Newar festival Ngalake begins

Kathmandu, January 15

The Ngalake festival began today, with prayer offerings at Pashupatinath temple, and a performance of Navadurga naach in Suryamadi, Bhaktapur.

Ngalake, meaning 'fishing', is a festival celebrated by the Newar community that formally starts after Maghe Sankraanti and is performed until Bhalbal Shrawan Asthami. Throughout this period, the Navadurga naach is performed in various parts of Bhaktapur.

Cultural expert Tejeswor Babu Gongah said that in the naach, performers wear masks and dance as the Navadurgas, the nine forms of Goddess Durga. The highlight of the performance for children is after the performers depicting Goddess Mahakali and Swet Bhairab leave the stage for 'Simba' and 'Dumba', who play a female lion and a female tiger.

Traditionally, children tease the two characters and play around with them, and the characters chase after children. If the characters catch them, the children have to pay them money to be set free.

Sailesh Lage (10) was among the hundreds of children in Suryamadi shouting and chanting at Simba and Dumba. He said, "I love this festival. It always falls during our winter vacation, so we get to participate in the fun."

Gongah said encouraging children's participation may help increase interest in Newari culture in them, thus helping protect the culture. "This festival attempts to teach Newari culture and norms to children," he said.

"The naach will be performed in 21 wards of Bhaktapur municipality: Suryamadi Dabali, Dattatreya, Kwathandau, Gachhen, Dachhutole, Nag Pokhari, Inacho, Golmadi, Yachhen, Taumadi, Talako, Pottery Square, Nasmana, Gahiti, Quachhen, Tibukchhen, Sukuldhoka, Durbar square, Khauma, and Ittachhen," informed Krishna Prasad Banmala, a member of the Navadurga naach organising team. He added that the performing troupe would also travel to Sanga, Changu Narayan, Nala, Banepa, Dhulikhel, Panauti, Shreekhanda, Kharpu and nearby areas  before returning to the municipality.