Called mani stones, these rocks have carvings of the Buddhist mantra, om mani padme hum.
Culturally, the people are very distinct from their southern countrymen. Buddhist in ritual with a sprinkling of polytheistic animism, the religion of this region is an interesting mix of Hinduism, Buddhism and the ancient indigenous Bon religion. The people also look the part, with more Tibetan features and dress.
These colorful ladies are preparing offerings and greetings to the third highest lama in Tibetan Buddhism. I was lucky enough to be there to witness his blessing of the new temple erected in the holy town of Muktinath (and get a personal blessing).
The lama himself, on white horse and under the umbrella.
Nepali, as it is almost everywhere, is only spoken with outsiders, people who do not understand the local dialect of the region. So everyone speaks at least two languages, their home dialect and Nepali. And if you are educated (usually men who attend private school), then English as well. In the particular region where I visited, the local language was a western Tibetan dialect.
What remains unclear to me is what unites all these various ethnic groups of Nepal. Is it just the language? I doubt it.
I’m sure at one point it was the king, but I think the only way the king unites people these days is their hatred of the man. From reading the blogs of the other peace fellows, you also feel how tense it can be between different minorities and groups. They are, of course, in the terai, which has more of these groups butting up against each other (it’s also much HOTTER, which never helps to alleviate tensions).
What seems clear is that after two months of living in Nepal, I’m still trying to figure out what it means to be Nepali. I’m not expecting to figure it out in the short time I have left here, but this ancient kingdom with its rich and vibrant history and culture must allow everyone a stake in the future of the country.
To say the elections in November are crucial is obvious. But more importantly, and perhaps more potentially problematic, will be how to give everyone a voice after the votes are counted and it becomes clear how many seats (and power) each group has. Then the task will be to have them understand that the minority in a democracy plays as significant role as the majority.
Future leaders? Let’s hope so. Women’s issues need serious attention. For a peek at just one of the issues, check out Nicole’s blog on uterine prolapse.
Posted By Tassos Coulaloglou
Posted Aug 2nd, 2007