The holiday season in the US is pretty exciting around this time of year with three major festivities of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas over the span of three months. However, in looking back at this month of October here in Nepal and most recently India, the celebrations here just blow everything else away.
We just finished celebrating Dashain last week, the longest and most important festival of Nepal where rest, relaxation, and spending time with family is a must for 10 days. Five days after that, we jumped right into Tihar celebrations("festival of lights", known better as Diwali in India), in which worship of different subjects such as crow, dog, cow, and most importantly the Hindu Goddess of Fortune (Goddess Laxmi) took place all over the country. Tihar has been the most impressive display of lights and music I've ever seen even when thinking back to all the times I've celebrated Christmas at home. The entire city is blanketed with lights and children sing on the streets in hope of attracting the Goddess of Fortune to visit their home with the promise of bringing great wealth. The moral of the story is that you want to be the brightest and most spirited house on the block so good fortune and wealth can come your way in the coming year.
The last day of Tihar is known as Bhai Tika (Bhai in Nepali means "brother") where the sisters wish a long life to their brothers through a special ceremony. This entails an mutual exchange of a special temporary mark on the forehead ("tika" in Nepali) between brothers and sisters that represents one being a sibling for the other for life. I also joined in on the fun with my Nepali host family, but realized there was no way I was bringing my sister from the US to Nepal for the sake of this ceremony. This was no problem, as I accepted my host sister as my sister for ceremony and we then solidified our sibling relationship for life (sorry Rachel haha).
A day after this ceremony, I took a flight to Varanasi, India in joining Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche on a weeklong pilgrimage. We couldn't have planned a better time to come, as the country was India was just in the middle of celebrating the same festivals regarding the worship of Goddess Laxmi. India, however, definitely one-ups Nepal with the celebrations. When we arrived the night of the 26th, a few of us decided to take a stroll down to the Ganges River, the holiest river in the world for Hindus. In traveling there, our ricksha hit a wall of traffic upon entering the river entry point, to which we realized we just became traffic along with thousands of people gathered for the Kali Puja. We got off a few hundred meters away from the heel of a statue of the Goddess of Death (Kali), which was in the process of being brought out to the Ganges to be thrown into. We couldn't stay for the entire throwing into the water ceremony planned for midnight because we had a bus to catch 5:30AM the next morning to Bodhgaya (more on that in the next blog post!). We did however, join the locals with their tradition dance on the street...which turned out to be absolutely wild!
TLDR; Check out the video below. Celebrations in Nepal and India are out of this world!