This weekend the NavaDurga are in Banepa. They are a group of 9 men with a few musicians and support folks kinda like roadies, who keep up the folk tradition of dancing with masks. They travel from place to place performing at theh invitation of local communities. it’s pretty much their full-time job from October to June every year. Unsure what they do for the remainder of the year but my guess they give their body a break from the partying and rest up! There are many rituals around what they do, including having to walk barefoot from Bhaktapur to (in this case) Banepa, and if offered food and alcohol, they must take it. As far as I could see last night, only alcoholic beverages were offered …. so they had to accept them ….. such troopers. Last night and today they are parading through the streets of Old Banepa (up the road from where I live) and tomorrow do a big performance at one of Old Banepa’s squares which includes chasing after the audience. If you are caught by one of them, bad things will happen to you so it is best to run very fast I am told. Monday will see they kill a pig and drink it’s blood, perform once again before they walk (barefoot) back to Bhaktapur. I joined Rashil and his friend Sudip (of My Small Kitchen Restaurant – those that stayed at Lok’s will know it) and followed the parade last night through the street, even getting a special blessing and black line tika on my forehead as well as a thread necklace which prevents hangovers. Afraid I did not test that theory as I left Rashil and Sudip at about 10pm. They had a long night ahead of them so hopefully the thread necklace worked.
Nowadays, there is not much belief that the NavaDurgas are living gods or that they will grant your wishes if you whisper it to them. One of the organizers from Old Banepa I met last night told me he is more interested in keeping up the tradition and preserving the Newari heritage than anything. I likened them to the Irish Mummers who go from house to house on St Stephen’s Day in Ireland (that’s Boxing Day to everyone else). All good fun! Happy I could experience it before I leave Nepal …. only 4 more days left in Nepal – cripes!