Animal Encounter #1: Catching up with Spiny Babbler (A Bird found only in Nepal)

Nepal is a paradise for ornithologists and avid bird watchers. There are currently 900 species of birds found in Nepal (as of 2012), of which 30 species are globally threatened, 1 species in endemic and 1 species has been recently introduced by humans. Spiny Babbler is the only species of bird endemic to Nepal.

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~Overview~

Spiny cheeked Honeyeater

Spiny Babbler

Spiny Babbler (Nepali: काँडे भ्याकुर) is the only bird endemic to Nepal. It has been listed in the “Least Concern” category by IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It is a medium sized bird with a sharp beak and is quite shy an elegant and spectacular brown bird. Formerly, they were only to be found in restricted range but recently the researches have suggested they aren’t to be kept under vulnerable category anymore.

Spiny Babbler was thought to be extinct for over centuries, however,  it came under attention when Sidney Dillon Ripley, an American ornithologist, came to know about its existence.

Taxonomy

Kingdom Animalia
Phyllum Chordata
Class Aves
Order Passeriformes
Family Leiothraichida
Genus Turdoides
Species Turdois Nipalensis

~Habitat & Location~

It is known to be found only in Nepal. They are currently found in central, eastern, mid-western and far-western regions of Nepal, with higher influx in subtropical and tropical moist regions of Terai and Hills. Kathmandu, Shivapuri National Park, Koshi Tappu, Chitwan National Park and Bardia National Park are few of the popular destinations for the bird lovers to watch some most diverse species of birds in the planet.

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Bird Watching in Nepal

Bird watching or birding is a popular hobby of most people. Most bird watchers tend to take this wildlife observation as a recreation activity. Nepal consist of 8% of the total bird species in the world, therefore, most of the geographic regions of Nepal can be a haven for bird lovers and ornithologists. Read more on Bird watching in Nepal.

Lophophorus or Danphe

Lophophorus or Danphe

Stork, Pheasant, Cuckoo, Crow, Cormorant, Egret, Black ibis, Eagle, Falcon, Duck, Chukar, Partridge, Sarus (Crane), Lapwing pigeon, Bengal green pigeon, Dove, Parakeet, Cuckoo, Owl, Vulture, Peafowl, Red jungle fowl, Swallow, Black drong, Blue jay, Wood pecker, Black-headed shrike, Common myna, Red-vented bulbul, Paradise flycatcher, Brahminy duck, House sparrow, Red mania, Hawk and Spiny Babbler are commonly found in Nepal.


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What to Buy for Trekking in Nepal? List of Essential Trek Clothing & Gears

Lone Trekker:

Prepare for your next #trek with ease! Check out these handy tips on what to buy before starting a trek.

Originally posted on Chronicles of ADVENTURE TRAVEL:

Post-monsoon or Autumn season has already kicked in! September marks the beginning of Autumn in Nepal, where it tends to receive some rainfall, while November remains cold. The selection of proper trek gears and clothing determines the quality of your trek. Lack of proper trek gears can prove to be detrimental. Choosing appropriate gears can prove to be a rocket science if you lack will in spending more time buying recommended gears. Finding gears requires some research on the location you are to visit, along with some tips from the trek companies, fellow trekkers or guides. Most trek destinations in Nepal are above the elevation of 3,000 m (9,842 ft), therefore, you can feel cold during post-monsoon season. Annapurna region tends to receive rainfall during the season, while Everest remains dry and cold. Upper Mustang and Dolpo regions receive no rainfall at all for their acute geographic location, and the weather remains dry and warm during the day…

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How to Celebrate Mani Rimdu, an Oldest Sherpa Festival?

Mani Rimdu is one of the oldest festivals celebrated by the Sherpa inhabitants of greater Khumbu valley. Celebrated for 19 consecutive days, the festival is observed with joy and full participation from the observant and Buddhist monks. Contents


~Overview~

Mani Rimdu is an annual festival which takes place on the 10th lunar month of Tibetan calender. Celebrated in the mountainous region of Tengboche, the festive is observed by the native inhabitants of the Khumbu valley, Sherpa, and Lama. The Tibetan term ‘Mani’ stands for “part of a chant of Chenrezig” and ‘Rimdu’ stands for “small red pills.” The important tradition of the festive surrounds the sacred red pills. The monks incessantly chant and bless the red pills which are later distributed to the observant.

Monks rehearsing for Mani Rimdu

Monks rehearsing for Mani Rimdu

The festival lasts for nineteen days. Various ceremonies and meditations (Drupchen) take place for nine consecutive days. The final three days of the nineteen days celebration culminates into a  public event. The grand finale starts with Monks offering blessing to the public, special mask dances followed by singing and dancing by the Sherpa community. The final day is when the ritual is concluded by a special blessing ceremony offered only by the Tengboche Rinpoche to the public. During the occasion, the renowned Mask Dance is also performed by the monks of the Monastery.

Preparation of Mani Rimdu

It can be divided into six parts;

  1. Construction of the Mandala -The first day consists of preparations including making the sand Mandala and Tormas (symbolic offerings made of colored butter and barley flour)
  2. The Empowerment (Wong) -It is the opening public ceremony performed on the full moon day by Trulshig Rinpoche. The sacred pills, (Rimdu or Mani Rilwu) and Tshereel (pills for long life), are distributed among attendees.
  3. The Dances (Chham) -Chham is a sacred dance ceremony offered for spiritual purposes but public entertainment
  4. Ser-Kyem -It is a group dance consisting of six dancers who offer spiritual drink to the Earth deities.
  5. The Fire Puja (Jinsak) -The fire puja is performed in the monastery’s yard to ward off evil and to make offerings to the Fire god “Agni”
  6. Chhingpa -It is the final day celebration which involves spiritual singing and dancing.

~History~

Mani Rimdu is known to have started from the Rongbuk monastery. It signifies the establishment of Buddhism in Tibet by the Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava). The dances performed during the festival refers to a mythological event of destroying demons and evil from the world by the positive forces. In Trulshik Rinpoche’s estimation, Mani Rimdu started between 1907 and 1910 and moved to Solukhumbu in about 1940. Tengboche was the first monastery in Nepal to perform the festival. According to Jerstad and Furer-Haimendorf, the first Mani Rimdu in Tengboche was performed in 1938.

Video

A brief documentary on Mani Rimdu festival.

Everest Base Camp

Everest base camp trek is one of the most popular treks in Nepal. The route to Everest base camp passes through the Tengboche monastery. During Autumn (September-November), many tourists prefer lodging in the Tengboche village and witness the festival firsthand. Starting their journey from the small town of Lukla to conceding at Kala Patthar 5,545 m (18,204 ft), trekkers often stop at Tengboche village to spend a night. Tengboche monastery receives almost 600 visitor in a week during the Autumn season and 15,000 visits in a year.

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How to Celebrate Dashain & Tihar in Nepal?

Lone Trekker:

Come this September celebrate two of the holiest and grandest Hindu festivals in the Indian Subcontinent. Mainly observed in Nepal and India, Dashain and Tihar has utmost religious and historic significance.

Originally posted on Chronicles of ADVENTURE TRAVEL:

The grandest of the festivals celebrated by the Hindus worldwide falls on this September-October. Dashain and Tihar are two of the main festivals which uphold the religious and cultural significance of Hinduism.

Nepal, with the majority of Hindu population, celebrates the festivals with full joy. Feasting is common in almost every Nepalese household during the occasion.

Dashain

Dashain (Nepali: दशैं) or Badadashain, Dashera in India, is a festival celebrated by Hindu devotees worldwide. It is the longest festival, lasting 10 days, which starts from lunar night and ends on full moon. It is widely celebrated throughout India and Nepal. The festive is known for bringing joy in the household by bringing families together.

Tika (Vermilion) and Jamra are considered auspicious during Dashain

Tika (Vermilion) and Jamra are auspicious during Dashain

Starting from September 25 and ending at October 5, the 10 day celebration celebrates the overcoming of the evil by good.

The first day begins with the celebration of the Goddess Durga, meaning “the…

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Celebrating Indra Jatra & Kumari Jatra (Yenya Punhi) in Kathmandu

Yenya Punhi is one of the oldest festivals of Kathmandu, which is marked by a week long celebrations and feasting among the greater inhabitants of Kathmandu.

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~Origin & History~

Yenya Punhi (Nepali: येँयाः पुन्ही) is a festival belonging to the Newari community of Kathmandu. Celebrated as a street festival, Yenya Punhi carries a historic and mythological significance to the bygone Lichhavi and Malla Kingdom of Nepal.

It is an amass of cultural, religious and historic events. From the start till it ends, the city of Kathmandu is filled with processions of various kinds, street festivals and feasting. The celebration lasts for eight days from the 12th day of the bright fortnight to the 4th day of the dark fortnight, and it generally falls on the 5th month of Hindu calender, Bhadra.

The occasion is remembered for two different occurring, Indra Jatra and Kumari Jatra, where one celebrates the Hindu God Indra (God of Rain & heaven) and the other celebrates the arrival of virgin deity or a living goddess. Despite the overlapping of the two occasions, these are completely different festivals and has no resemblance.

Indra Jatra

Relic of Lord Ganesha carried during Indra Jatra

Relic of Lord Ganesha carried during Indra Jatra

Indra Jatra (Nepali: ईन्द्र जात्रा) was initiated during the Lichhavi period (300 Bc-1200 AD) in Nepal by the King Gunakamadeva. It generally celebrates God Indra for offering a boon in form of rainfall to the inhabitants of Kathmandu.

It is marked by masked dances of deities and demons, displays of sacred images and tableaus. The celebration starts from the erection of a linga (a wooden pole) at the center of Kathmandu Durbar Square. The erection of pole and the following events enacts the mythical event of imprisoning God Indra by the inhabitants of Kathmandu. This year it falls on September 8.

The Legend goes as;

Indra, the lord of heaven, was told by doctors that a rare jasmine flower was needed for the treatment of his dying mother, Dakini. Indra came to earth in search of the flower and found it in a tree in Kathmandu. Locals spied on the god in the act of plucking the flower and promptly seized him as a thief. Indra was tied to a pole and put on display at various places in the city for eight consecutive days, beginning with the Baman Duwadasi, according to the religious calendar, which usually falls in September-October.

Later, when Dakini herself came to know of her son’s arrest, she too came down and pleaded for her son’s release. Upon realizing that the ‘thief’ they had arrested was the god Indra, they immediately released him. Dakini then promised the residents a boon and the people, content with their lives under the king, only demanded regular rain in Kathmandu.

Kumari Jatra

Kumari Jatra (कुमारी जात्रा) celebrates the living goddess Kumari, a virgin deity. Started by King Jaya Prakash Mall of the Malla Kingdom in 1756, the festivals offers a tribute to the goddess Taleju Bhawani.

Kumari is a living goddess

Kumari is a living goddess recognized by the Newari community of Kathmandu

The procession of Kumari, accompanied by the relics of Bhairava and Ganesha, is carried out in a chariot throughout Kathmandu city for 3 days following the Indra Jatra. The first day procession leads through downtown Kathmandu, the second leads through the uptown and the final procession is carried out in the midtown Kathmandu.

The selection of Kumari from the arrays of eligible candidate is an elaborate affair. The operation is carried out in accord to the law dictated by Vajrayana Buddhism. The girls aged 4-7 are pre-screened and selected for a task involving meeting the deities in a dark room. The one who remain composed and calm during the process is considered the goddess. It’s believed that the spirit of Taleju Bhawani enters the body of the girl hence giving her the spiritual identity, and the term of being a goddess remains until her first menstruation or the first cut and bleeding.

The Legend goes as;

Taleju Bhawani was the king’s political and social advisor and would give important tips to the king on good governance. However, during one of their meetings, the king, overwhelmed by desire, attempted to rape the goddess inside the Taleju Bhawani temple, prompting the goddess to disappear and vow never to appear before the king again. Worried by the goddess’ proclamation, the king begged her to reconsider her decision. Taking sympathy on the poor king, Taleju pledged to reside within the Kumari, a virgin girl from the city. Jaya Prakash Malla identified the right Kumari and built a palace for her in the Hanumandhoka area. In honour of Taleju Bhawani and the Kumari, he began a separate procession called the Kumari Jatra, which happened to fall on the third day of Indra Jatra.

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