair; he even went on jogs with me as a high school cross country runner, although I’m sure mid-summer 6 mile runs were not his favorite. We dressed him up in baby clothes and diapers (my youngest sister was born the same year as Blackie), brought him along on long family trips in the car, and nursed him back to health when he was attacked by a two ferocious dogs that lived down the street.

Having a dog when you are really young probably helps someone to grow up with a soft spot for dogs, and to not be afraid of them. Various people I know tell me that they are scared of dogs, sometimes because they were once bitten or attacked by one. I was also attacked by a dog once—my friend who agreed to take me to the big “eighth grade dance” had two big dogs behind an invisible fence, and my school friend and I rode our bikes over to his house not knowing the dogs were out. As we started walking up the drive way the dogs charged at us, and my friend had the sense to step backwards behind the invisible fence but I didn’t, and instead put my arms up to protect my face. One of the dogs latched on to my left elbow and started biting, leaving a nasty bruise/puncture wound. I had to go to the hospital and get a tetanus shot, but luckily no stiches. And in true 8th grade fashion, I had a dress with no sleeves at the dance so I could show off my battle scars to everyone all night. But luckily I  had a lot of positive exposure to dogs as a baby and small kid, which preempted me from developing any major fears.

After Blackie had to be put to sleep while I was studying abroad in France my freshman year of college, I didn’t have a dog for many years—obviously you couldn’t have one in a dorm room, and when P and I graduated our first few apartment buildings wouldn’t allow pets either. Finally P wore out our second to last landlord, and we were given permission for a “small, quiet, well behaved dog.”

I did a petfinder.com search for cocker spaniels (since that is what I had as a kid, and felt confident I could properly take care of one, “I can do #1, and #2, and #3…I promise!”). I was particularly partial to black dogs, since I had two growing up. Sampson came up on the search results at a rescue in New Hampshire (although they said he is “part cocker spaniel, part retriever” people tell us he looks like all sorts of things, but the key word “cocker spaniel” brought him to us). He was cute, and black, with a white stripe on his neck–like Blackie!—and he was a rescued stray from the streets of Puerto Rico—an intercultural dog! Perfect!

So P and I put in the application, begged our landlord some more, and two and a half years ago Sampson joined our household. Now he is a spoiled little mutt, because P and I nearly treat him like he’s our real baby. He gets momo snacks from P when momos are on the menu, and egg yokes when I’m making waffles, and he already tried a piece of yak cheese when I returned from Nepal.

And every year on Kukur Puja he gets a special tikka, a flower garland made just for him, a new toy, a tasty packet of new treats, and special treatment all day.

So if you have a little pup in your life, feel free to give him some extra love today!

Sampson is the king of sad eyes, even with his happy, easy life in the AmericaNepali household!

Khasi Bazaar

In the US we have turkey for Thanksgiving, and some people have ham for Christmas, but in Nepal when it’s time for Dashain only one kind of meat will do—khasi ko masu—goat meat.

In preparation for the main day of Dashain, called Dashami—tikka day– P, his dad, his dad’s friend (“Uncle”), and I went to the Khasi Bazaar [Goat Market]. The market consisted of the sidewalk on both sides of the road filled with roped up tarp tents and lines of goats tied to strings and posts. A second part of the market was down a small alleyway where goat pens where stuffed with goats. Small weighing stations consisting of a metal cage for the goat, counter balanced by a platform and heavy metal weights were scattered throughout the market so customers could buy their animal by the kilo.

Before we got into a taxi to go to the market I asked P’s dad what kind of goat we were looking for. “About 30-35 kilos, long legs, not too fat, brown in color, because brown goats are nice to look at.” We found goats of all sizes and colors—black, white, spotted, brown. Daddy at first seemed displeased. He said that these goats were from the Terai [plains of Nepal bordering India], he could tell because of their long ears, and they seemed to be too fat. “Not good,” he said, “We don’t eat the fat.”

We circled around the market for a while, and finally settled on a goat that they had spotted earlier. It was a darker brown goat with even darker brown, almost black, streaks, and small horns. The goat was untied from its post and Uncle picked it up to test its weight. Then the goat was ushered into one of the metal cages for an official weigh in. P’s dad haggled the price, and the goat was ours.

I took its rope and gently led it out of the market saying, “Aao khasi, aao.”[come goat, come]. I wanted the goat treated nicely since it only had a few more hours left of its life. We found a taxi and opened the back hatch and loaded the goat in the back so that it was standing behind the back seat and on top of the spare tire. There was just enough space in the back section of the taxi for the goat, almost like the space was designed for goat travel. P’s dad, myself and P sat in front of the goat on our way home. I pet its head to make it feel more relaxed.

When we got home the goat was unloaded and brought to the back of the house to eat some grass. P and I pulled up clumps from the ground and put our hands up to the goat’s mouth and he happily chewed. After a few minutes P’s dad lead the goat inside the house and two people—P’s dad pulling the string from the front and “Uncle” swatting at the goat from the back—led the goat upstairs to the roof.

The goat was tied in the corner and Mamu give it leaves from the cauliflower she was cleaning for Dashain meals, and we gave it a large pan of water. It bleated a few times then settled down in the shade.

Khasi is thakai.” J Phupu said [goat is tired].

When I pass the goat on the way up to the second roof top (above the kitchen) where P is flying some changa [kites] I feed the goat some more cauli leaves.

Tomorrow the goat will be cut up for Dashami meat, some going to Uncle, some going to P’s relatives, and the rest eaten for the holidays. Daddy said in the morning he would take the goat to the butcher to be killed, cleaned and to have the larger sections of the goat separated (head, thighs, mid-section, etc), but that he was going to Uncle’s house to get a khukuri knife so that they could cut up the larger sections from the butcher into smaller sections.

“You will see, tomorrow.” He said.

Planting the Jamara (in pictures)

So, little did I know that traditionally men are in charge of the jamara planting ritual, but I took charge of our planting tonight, since I seemed to be most excited. Hopefully I didn’t commit some terrible taboo. First I took a shower to “purify” myself and then started the planting.

So what did I do?

Step one: Soaked the jamara seeds. You are supposed to soak them overnight, but I only soaked then for about 20 mins. My housemates said that was okay, hopefully it won’t disturb my jamara growing process…

Step two: Gathered materials… jamara seeds, container for the plants, and sand.

Step three: Filled the bottom of the container with sand

Step four: sprinkled jamara seeds in a single layer on top

Step five: covered with a thin layer of sand

Step six: Watered generously

Step seven: covered and stored in a dark place (the seeds grow better when moist and dark)

Step eight: water when necessary. Jamara should be moist but not swamped.

The plants are supposed to look yellowish green not green-green… so hopefully I start to see shoots soon.

I hope my little seeds grow. I’ll let you know what they look like in ten days!

Dates and Times

Today is P’s birthday. HAPPY BIRTHDAY P!

Well… at least in America. His parents called a few weeks back to let him know it was his birthday in Nepal, but P always forgets that date. It amuses me when those calls come, they always seems so random, “hello son, happy birthday. It’s your birthday today, don’t you remember?”

P has two birthdays because the Nepali calendar is different than the American one. Actually technically I believe there are two calendars in Nepal… the “official” calendar based on the Bikram Samwat and also the calendar often used by Newars (for festivals, etc) called the Nepal Sambat. Both calendars are based on a lunar calendar and so the months and festivals shift from year to year (one reason P never remembers his Nepali birthday and why we generally have to look online to see when specific festivals are celebrated).

Today is also Maghe Sankranti, a festival that marks (supposedly) the coldest day of the year, and the emergence of the calendar into the progressively warmer months of the year (Spring! Summer!). It also marks the end of the Nepali month of “Poush” an “ill-omened month” when “all religious ceremonies are forbidden” (funny… Christmas falls right in the middle of this!) and the beginning of the Nepali month “Magh.” For the first time since moving to New England Maghe Sankranti is on a Friday night, so we plan to celebrate (S-di and M-dai are having a dinner at their place). I’ll have to let you know how it goes, since I’ve never done this one before.

So back to the birthday stuff…

P’s birthday is today, but we celebrated it last night. We generally celebrate P and AS’s birthdays together since they are relatively close. N and I originally planned to take P and AS on a “romantic double dinner date” but true to form, things don’t always go to plan around here. It is really hard to celebrate without the whole neighborhood.

So our group of 4 for dinner turned into a group of 9… okay, I can deal with that.

Then it turned into a group of 12…

then a group of 14…

then a group of 16…

Finally I thought… guys! Come on! It’s a lot to plan if there are so many people! We have to coordinate rides (most people don’t have cars), and the restaurant we had picked at the beginning was in a city half an hour away. How are we going to do this? Then, P and AS found out about the dinner, but N and I kept the dinner location, and guest list a secret, so we were trying to coordinate getting everyone to the restaurant, on time, and before we got there, so it could be a surprise.

As we were driving, I was thinking of all the people scrambling around the neighborhood trying to get there before us. Sometimes I just can’t help my pesky American habit of feeling obligated to being on time for things, but I imagined all these guests and their propensity for “Nepali Time”… and I imagined them getting to the restaurant at all sorts of crazy times. To make matters worse, by the time we left, I was still under the impression that some people hadn’t figured out rides because more people were added to the guest list after I had arranged the car situation (yeah… don’t I sound annal retentive? Arranging lists of who was driving with who…).

All this stuff was going through my head while I stalled for time (meanwhile, feeling guilty that I told the restaurant 7 and was purposefully arriving late).

What I really should have done was just rely on a lesson I’ve learned time and time again. Chill out, things will be fine. If it doesn’t work according to plan, no problem. Let’s have fun. Hakuna Matata dude.

We walked into the restaurant… a Japanese hibachi grill… and… everyone was there! Some people took cars, some people took trains, everyone got there early! It worked beautifully. AS and P were really surprised, and a great evening was had by all.

Birthday Success… hurray!! :)