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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

19 October 2010

Festival time!

It’s festival time in Bhaktapur! The festival is Dashain, biggest festival in the Nepali calendar, and this morning we sat on the steps of a temple and watched them chop the heads off of goats and a bullock with a huge kukri knife. One blow – CHOP! Then they drag the body (still twitching, ewww) around the courtyard so the blood can made a pattern in the sand. One of the goats was very inquisitive and curious about the whole affair (obviously before his head came off) which was quite sad. But it is ridiculous to react poorly to such a thing, when exactly the same animals go through exactly the same thing out of sight and mind in their thousands to provide us with steaks, sausages, bacon and burgers.

All the animal sacrifices today are done to bless machines – to say thank you to all the cars and motorbikes and (in the case of the ceremony we watched) army rifles. A couple of other strange and gory images from today: (1) seeing the front of cars and vans decorated with flower garlands and the cleaned entrails of sacrificed goats, the blood splashed on the wheels; (2) looking into a temple courtyard last night and seeing a dozen bullocks chewing hay, then looking into the same courtyard this morning and seeing a dozen headless bullocks lying scattered in pretty much the same positions.

Just to be clear, all the sacrifices at Dashain are taken home and eaten. In a culture where dhaal bhat (rice and lentil stew) is the staple food, a few days of feasting on meat is every bit as good as Christmas. Although if the swarms of shoppers are anything to go by, present giving is also a bit part of the festival.

The other more amiable image of the festival is lots of kids on rooftops, flying or attempting to fly little single-string kites. Lots of fluttery little kites above the old redbrick buildings of this compact medieval city. Free advice for anyone contemplating a trip to Nepal: book lodgings in Bhaktapur and do not bother spending a night in Kathmandu. Sincerely, this place is what Kathmandu might have been like 20+ years ago, and you can day-trip to Kathmandu from here as it’s only a 25 minute taxi ride for under £5. I might also suggest you stay at Krishna’s House, where Ajaya will welcome you to his wonderful homestay and totally look after you as he looked after us.

PS – alas, it started chucking with rain soon after the second cow bit the dust, and so we’ve retreated to our lodgings for a probable day of reading, snoozing and trying to get the darned internet to work.

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