Nicole Farkouh

Nicole Farkouh (Collective Campaign for Peace – COCAP): Nicole graduated from Smith College with a BA in Cultural Anthropology. She also has a Master of Education from the University of New Orleans. Nicole’s professional background is in education. She has worked as a teacher, administrator, and consultant, mainly with middle school students with special needs. She is also a certified community mediator and has studied a complementary model of mediation based on Non-Violent Communication. She has studied abroad in India, lived and taught in Mexico. At the time of her fellowship, she was studying for a Master of Public Policy degree at the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley. After her fellowship, Nicole wrote: "More than anything, this summer I received a new level of understanding /appreciation for the complexity involved in “development” and “human rights” work…. Particularly being a foreign body trying to work in a new culture."


15 Dec

At some point during the Dashain Festival in Gaighat, a friend said to me, “you think this is fun, you should see Tihar! That’s the most fun festival of all!” At which point I gently punched him in the arm and growled, “So then why did I schlep all the way out here from Kathmandu for Dashain?!?!” “Dashain is the GREAT festival of Nepal, you should be here, but it’s not as fun as Tihar” he replied, and with a smile continued, “Don’t worry. You’ll just have to come back. Then you can see the great Madheshi festival of Chaot too!”

So, in the middle of November with a few days off from the Center for Women and Politics and our efforts to organize Madheshi Women (see my earlier blogs) my soon to be adopted brother Pukhar and I jumped on a night bus for yet another 17-should’ve-been-9 hour journey to Gaighat.

A cow decorated as part of the Tihar celebration

Tihar, also called Dipavali in India, is a Hindu Festival of Lights that I think, at it’s essence, can be summarized to be about prosperity. This festival lasts 5 days and celebrates crows, dogs, and cows (coincidently is the only major festival in Nepal that doesn’t involve the sacrifice of animals), the goddess Lakshmi, and ultimately the bond between brothers and sisters.

I celebrated the Lakshmi Puja in Gaighat, with my friend Ajaya and his family as he assured me the sight would be the most beautiful in town. Lakshmi Puja is the night when Lakshmi the goddess of wealth and prosperity is worshiped and invited into homes and business with beautiful oil lamps placed all around the house and delicious and rich foods prepared and laid out for her.

Oil lamps decorating the porch

The next morning we traveled to Harridya where everyone had agreed would be the most fun place to celebrate the latter part of Tihar, and that night I learned what all the fuss was about. Turns out there is this great musical tradition in Nepal that is still vibrant in the villages called “Deu See Rae.” Essentially, this tradition entails young people organizing themselves into Deu-see clubs. During Tihar they take a few drums, any additional instruments they can find (and even stereos these days), and turn into roving performance troops going house to house, until sunrise, performing the songs they’ve practiced, singing songs impromptu ones about the people whose homes they’re visiting, and playfully extorting contributions of money or food from the inhabitants they drag from slumber. In exchange for these contributions of food and money the deu-see troupe blesses the family and the house, and ask the gods to bestow them with blessings and prosperity. I, of course, was having too much fun to remember to bring my camera along at night, so the picture below is of a younger deu-see troupe that came by during the day.

Neighborhood girls performing Deu See in Harridya VDC

The last day of Tihar is “Bhai Tika,” or the day when brothers and sisters celebrate their bond, promise to care for each other always, and the sister prays for a long life for her brother (no, it isn’t traditionally reciprocated!). This ceremony involves sisters making a gorgeous plate of offerings of food and small gifts to give to their brothers, making them flower garlands, and decorating them with a colorful tika (a ceremonial power placed on the forehead). Brothers then give their sisters blessings in return and in addition to malas and a tika, give them money.

One of the families that I have gotten close to is a joint family with 7 sons and no daughters. The two brothers in the family that I had spent the most time with, Pukhar and Hari, and I had previously begun referring to each other as brother and sister, however on this day (with the help of their aunt who did all the cooking for me) we ceremonially formalized our relationship.

With Tihar over, the last remaining major festival was just around the corner….

Me giving the Tika to Hari, with Bisal and Pukhar to the right

For more information about this festival check out this link:

Posted By Nicole Farkouh

Posted Dec 15th, 2007

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