As a traveler, I have seen much. I have been to the foot of the highest mountain, the lap of stunning valleys, the thick of the greenest jungles and the heart of the wildest rivers. I have walked through the chill of the snow and tested myself in the scorching heat of the plains.
So this episode I am relating here, feels too easy, a walk in the park. Or rather, a plunge in the mud. Literally. It is my travel tale on Ropain, the first day of rice plantation, celebrated in Nepal. The day usually falls on a pre-monsoon season, allowing the planted saplings to take root before the big showers hit. Nepal is a true heaven on Earth. It has an agriculture based economy. Though younger generations are mostly involved in different professions now, by and large, agriculture still sustains the country’s economy.
On 29th June 2013, or 15th Ashad 2070 as according to the Nepali Calendar, I woke up at 5 a.m. to the bark of Junge, my fierce little dog. It was a cloudy morning and I could hear the light drizzle of rain outside my window.
My friends from Bastola Gaun, Nagarkot had invited me to join them for the big day today, the first day of rice plantation for the season. On this day, despite Nepal’s ethnic, geographic, cultural, religious and political diversities, the country comes together to celebrate Ropain. People jump into the muddy fields and plant rice amidst a lot of singing, game playing and rejoicing. A feast follows thereafter.
Bastola Gaun comes 20 km ahead of the Nagarkot view tower, from Kathmandu. Developed as a homestay community, this village is buzzing with warm and highly energetic people. Tourists love coming to this place because the friendliness of the locals here is infectious.
I reached Bastola Gaun at around 11:40 a.m. after a couple of stopovers at the fuel station and in Bhaktapur. I got a big hearty welcome. Somebody ran off to get me drinking water straight from the Dhunge Dhara, a stone carved water spout, which you can see at many traditional places in Nepal. The water felt cool and sweet as it ran down my throat, effectively quenching my thirst.
Soon came the women of the village and they started preparing for the feast. Among other food items that people prepare for Ropain, it is an age-old tradition to eat Dahi Chiura on this day, a mix of Yoghurt and Beaten Rice.
Men started plowing the fields and I followed suit. Stepping bare feet into the mud felt as if I were reaffirming my connection with nature - with mother earth. Women joined us with rice saplings and together, we started the Ropain.
For me the experience on Ashad 15, 2070, was precious. It was highly enjoyable and I did manage to capture some of that in film, while we played in the mud, sang songs, planted rice and delighted in our food once the Ropain was done.
My name is Apurwa Rayamajhi, and as a traveler, I have seen much of the new. But a few traditions paradoxically, serve to revitalize me in their very repetitions. To say the least, Ropain grounds me. And that arguably is the point from where a moment yields many beautiful journeys.
So if you are travelling to Nepal, I assure you, just like me, you would want to feel the ground under your feet. Come experience Ropain.
Text and Images: Apurwa Rayamajhi