Suchana, who works at GAN Lamjung as the Finance Officer, invited Judith and I to stay with her family at their village home in Milanchowk for the Teej celebration this September. After 5 hours in a very hot and crowded bus, it was a relief to arrive at Milanchowk, just as the day began to cool down. Suchana had warned us that her family were very excited that we were coming, and we were honoured with a traditional welcome when we arrived.
The Khaniya family comprises of Dad - Govinda, Mum - Sobha, and their four children; Suchana, Sushil, Anjana and Santosh.
Their home is a traditional Nepali house with two storeys, built alongside a much older round house where their Grandmother now lives.
|The old round house|
Early the next morning we went to join the family cutting grass for the livestock. (See 'Cutting grass' blog page)Whilst we did this Sobha milked the buffalo.
Soon it was time to get ready and put on our saris. We had bought saris specially for the occasion, but both Judith and I were anxious about wearing one, as the material is just wound around you and tucked in. Not very secure we thought!! Sobha did this for us - winding the material around the waist and then folding it into soft pleats which hang at the front. All the material is tucked into the top of the cotton petticoat which is worn underneath. Finally the decorative end of the sari is placed over the shoulder and allowed to hang.
Necklaces, bracelets and our purple bourganvilla garlands from the previous evening were hung around our necks, with tikkas on our foreheads as a final decoration. Of course, photographs had to be taken and then we were ready to walk to the village square where a singing and dancing competition was taking place in honour of Teej.
All along the track to the village came women of all ages, decked out in splendid red and green saris, on their way to watch the dancing. Everyone we met remarked that we were like 'Nepali women' in our saris and decoration.
An area for dancing had been roped off, and a tent erected for local 'thulo manche' (literally big men, used to describe important people). We sat on the steps in the shade of the mandir waiting for the performances to begin. We had obviously arrived early so that we got good seats, because over the next two hours our "good seats' became very squashed places as many more tried to squeeze in.
I got restless and wandered off to see and take photos of the beautifully dressed women and girls in the crowd. Their ages were spread across the spectrum as can be seen from the photos below.
The singing and dancing was a competition, and was interesting to watch. In each entry a group of women sang whilst one danced. Nepali dancing is very expressive, and hand movements are very important. There is lots of symbolism in the movements.
Taking place at the same time, obviously for the men to watch as Judith and I were almost the only women spectators, was a competition for strong young men to throw a boulder as far as they could. This sport seemed to be a combination of javelin, taking a run up to the point of throwing, and shot put, throwing from the shoulder as far as possible.
Suddenly, over the loudspeaker, Judith and I were summoned by name to the 'thulo manche' tent. The organisers had become aware that there were two 'biddeshi' women in the audience, and having asked our hosts for our names, were determined we should be there on the platform! More tikka and kata scarves, along with a sign pinned to our saris, saying that we were special guests. It was pleasant to sit in the shade and watch the dancing, so we didn't mind too much, and 'escaped' as soon as the dancing competition finished.
Whilst the decision of the judges was being debated, women spectators were encouraged to dance. One of the officials from the platform sought me out and I had no option but to dance. I'm sure this made the day of many spectators, watching me make a complete fool of myself! As I looked around the watching crowd there were hundreds of beaming smiles and laughing faces. If there's one thing I've learnt while living in Nepal it's not to take myself too seriously, and to allow people to stare and laugh - and to smile and laugh in return. (No pictures of me - I'm the one with the camera!)
As we walked back to the house, at the end of the afternoon, our saris still intact, the sun was dropping behind the layers of hills to the west. We had to pose for photos with that backdrop, it was stunning!
This few days had been another special experience to remember for many years. Thank you to the Khaniya family for your kindness and hospitality.