NavaDurgas in Banepa

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.

Not my photo!   But you can see the HUGE mask they wear, made of carved wood and brass so really really heavy. The guys are surprisingly light on their feet despite the heavy mask and amount of alcohol consumed!

Not my photo! But you can see the HUGE mask they wear, made of carved wood and brass so really really heavy. The guys are surprisingly light on their feet despite the heavy mask and amount of alcohol consumed!

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!

About Kate Coffey

After 30 or so years in the investment management industry, 2013 saw me turn my life up-side-down, making my way first to Nepal, then Bangladesh during that first ‘year away’. The year took me on a journey I did not expect, had me fall in love with Nepal and its people, and become inspired at the work of Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre (SIRC) located in Bhainsepati - 2 hours east of Kathmandu in the Saanga foothills. Since 2014, I have returned to SIRC numerous times, working closely with the folks there in the aftermath of the 2015 earthquakes. In Bangladesh I marvelled at the strength and resilience of marginalized women who have the courage and audacity to break the rules and make a better life for themselves and their children through microfinance programs with BRAC. 2016-2017 saw me embark on a totally new experience in Sri Lanka, a place I never would have chosen to end up in. It’s the 40C+ heat, big humidity and tropical snakes & animals that scared me! But I ended up love love loving! my time there, working with predominantly Tamil small business owners in remote villages in north and east of the country, trying their best to recover their businesses and the lives of their employees, after decades of a civil war. My time in Sri Lanka made me realize my hard-earned business skills and experience can really be put to good use! The work the BIZ+ team and I did there ended up earning me International Volunteer of the Year Award in December 2017, presented on Capitol Hill, Washington DC no less. I am currently home on Bowen Island, in the west coast of Canada, shoring up my finances before I head off to who knows where, for my next expert volunteer assignment. This blog initially started out as a travelogue of sorts to keep friends and family worldwide updated while I was off on my travels in 2013-2014. Since then it has morphed into a life story of the many places I have lived and worked and of the wonderful people I have met along the way. I hope you enjoy.
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