The annual Kathmandu Valley exodus

Nepal’s capital Kathmandu is the most sought after city in the country. Along with Bhaktapur and Lalitpur, the three cities located in Kathmandu Valley account for nearly 10% of the nation’s population.

But every year the valley witnesses a mass exodus of its residents. This happens during Dashain, the biggest and longest festival of this Hindu-dominant country — the festival coincides with Durga Puja and Dussehra celebrations in India.

Most residents who have roots across Nepal leave to celebrate with families by taking part in religious rituals, sacrificing animals and birds, playing cards, feasting, riding swings or flying kites.

Such is the extent of this temporary mass migration that Kathmandu’s bustling and polluted streets become almost empty and the noisy city becomes quieter and cleaner for about a week when government offices, schools, industries and businesses remain closed.

Public transport within the valley comes to a near standstill, taxis are difficult to come across and since most shops and business establishments down shutters — it’s difficult to get essentials.

And if one plans to eat out, they would have to hunt for restaurants as most remain closed due to paucity of staff. Newspaper addicts are also denied their daily morning dose of news.

There’s no exact figure on how many leave the valley during the festival, but estimates say the number could be anywhere between 60 to 80% of the total population of 2.5 million (2011 census).

Transporters say nearly 1.5 million residents have left since Ghatasthapana-the beginning of the festival on October 16 this year. The biggest exodus was on Sunday when 3,500 buses and other vehicles left the valley — the figure is more than three times the number of vehicles ferrying people daily.

Those having own means of transport departed in their cars, SUVs, scooters and motorcycles.

The exodus is good business for domestic carriers too. As a result of the rush for tickets, discounts on air tickets are discontinued and all airlines increase flight frequency or provide charter services on busy routes.

Residents start returning after Dashami, the last day of the festival. Slowly taxis start reappearing, shops open and Kathmandu Valley returns to normal with reappearance of traffic snarls, noise and pollution.


One Response to “The annual Kathmandu Valley exodus”
  1. Dirgha Raj Prasai says:

    Good Morning from Kathmandu!

    Yes ! Dashain ( Dasahara) is ending from tomorrow-(28 Oct-2012) in Nepal. Due to this great festival, Kathmandu became silent, all the bus services, micro-bus had closed and all the newspapers also were closed.
    You know- Having diverse cohesive communities, Nepal has built up as a nation in a long historical process. Nepal was worthy to be bowed down by Hindus all over the world. This is the highest honor Nepal could receive from the international community. Nepal’s prestige and honor would elevate further if this country is declared as “Hindu and Buddhist” country, instead of a secular state. In Nepal, there are many festivals which have been traditionally people’s oriented. Among all the festivals- Dashain (Vijaya Dashami) is a traditional cultural festivity. We are proud to be Nepali. We want to be free of foreign intervention pertaining to our national unity, our traditional culture, and we will be free. Everyone has the right to follow their own religion.
    Hindus and Buddhists celebrate Dashain as national festival. Buddhist families in Stupas also celebrate Dashain cheerfully. According to them Lord Buddha has said Sanatan Dharma is chief religion. They also believe that there should be no penetration of religion and politics in traditional festivals. Buddhist Chandramukhi Lama says-’Dhashain is national heritage. Buddhists accept Red (few white) Tika on forehead. Whatever colour it is, it is symbol of victory of truth over untruth. Gyanibajra Lama (79 years), Chief of Buaudhha has residence aside of Stupa. He welcomes his guests in Dashain with Tika and Jamara. He says as that of Hindu tradition, they (Buddhists) also celebrate Dhashin with Tika and Jamara. Similarly, Nepalese Muslim community also respect Dashain. Muslim community in Nepalgunj celebrate Dashain taking Red Tika and Yellow Jamara as Prasad of Dev. This is an example of respect of one religion to another.

    Dalai Lama, in an interview to Panchjanya Hindi Weekly (Nov 22, 1992), told that he believes Hinduism and Buddhism as brothers. These two religions follow many similarities like Samadhi, Yoga, Tantra etc which were adopted by Buddhists from Hindus. Similarly Bhutanese former King Jigme Singhe Wangchuk spoke on Dashain “I actively participate in Dhashain. Our goddess (Ista-devata) is Mahalaxmi and we worship Shiva and Vishnu.” This of King Jigme was published as interview on ‘The Times of India’ in January 7, 1993. Since the tradition of people to equally participate on worship to Shiva and Buddha, Nepal never encountered conflicts among followers of these two religions.
    A cultural schlar Gopal Sengupta writes in Weekly Blitz (Bangaladesh) ‘People on Earth were already disturbed with loads of dissatisfactions; and it became worse when Mahishasura came with his evil power. Gods in heaven were assaulted and finally demons seized the deities and took their place. The green demon in the disguise of gigantic buffalo with fierce iron weapons attacked the King of the Lords Indra. The Lord was defeated in almost no time and Mahishasura won the throne of heaven, driving out the gods from heaven. They went to the trinity deities Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwar (Lord Shiva) and prayed for themselves and the people on Earth. This invasion of heaven by Mahishasura and his army enraged the Supreme Gods. Flashes flew, thunderbolts tore the skies apart and fires illuminated the three world heaven, the earth, and the nether world with glaring beams of light. The supreme powers merged together and formed a shape of a young Goddess, who was empowered with eternal power, three eyes and ten hands with a celestial weapon in each, mounted on a lion with awesome power. Her exquisitely beautiful look with glowing face and wide-open eyes added a special glory to her personality. She was the one and only one in the whole universe who could abolish the evil power by killing Mahishasura. She was named Durga the Goddess of war, invincible lord of power and symbol of goodness. Durga means” unattainable” in Sanskrit. She is also known Mahishasura Mardini (killer), because she was the only power to demolish Mahishasura. She is Maha Devi, the Great Goddess, who is treated as the Mother of all mortal beings as well as the divine powers.
    Since time infinitive, Dashain is celebrated as a widespread festival and as a symbol of power. According to Hindu mythology, an ogre ‘Rakshes’ (monsters) by the name of Mahisasur had caused pain and suffering amongst humans. Then goddess Durga Bhawani killed the monster to relieve the humans. Dashain is the festival symbolizing victory of truth over evil. The worshipping of the Nawadurga Bhawani during the Nawaratra (nine night of worship) from Ghatastapana is an ancient tradition. It is mentioned in the Devi-Puran-’Ram had proposed of launching war against Rawan in Lanka on the occasion of Bijayadashami in Ashwin Shukla Nawaratri’. Similarly, it is mentioned in the Padma-Puran- ‘Rama had killed Rawan on the day of Chaitra Shukla Chaturdashi.’ It is our glorious national festival. WE hope after the Dashai. we extend good wishes each other and hope prosperous future of all.
    So, in Nepal, we celebrate Dashai (Dasahar) and Tiwar-Dipawali ( Diwali) as a national festivals
    Thank you.
    Dirgha Raj Prasai


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