Nepal is a country of ethnic diversities .Different ethnic communities follow their own traditions and cultures. Fairs and festivals have been a part of each and every ethnic community. Thus one or another kind of fair and festivals are observed throughout the year. Most of the fairs and festivals people observe here are based on religion, culture and mythology.
Many of us are familiar with these festivals taking place in our localities but not with those that people or community residing in other parts of the country. Some of the festivals marked by people in the hilly regions of country are unique and different from others.
Sakela is the biggest festival, Kirats of Nepal celebrate. Ubhauli and Udhauli are the two main festivals of Sakela. The word Udhauli is conjunction of the word Uhdo + Auli which means Udhauli or downward. While Ubhauli is a word made up by Ubho + Auli which means Ubhauli or upward. Udhauli and Ubhauli festivals are celebrated in two different seasons (summer and winter) of the year. While Udhauli festival is marked in the month of Mangsir (November/December). Ubhauli festival is marked in the month of Baisakh (April-May). The Kiratis are the inhabitants of the eastern hilly regions – Bhojpur, Khotang, Dharan and Dhankuta .
According to the Holy book of Kirat ‘Mundhum’, a year of 365 days is divided into two phases Ubhauli (going up) and Udhauli (going down). The birds migrates from one place from other in these period as well in old days people used to move uphill and downhill during these seasons.
How do we celebrate Ubhauli
Traditionally the Kirat people used to climb up to the mountains in summer to avoid the heat and malaria (epidemic) after performing the Ubhauli rituals. During these traditional rituals they worship their ancestors and nature, seeking better wealth and crops. At the start of winter with similar rituals for Udhauli they used to move down the hill. The Kirat have strong belief in dead ancestors and the nature. They believe ancestors would get angry when they are not properly worshipped. These rituals are practice same way these days too. However, practice or trend of climbing up and down during summer and winter has been stopped these days.
In the history of Nepal Kirats are noted to be the first rulers. King Yalamber, the Kirat King was the first King of Nepal. Kirati live mainly in two different parts of Nepal. They are called Wallo and Pallo Kirat. Wallo Kirat is the Western areas of Arun River. Pallo Kirat is the Eastern part of Arun River. Arun River is on the eastern part of Nepal. Mechi and Koshi zones of Nepal are also highly habituated with Kirat population.
Story behind Ubahauli
According to Kirat Mythology Paruhang lived in Heaven. One day he saw beautiful girl named Sumnima walking in the earth and fell in love with her. He made a beautiful comb and gifted it to Sumnima. They both got married. After Sumnima gave birth to four children Paruhang left his family to live in the hut on the bank of Dudhkoshi River and did not return for a long time. One day while searching for food Sumnima found a creeper. She tasted the creeper and found it to be full of power and happiness. She then made a Buti out of it. The buti has high power. Whenever anybody put the buti on he/she used to talk only truth.
One day all of sudden Paruhang came back. He tried to console Sumnima but she did not believe him. So in order to get truth from him Sumnima asked him to put on the buti. With the help of Buti Sumnima knew that Paruhang was looking at the heaven and earth from the top of Chomolongma (Mt. Everest). She also knew that he was meditating and visited entire universe, he then promised never to leave her again. This made Sumnima very happy. To express her joy she started to dance.
The dance of Sumnima became the great Sakela Dance. To protect this tradition people dance to find their true love of their life. The greatest events of this festival are the Sakela Ubhauli dance. A large mass of people of different ages wear traditional dresses and perform dance together in circle. Male leader known as Silimangpa and female leader called Silimangma control the dance and other follow them. The dance style known as Silli reflects different aspects of human life and human relation with nature. This dancing ritual starts with the Chula puja. Chula is Kitchen, the source of food and life.
The main leader Nakchhong performs a ritual where a hen is sacrificed in a sacred place known as Sakela Than (place), which is usually under a sacred tree. After the completion of the pooja, Nakchhong give signal to start the dance. He himself starts to dance to offer others to dance. Silimangpa and Silimangma guide the dance Silies according to the beat of the dhol and Jhyamta. Dhol and Jhyamta are Nepali tradition musical Instruments.