Oh, there's so much to say! Should I start in chronological order?
~It's festival time! Well, now I guess it's over, but for the last 4 days, the streets have been full of people people singing and dancing, lighted butter candles and Christmas-esqe lights, children playing games, dogs and cows and humans running around with tikas no their foreheads and garlands around their necks. And there has been praying. Lots and lots of praying. If the internet would cooperate I would post some of the rather excellent pictures I've taken of all the pujas I've attended this week.
~The first puja I attended was at my friend's house. It wasn't technically part of Tihar, but instead was a prayer and (rather long) ceremony for the health of their family. The auspicious day for the prayer was chosen by consulting an astrological calender, as was the reason for the prayer since the calender suggested that there was a bad omen over some specific family members. The ceremony was quite beautiful and consisted of hundreds of flower petals, bananas, apples, coconuts, ghee candles, incense, copper dishes and lots of that red, yellow and orange paste that you see smeared on people's foreheads in this part of the world. And oh yes, I forgot to mention the cow urine- consumed by the Brahman priest in shots as a natural remedy for well, everything, I guess.
~I attended more pujas, one for a dog and a Newari one for my own health and longevity, but I guess they are more or less the same in terms of what you see and do... There are so many complicated parts to the praying that I'm sure I can't describe it accurately (like I got three cups of flower petals and seeds dumped on my head, fire touched to either shoulder and my forehead; I bowed to some fruit (?), drank some yogurt with honey in it and made some funny gestures with my hands... I have no idea what it all means).
~Nepal, as I may have mentioned before, is a definitely an early to bed and early to rise country. By 8 o'clock, people are generally at home, eating dinner, performing their daily pujas, washing their faces and watching TV (power permitting). So you can imagine my surprise the other night when a group of men came rushing, shouting and with flashlights, through the empty lot next to my house. We all (my neighbors including the family I mentioned before and the small family that lives upstairs) rushed to the roof with our flashlights so we could see what was going on. From there, we could see the men looking into the narrow and fast-moving Seti Canal, to which access is generally blocked by tall walls and fencing over the top. But in this part, it seems four cows which had been grazing the the empty lot, wandered right into the canal and couldn't get out. The men called the police, who called the army, who came with no lights and no tools. They were using their mobile phones to look into the canal and shouting to all the people on the roof tops to throw things down to them. So we did. We threw ropes, sickles, bamboo poles, lights, even pashmina scarves... And they managed to rope all four cows and heave them out of the canal, though one suffered a broken foot. Each time a cow was retrieved we exploded into applause... And everyone was quite relieved they there were rescued, not only because cows are holy here, but because they next day was the cow puja day in Tihar... We would've had nothing to pray to if they'd died! (Actually, there are plenty of cows roaming the streets here, but those 4 seem to live only on our street...)
~I guess the nearly drowned cows are about the most exciting thing that's happend this week. When the internet cooperates, I'll post photos...