Posts Tagged ‘Kathmandu

19
May
12

May 1st: a public holiday, named “Labour Day”

‘May Day’ is a name that relates to some public holidays that occurs in many different countries in the world, for some May 1st is ‘Labour Day’, for others 1st of May is ‘Workers Day’ but for many it’s also the day of the Lily of the Valley flower that is supposed to bring happiness to those who get a bunch of this lovely flower. To honor this holiday, I’m publishing some pictures of people at work in one of my favorite destinations in the world, the Republic of Nepal.

In many European countries, May 1st is ‘Labour Day’, which is a bank holiday. Workers will take part to ‘Labour Day’ parades, political demonstrations and special celebrations with Trade Unions.  Let’s take the example of May 1st events in Belgium, which is my home country. Christian and Social Union members will gather in the morning or in the afternoon. Their ‘Labour Day’ activities include walking down the streets, holding red, orange or green flags (colors of their Trade Unions or political parties), claiming more rights for workers, requiring solutions to overcome the financial and economical crisis. At the end of the day, they will end up drinking a beer and meeting some of our politicians.

In some other countries, May 1st is ‘International Worker’s Day’ instead, as their own ‘Labour Day’ occurs on another day of the year. But then again, political and union celebrations will take place. ‘Labour Day’ history is quite different in all countries but May 1st mostly celebrates workers and is internationally observed.

While ‘Labour Day’ is mostly a public holiday, some countries don’t allow their workers to take the day off. ‘Labour Day’ was born in the 19th century, when workers had enough of working too many hours and demanded a decrease of their working time. From a strike movement, it quickly became a popular holiday celebrated by and for the workers all over the world.

While some countries don’t celebrate ‘Labour Day’ on May 1st, it’s interesting to learn how some occidental countries celebrate this day. In the United Kingdom, ‘Labour Day’ occurs on the first Monday of May. Ireland also celebrates this day on the first Monday of May. The United States and Canada will celebrate their ‘Labour Day’ on the 1st Monday of September, however, they observe ‘International Workers’ Day’ on May 1st.

11
Mar
12

Wisdom from Confucius

Confucius (28 September 551 BC – 479 BC) was a Chinese thinker and social philosopher of the Spring and Autumn Period.

“The more man meditates upon good thoughts, the better will be his world and the world at large.” 

 Confucius

The philosophy of Confucius emphasized personal and governmental morality, correctness of social relationships, justice and sincerity. These values gained prominence in China over other doctrines, such as Legalism or Taoism during the Han Dynasty. Confucius’ thoughts have been developed into a system of philosophy known as Confucianism.

 “I hear, I know. I see, I remember. I do, I understand.”

 Confucius

Because no texts are demonstrably authored by Confucius, and the ideas most closely associated with him were elaborated in writings that accumulated over the period between his death and the foundation of the first Chinese empire in 221 BC, many scholars are very cautious about attributing specific assertions to Confucius himself. His teachings may be found in the Analects of Confucius, a collection of aphorisms, which was compiled many years after his death.

 “Never give a sword to a man who can’t dance.”

Confucius 

Confucius’ principles had a basis in common Chinese tradition and belief. He championed strong familial loyalty, ancestor worship, respect of elders by their children (and, according to later interpreters, of husbands by their wives), and the family as a basis for an ideal government. He expressed the well-known principle, “Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself”, one of the earlier versions of the Ethic of reciprocity.

“Wherever you go, go with all your heart.”

Confucius
13
Apr
11

Bungamati: a traditional Newari village in Nepal

Bungamati is a traditional and tiny Newari village from the 16th century and is located at eight kilometers south of Kathmandu (on the outskirts of Patan). The village has its own history and has retained its tradition and culture. It is a living museum and recalls medieval times.

The farming community of Newars who live here are mostly dependent on agriculture and much of their daily activities take place outside of their dwellings. It is perched on a spur of land overlooking the Bungamati River and is shaded by large trees and stands of bamboo. Fortunately, the village streets are too small and hazardous for cars. Visitors are rare, so tread gently.  

Bungamati is the birthplace of Rato Machhendranath, regarded as the patron of the valley, and the large shikhara – style temple in the centre of the village square is his home for six months of the year. He spends the rest of his time in Patan. The process of moving him around Patan and backwards and forwards to Bungamati is central to one of the most important annual festivals in the valley. The chowk around the temple is one of the most beautiful in the valley – here one can see the heart of a functioning Newari town.

There are many chortens and a huge prayer wheel, clearly pointing to the syncretic nature of the Newari religion. There are women sitting outside spinning, men crushing seeds, and other daily activities. Between Bungamati and Khokana the Karya Binayak Temple is dedicated to Ganesh. The temple is not particularly interesting and Ganesh is simply represented by a natural stone but the view is spectacular. From this point, surrounded by trees, you can look over the Bungamati valley to the foothills, or back to Bungamati, tumbling down the opposite hill.

19
Mar
11

Hindu Death Rituals and Beliefs (Part 2)

Those who have been meritorious, but have not quite attained liberation through self-knowledge, are sent to a heavenly realm to await their fate. There the Gandharvas (demigods of fertility) sing to them, and the bevies of celestial nymphs dance for them. Since there is no need for punishment, they go forth immediately on very high divine carriages. And when they get down from those carriages, they are born in the families of kings and other noble people. There they maintain and protect their good conduct and live out their days before they are reborn enjoying the very best of pleasures.

The fate for those who have participated in less honorable thoughts or actions is far less pleasant. The Arthasastra, a Hindu textbook from the second century BC, offers a detailed description of some of the more frightening realms. Yet before reaching these dangerous destinations, one must first endure a miserable journey. The hard-hearted men of Yama, terrifying, foul-smelling, with hammers and maces in their hands, come to get the deceased, who tremble and begin to scream. Filled with terror and pain, the soul leaves the body. Preceded by his vital wind, he takes on another body of the same form, a body born of his own karma in order for him to be tortured.

The evil man becomes born as an animal, among the worms, insects, moths, beasts of prey, mosquitoes, and so forth. There he is born in elephants, trees, and so forth, and in cows and horses, and in other wombs that are evil and painful. When he finally becomes a human, he is a despicable hunchback or dwarf, or he is born in the womb of a woman of some tribe of untouchables. When there is none of his evil left, and he is filled with merit, then he starts climbing up to higher castes, Shudra, Vaishya, Kshatriya, and so forth, sometimes eventually reaching the stage of Brahmin or king of men. With so many unpleasant possibilities, it is easy to understand why reincarnation is not the only goal of every Hindu.

Those who lead a life of austerity, meditation and grace can look forward to the possibility of reaching Brahmaloka. This is the highest among the heavenly planes and the dwelling place of Brahma himself. This is a place of intensely spiritual atmosphere, whose inhabitants live, free from disease, old age, and death, enjoying uninterrupted bliss in the companionship of the Deity. There is no need for them to return to earth because they have freed themselves from all material desires. While they do experience a sense of individuality, they also experience a oneness with Brahma. This is the realm of immortality.

There is one other way to achieve liberation from samsara. This is to die within the city of Benaras, on the Ganges. Death, which elsewhere is feared, here is welcomed as a long-expected guest. A city of many names, it was known in ancient time as Kashi, the city of light, and the Mahabharata refers to it as Varanasi. The funeral pyres, which are located on the river, burn nonstop. Death, which elsewhere is polluting, is here holy and auspicious. People travel from around the country and the planet to spend their last days in Benaras because, death, the most natural, unavoidable, and certain of human realities, is here the sure gate to moksha, the rarest, most precious, most difficult to achieve of spiritual goals.

For those who are unable to die in Benaras, cremation on the banks of the Ganges or the spreading of the ashes in her waters is the next best thing. Referred to as the “River of Heaven” or the “goddess and mother,” she is considered to be sacred from her source in the Himalayas, all the way to the sea in the Bay of Bengal. Her power to destroy sins is so great that, people say, even a droplet of Ganges water carried one’s way by the breeze will erase the sins of many lifetimes in an instant.

Hindu death rituals in all traditions follow a fairly uniform pattern drawn from the Vedas, with variations according to sect, region, caste and family tradition. Most rites are fulfilled by the family, all of whom participate, including the children, who need not be shielded from the death. Certain rites are traditionally performed by a priest, but may also be performed by the family if no priest is available. Religions such as Hinduism offer our own immortal souls satisfying answers to questions of life and death. Their ancient mythic texts provide real reasons for our existence here on earth. They also demonstrate that death is something that can be prepared for instead of being feared. In addition, they offer the possibility of something to look forward to, so we need not dread our last days on this planet. A true Hindu shall love death as he loves this life.

18
Mar
11

Hindu Death Rituals and Beliefs (Part 1)

There is one thing that is certain in this lifetime: eventually we all must die. A belief in the cyclical reincarnation of the soul is one of the foundations of the Hindu religion. Death is viewed as a natural aspect of life, and there are numerous epic tales, sacred scriptures, and Vedic guidance that describe the reason for death’s existence, the rituals that should be performed surrounding it, and the many possible destinations of the soul after departure from its earthly existence. While the ultimate goal is to transcend the need to return to life on earth, all Hindus believe they will be reborn into a future that is based primarily on their past thoughts and actions.

The first mortal to meet his fate with Death was named Yama. This dubious honor makes him uniquely qualified to lead the way for others after death. The sacred scriptures of the Rig Veda, which call him King Yama, promise that all who have been good will receive admission to Yama’s paradise and the everlasting enjoyment of all the heavenly pleasures, include the restoration of a sick body, the maintaining of family relations and the highly desired apotheosis. Yama is aided by two killer guide dogs that are described as the four-eyed keepers of the path, who watch over men. These two dark messengers of Yama with flaring nostrils wander among men, thirsting for the breath of life. Yet, once they have secured their prey, they lead them back to their heavenly realm, where Yama directs them to their destiny.

Cremation is ritual designed to do much more than dispose of the body, it is intended to release the soul from its earthly existence. Hindus believe that cremation (compared to burial or outside disintegration) is most spiritually beneficial to the departed soul. This is based on the belief that the astral body will linger as long as the physical body remains visible. If the body is not cremated, the soul remains nearby for days or months. The only bodies that are not generally burned are unnamed babies and the lowliest of castes, who are returned to the earth.

The standard cremation ceremony begins with the ritual cleansing, dressing and adorning of the body. The body is then carried to the cremation ground as prayers are chanted to Yama, invoking his aid. It is the chief mourner, usually the eldest son, who takes the twigs of holy kusha grass, flaming, from the Doms (the untouchable caste who tend funeral pyres) eternal fire to the pyre upon which the dead has been laid. He circumambulates the pyre counterclockwise for everything is backward at the time of death. As he walks round the pyre, his sacred thread, which usually hangs from the left shoulder, has been reversed to hang from the right. He lights the pyre. The dead, now, is an offering to Agni, the fire. Here, as in the most ancient Vedic times, the fire conveys the offering to heaven. After the corpse is almost completely burned, the chief mourner performs the rite called kapälakriyä, the ‘rite of the skull,’ cracking the skull with a long bamboo stick, thus releasing the soul from entrapment in the body. After the cremation, the ashes are thrown into a river, ideally the Ganges river, and the mourners walk away without looking back.

The death ritual does not end with the elimination of the body. There is still the safety of the soul to look after. To ensure the passage during its voyage to the Otherworld, an eleven-day ritual called shraddha is performed. It consists of daily offerings of rice balls, called pindas, which provide a symbolic, transitional body for the dead. During these days, the dead person makes the journey to the heavens, or the world of the ancestors, or the far shore. On the twelfth day, the departed soul is said to reach its destination and be joined with its ancestors, a fact expressed symbolically by joining a small pinda to a much larger one. Without these rites, the soul may never find it way to Yama’s realm.

14
Mar
11

Lalitpur, Nepal – Kalyan Secondary School: be polite, be truthful ( Part 2 )

As mentioned in my yesterday’s article, I’ll provide you some additional information about the Kalyan English Secondary boarding school, situated in Lalitpur, Nepal.

Not all parents can afford this education + the extra cost of the school uniform and books. Actually some of the poor students are sponsored by people from different organizations, included Belgian benefactors. Most of the students are from local area. Some of them come from Patan or Kathmandu city.

There’re 4 exams in a year called the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and final terms. Mainly all students have summer vacation for 2 weeks, Dashain vacation for 10 days, Dipawali vacation for another 6 days, a 2-weeks taking winter vacation and some public holidays. The new school year starts from April 17th every year. Every year the students of the 10th class have to appear for the board of school leaving examination which is running under the Nepalese board. Until now all students leaving Kalyan Secondary School have succeeded in these tests. These students can go to 11th class in another place. In the near future the school management wants to add class 11 and class 12 to his facilitations. That’s why extension works are going on at the moment. An additional floor is under construction and should produce more classrooms.

The school has a club of former students and they come to school for different programs after invitation by the school staff. Several times a year different meetings are organized to inform the student’s parents about the yearly calendar, the school budget and about the policy of quality education. After each term of the examination, the parents are invited to come to collect the report cards of their son(s) and/or daughter(s). Once a year the school organizes a special parent’s program with dances, music, exhibitions, arts and crafts. This yearly program is attended by the District education officer and other VIP’s from the Nepalese Ministry of education.

Kalyan English Secondary Boarding School is located Dhapakhel – 9, Lalitpur, NEPAL and has a private Post Office box to receive letters from benefactors and sponsors from over the world. If you want to make a financial or material donation to the school, if you want to help the poor children by paying their monthly tutorial fee, or if you want to work in the school as a volunteer, you can take contact with the Director of this school by letter addressed to Mr. Shyam Karki, PO Box 20087 – Kathmandu, Nepal or by email to shyamkarkia@hotmail.com.

In name of the staff and the students of the Kalyan English Secondary Boarding School, we thank you for your support!!

13
Mar
11

Lalitpur, Nepal – Kalyan Secondary School: be polite, be truthful ( Part 1 )

As promised in my articles titled ‘Nepalese children and education – a hope of a nation (part 1 & 2)’ dated February 27th and 28th, I want to inform you about the ins and outs of the Kalyan English Secondary Boarding school of Nepal.

Kalyan English Secondary Boarding School is actually located in Lalitpur, a village in the Patan district of Kathmandu. The school was founded in 1996 and was first run in a small rented house. At these days the school was under the management of 15 people and 125 students could enjoy the private education. Due to the 10-years taking civil war (1996 – 2006) between the King and the Maoists, Nepal and the Nepalese people suffered a lot. As a result of this civil war, tourism (only considerably source of income for Nepal) collapsed entirely. So my dearest friend Mr. Shyam Karki (see article published on my blog at January 27th), who was working as a tourist guide for many years, saw his income disappear.

Mr. Shyam Karki - Director of Kalyan School

In search for a new professional career, and with the assistance of some of his Belgian friends, Shyam got the opportunity to buy the school and to start his career as School Director in February 2003. Between 2003 and 2005 Shyam and his staff managed the school in the same old rented house. As more students were coming to the school, and as this old building had only small and dark classrooms, Shyam has let build the new school building in 2005. Mr. Shyam Karki (°January 27th 1964) is married to Anjoo and has two children, his son Swachchhanda  and his daughter Samriddhi.

Shyam Karki and his family.

Now the new school has around 350 students and offers education to children from Kindergarten to 10th class. Therefore there’re 14 class rooms available. Shyam is the principal (or Director) of this school and his staff exists out of 22 well qualified teachers for various subjects and 4 non-teaching staff members. Recently several volunteers came from different parts of the world, especially from English native speaking countries such as the USA and England to teach the English language. These volunteers are all graduated teachers.

The school offers a high qualified education and runs under the rules of the Nepalese Ministry of education. The education calendar (subjects, public holidays, etc…) is fixed by the government. The monthly fee to be paid by the students, is stipulated by the Nepalese government based on the facilities of the school and on the qualifications and experience of the teachers. The actual monthly fee to be paid by the students, varies between 650 Rs (around 10,00 € or US$15,00) for the nursery and kindergarten classes, to 1.290 Rs (around 20,00 € to US$30) for the students in secondary level. This fee includes the use of all facilities in the school, a high level quality education and the transportation by minibus. The extra facilities of this school are among other things: library, computer class with 6 computers and two laptops, outside play yard, music classroom, inside play yard for the children from nursery school and kindergarten and a sports play yard with possibilities to play basketball, table tennis and other sports. 

Tomorrow I will give you some additional information about this school.