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The biggest festival of the majority of Nepalis, Dasain, has ended, but the second biggest festival of Tihar is just round the corner.
But before going into the “intricacies” of Tihar, let us reflect on the fact that during Dasain, most individuals like to go back to their homes in remote villages or towns and celebrate the festival with their families and friends. Therefore, there is a rush for bus tickets and even air seats before the festival begins. This is just one side of the story of the festival, this is also a time when shopkeepers of all kinds, whether in the posh areas or on the footpaths, hike the prices of their goods and fleece the people who want to celebrate with new clothes and other niceties.
Meanwhile, how religious the people are, can be seen from the huge crowds that throng almost all temples for many days before and during the festival of Dasain.
But such religious faith in the Hindu religion and traditional beliefs have been disdained by certain communities, who are driven more by funds than true belief.
But anyway, the environment is great. Even the political parties don’t dare hold any demonstrations, instead they hold friendly tea parties, grinning and greeting each other like lost brothers, though there exist much political and even personal animosities.
The environment before Dasain used to be really beautiful, it could feel the festive seasons, from the clear blue skies to the musical instruments played by a community celebrating Indra Jatra for more than a week. Women in red clothes their hands filled with flowers and other ingredients for worship could be seen thronging the different temples and children excitedly flew colourful kites dotting the sky space in almost all parts of Kathmandu. In rural areas, makeshift wings were built and it was a mega event for the young boys and girls to swing as high as they could.
But things suddenly changed after the Maoists started their “Peoples’ War”, when thousand were killed many more were displaced and others simply feared to go back to their home villages or towns, even for Dasain.
However it got better after the Maoists entered mainstream politics by signing a peace accord and participating in the first ever Constituent Assembly election in 2008. At least that is what the politicians, foreigners and media told us. And for once it seemed there was no threat for people to go back to their villages. No bombing of buses on highways and no abductions.
Yes, during the insurgency period, the people were afraid. When the Nepal Police, after vicious attacks started abandoning police posts under the strong command of IGP Achyut Krishna Kharel, how could the ordinary people dare to seek a safe haven in their villages? This man Kharel was later accused of swindling money while hiring helicopters in the name of containing the Maoists movement and also buying 22 guns, which actually are rifles mostly used by hunters to kill rabbits to equip the ill trained Nepal Police soldiers, while he safely sat in Kathmandu just giving orders.
One police Inspector, who daily faced the Maoists, told me how he was asked by the higher command how many people he had killed that day. “That is how they thought they would win the insurgency by safely sitting in the comforts of their office, never bothering about the rights of innocent people to live,” this man told me.
Now to come back to the festival of this country, Dasain being the greatest festival, is also the longest one. Tihar is quite short in time, but it is equally a flurry of festive time. The children enjoy this festival the most.
The kites are no longer there, but “Deausi” and “Bhailo” start, which heralds the beginning of the festival.
Before, this was a time of fun and children were happy when they received a rupee or two for their vocal efforts while singing “Deusi” or “Bhailo”. But this changed drastically when organized people, whether with political or ethnic affiliations started making this festival a fund raising event. The businessmen were happy to entertain the wishes of such people, but ordinary citizens, though they held some important government posts, were made to pay through their noses. Not catering to their demands would probably mean being ostracized from the community.
This writer has had to contribute to different groups from different parties and communities during Tihar. But the people forget about such things and celebrate this occasion without disturbing anybody, except the police of course, who try to arrest gamblers. But let us hope this Tihar is a good one and it will bring better times along with better weather.