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#26: Celebrating रोपाइँ
Learning how to plant rice at the Nagarkot Community Homestay in Nepal.
Hello from Nepal! I’m writing this post from a 300-year-old house in Patan that miraculously survived the 2015 earthquake that left most structures around it (including the historic Patan Durbar Square) severely damaged. This 17th-century Newari house, with its intricately-carved wooden windows and winding inner staircase, stood the test of time (and tremors).
It’s been raining here all day, and although by the time this post is out I will be back home, I wanted to give you a peek into the behind-the-scenes of this writeup.
I came to Nepal for work two weeks ago and decided to stay on for a short workation (as has become customary). As many of you know, I did a ten-day trip to Nepal with my mother just last year (covered in issues #19, #20, and #21 of this newsletter), so the idea this time was to stay put in Patan and soak in the everyday life of the neighborhood. That’s exactly what I did, but I also managed to sneak in a day trip to Nagarkot (a hill station that’s 30 km from Kathmandu) with the Community Homestay Network.
Paddy, Puddles, and Paradise
Nagarkot is known for its scenic views, with 8 out of 13 Himalayan ranges of Nepal visible from here. The Nagarkot Community Homestay invited us to celebrate the Ropain festival with them — a monsoon festival that marks the beginning of the rice plantation season in Nepal. Ropain or रोपाइँ means rice planting in Nepali, and the festival (also known as Ropai Jatra) is celebrated on Asar 15 or Dhaan Diwas (National Paddy Day) every year. The festival symbolizes the hope for a prosperous harvest and abundant food for the community. The day starts with pooja, after which the community members head to the paddy fields where they start planting rice, all the while singing and dancing to Nepali folk songs.
As a wannabe farmer, I was delighted to participate in the festival and try my hand at rice farming. The Community Homestay Network team and I rolled up our track pants and got into the paddy fields, our feet quickly getting sucked into the wet soil and insects occasionally crawling over our feet. It was a struggle to walk from one end to the other without slipping, and many of the community members and guests used the opportunity to sling mud at each other and play in the puddles. It was thankfully a cloudy day with a light drizzle all morning, ensuring the weather remained pleasant throughout the day. Even then, most of us city-breds were exhausted within an hour of bending down and planting rice.
The festivities also include eating dahi-chiura (beaten rice with yogurt) and other condiments like fruit and aloo ka achaar, and I got to taste this too.
The Nagarkot Community Homestay is located in a serene part of Nagarkot, away from the big hotels and resorts. It’s a cluster of basic homestays run by the local villagers and offers travelers the chance to connect with the community and experience the local way of life. We were treated to a scrumptious lunch after our day out in the fields, followed by a walk to the nearby suspension bridge that offers breathtaking views of the surrounding forest-laden mountains.
Although I spent just a day in Nagarkot, sometimes that’s all you need to experience something different from the usual travel itinerary.
Catch me on the Musafir Stories Podcast
I’m delighted to be back on the Musafir Stories Podcast — this time for their 150th episode featuring my last Nepal trip. You can listen to it here (or on any other podcast streaming app):
Have a great week ahead! 🌻