April 12, 2013
As we walk the streets of Patan in the cold, yet refreshing Nepali April, one can hear the clamour of metal workers as they create sensuous works of art, fashioning these sculptures with the simplest of tools. The air is filled with the rich and vagrant aroma of spices and local Newari fare.
We pass by the myriad of small stalls and shops, the weavers, the potters, the metalworkers, the painters, the chefs and the photographers all have a story to tell. The story of the Newar.
We hear the sudden beating of drums, only to see a group of dancers performing the traditional Dyah Pyakhan (Masked dance).
The music that encapsulates the festival is invigorating and captivating. The sacred music is a melange of devotional songs, seasonal tunes and ballads with the heavy use of percussion instruments such as the bansuri (flute), payntah (trumpet) and a variety of cymbals and gongs.
We see an unabridged variety of art being created before our very eyes; artisans display their unique skills with much enthusiasm and passion. Techniques and skills that would otherwise remain unnoticed and appreciated to the rest of the world. Be it the elderly lady who spins a flawless yarn of cotton on her antediluvian chakra or the grizzled man who effortlessly carves an idol out of pure metal. Or the couple who rhythmically cook and plate boiled rice, lentil soup and vegetables.
The spectacle is unending and our curiosity is forever left on tenterhooks. Handicrafts are prepared from wood, clay, metals and as assortment of fabrics. Superlative and enthralling dresses are even created from the outer layers of the wheat kernel.
We marvel at the pictures from the early 20th century, depicting the radiance of the ancient Kathmandu Valley in all its preceding greenery. The pantheon of idols on display include both Hindu gods and depictions of Lord Buddha. An artist even built a 16 foot long statue of Lord Ganesha after just six days of hard labour.
Meanwhile, the Lalitpur based goddess Kumari is busy throughout the day, offering benediction to devotees and representing the culture and expectations of her people.
While the festival is truly local in nature, the almost 1000 stalls have representation from almost 20 countries in Asia. The aim is to revive forgotten culture and enrich the memories of the present and future generation through development and promotion.
The 7 day festival has seen the heritage of 77 communities promote and display their vibrancy in an heterogeneous form of festival and carnival, bringing together an estimated 1 million visitors separated by geography but unified by culture and tradition.
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