Interestingly, how many of us really care to know why some of these traditional festivities in Nepal got involved to this stage today? Why were they originated and how it’s spiritual, political, historical, cultural and ritual aspects are still maintained in the hills? How the rituals were preserved by our fore fathers? Let’s analyse and identify a few possible reasons behind them, shall we?
Out of Nepal’s total of 56,827 sq mi area, only approximately 20% is protected. Today, in records there are 9 national parks, 3 wildlife reserve and 3 conservation area, 1 left as a hunting reserve. Due to the changing atmosphere, threat of a global warming and melting snow, the facts and figures are bound to change. However this will still not justify if we are putting adequate efforts to Save The Himalayas. Our flora and fauna are disappearing due to the lack of knowledge of their importance, so are the indigenous traditions and vice-versa.
Nepal is a multilingual, multi ethnic, multireligious country, with its 24 million people comprising 61 different ethnic groups speaking 11 languages and 71 distinct dialects. Throughout the long history Nepali people we have used leaves, herbal plants and plant products as a mainstream of everyday life. There are over 1500 plants (1434 flowering plants, 65 pteridophytes and 18 gymnosperms) have at least one documented ethno-botanical use, with more than 650 used as food plants. Many people today still depend on plant resources for their medical needs. At least 1624 species of wild plants (1515 flowering, 109 non-flowering) are used in this way which signifies how important our traditions and life style has been interwoven with these leaves, plants and herbs.
Preservation of Culture:
The indigenous knowledge needs to be identified and properly researched. A cultural protection needs to be carried to preserve ethno-biology knowingly through our ritual practices. The cultural festivity as such ‘Phulpati’ allows us not only to look with our mundane eyes but with adequate vision. Why we need to protect these rituals? What is the reasons behind such traditions? May be we need to add a few list of important endangered herbs into our check list to be included in the ritual processions. Why are we continuing such traditions needs a better vision? Indeed there are many categories of people in a society who would not like to question but take pride to follow the evolved tradition.
Our cultural practices are dependent on rural communities. But the increased in urban, usage, demand and trends of organic, herbal & natural product in the western markets have destroyed the forests. The financial greed fulfilled by the degradation of forests, disturbance in the ecosystem through unregulated collection of these plants and leaves have alarmed us again. May be this is the right time to re-think how to properly preserve our Culture for future generations by preserving these generous plants.
Preserving Social Harmony:
The significance of these cultures and festivities are insignifcant. The majority of the people take it as a time to mingle, observe its glory and participate in its mundane procession but the inside story is completely different and valuable. These festive moments will just become another family reunion, a time to build up cordial-ship among friends and relatives or would just become another government holiday to play ‘paplu’ and distroy ‘marriages’ of tradition-based-values, if not understood properly. We do not want to question on the moral ground what values that we have been following to?
For a few , the knowledge of these traditions have merely become a ritual significance of celebrations. For some just an excuse to drink and to go socially wild. It is our tendency to forget the past which inherits the human basics via all these beautiful knowledge and practices. This is another tradition such as ‘temple sacrifices’ which has been overlooked by the Royal rituals of gun shots and processions. May be, this is the right time as the royals have become a commoner and lost their dark-knowledge, we people need to brighten our strength by knowingly and more herbals inside the vessels- which hold the nectar of flowers and energized leaves of the Himalayas.
Preservation of the diversity in plants and their uses gave birth to a wonderful day of 'Fulpati', 7th day of Dashahara. To commemorate the harvest season, in this day Navapatrika (नव-पत्रिका)- the nine leaves are considered auspicious and revere. This ritual also signify our connectedness with all the flowers and leaves surrounding us in our motherly mountainous heaven.
The nine plants- Each of the plants represents a specific manifestation of Goddess Shakti
Banana - Goddess Brahmande who blessus with peace
Dadim - Goddess Rakta Dantika (Pomegranate,darim) who helps and blesses all worshipper
Dhanko Bala - Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth is rice stalk (dhanko bala)
Haledo - Goddess Durga graces the turmeric plant (haledo) and put and end to bighna-s or obstacles.
Manabriksha - Goddess Kalika who blesses the mortals through Ginger plant (aduwa)
Kachuki - Goddess of Power and worshipped by Tamangs and Chhetris (Kaphal/Lapsi)
Belpatra - Lords Bishnu and Shiva’s favourite fruit (wood apple)
Ashok - Goddess Shokaha resides in this plant
Jayanti - Goddess Kartikeya is revered by all Gods resides in this plant
With this positive note let us become optimistic that one day we will explore, become knowledgeable and protect our endangered plants, animals, birds, culture & traditions. As we are all interconnected in a bigger ecosystem the Navapatrika have a great significance in our everyday life. Progress with a profitable shared knowledge brings a prosperity in a community. Either knowingly or unknowingly, cultural preservation has a potential for contributing to Himalayan biodiversity protection. Deeper spiritual knowledge can illuminate the upbringing of ritually distorted religious practices and cultural ignorance. Knowledge of permanence can guide us a shiny path of light to darkness and an eternity to death. Eventually peace will prevail on earth.
Now let’s question us again, are we preserving our people, planet and prosperity by progressively participating in our ‘Paramparas’ such as ‘Phulpati’?
[Ananta Risal 14th October, 2010]