Sunday, December 25, 2016

‘Nepal Bhasa Patrika’: The Pioneering Daily Newspaper in Nepal Bhasa

By Dr Rabin Man Shakya
President, Newah American Buddhist Association

Nepal was totally isolated from the outside world during the Rana autocracy, even as Nepal was not colonized by any foreign power during her entire history. The coup d’ etat orchestrated by Jung Bahadur Rana in 1846 empowered the Ranas to usurp power and rule the nation until 1951. Rana autocracy’s downfall at the hands of the popular upheaval in the modern history of Nepal had stunning implications for the Nepalese people.

But before the downfall of the Rana oligarchy, Nepal was under the repressive rule of Rana tyranny. There was no press freedom and no freedom of expression. Lack of conducive political conditions and specter of Rana regime’s repression — those were some of the reasons that prompted some Nepal Bhasa advocates to embark on the first “magazine publication venture” in Nepal Bhasa not from within the territory of Nepal, but from abroad.

Therefore, if the “Buddha Dharma” which was the first monthly publication edited and published by Dharmaditya Dharmacharya  in Kolkata, British India in 1925 AD was like a ‘bell’ that alarmed the Newah people against the Rana regime for the cause of Theravada Buddhism and Nepal Bhasa language, the ‘Nepal Bhasa Patrika’ , which was the first Nepal Bhasa daily newspaper edited and published by Phatte Bahadur Singh in 1955 in Kathmandu, worked like a revolutionary ‘buglar’ who blew the trumpet for disseminating radical views on linguistic and ethnic freedom during the repressive Panchayat period. The fact that the Nepal Bhasa Patrika was able to come out for 28  consecutive years continuously not only during the short parliamentary democracy period but during the autocratic Panchayat system was a testimony of its commitment to the Nepal Bhasa journalism.

The Nepal Bhasa Patrika was an one-man-show of its founding editor Phatte Bahadur Singh in the beginning, and the newspaper was printed in a primitive letter press at Bhedasingh, Kathmandu, and it  usually used to come out everyday with four pages but sometimes with two pages too. Nepal Bhasa Patrika had an unprecedented historical significance. The newspaper had witnessed a number of vicissitudes and political upheavals in the nation ruled by the Shah Kings.

Just as significantly, however, the 28 years history of the first Nepal Bhasa newspaper mirrors the trajectory of the struggle of the Newah people for the linguistic freedom, movement for secularism and due recognition of Nepal Sambat. Nepal Bhasa Patrika was the first and pioneering daily newspaper in Nepal Bhasa, and the historical significance of the Nepal Bhasa Patrika lies on being the first daily newspaper in Nepal Bhasa. Therefore, the role of the Nepal Bhasa Patrika in enhancing and enriching the Nepal Bhasa journalism is immense and tremendous. Actually, it will not be an exaggeration to assert that the history of modern Nepal Bhasa journalism is closely inter-related with the history of the Nepal Bhasa Patrika itself. Judging by the news stories, editorials and commentaries published in the Nepal Bhasa Patrika, the daily newspaper was a bullhorn for middle class Newah people in the Kathmandu valley.

Phatte Bahadur Singh, the editor of the Nepal Bhasa Patrika, was born in 1902 in Kathmandu to father Kuldip Singh and mother Dev Lani Singh. The pioneer poet of Nepal Bhasa late Siddhi Das Mahaju was the grand father of late Singh. Well, Nepal was under the misrule and tyranny of the Rana rulers until 1951. As a matter of fact, suppression of Nepal Bhasa started immediately after the advent of Shah dynasty in 1768 AD. It is to be noted that the coup d’ etat orchestrated by Jung Bahadur Rana in 1846 AD further paved the way for brutal and repressive hereditary Rana prime ministership which lasted for more than a century (1846-1951). Except for the Mulki Ain, there were no press laws and regulations during the notorious rule of Rana generalissimo. More often than not, the words coming from the mouth of the Rana prime minister used to be the ‘law’.

As morning shows the day, young Phatte was interested in poems and writings since the childhood. But his first poem “Bamalagu Chaal” (Bad move) was published in “Buddha Dharma Wa Nepal Bhasa” only in 1930 AD. The period of century old Rana regime was the period that was void of press freedom, freedom of expression and literary activities. The Ranas were notorious  for harshly punishing the people for  participating in the political and social activities. Late Singh was not an exception. An anthology of poems by various poets “Nepali Vihar” was edited and published by late Singh in 1939. The magnum opus was printed in Bettiah, British India.

That was a really challenging act. Publication of undesired materials was considered a criminal offense that could result in life in prison with confiscation of properties. Late Singh was incarcerated from 1941 to 1945 for his literary activities.

The editor of the first Nepal Bhasa daily newspaper has had significant triumphs in his long journalistic innings. In 1962, late Phatte Bahadur Singh was elected the president of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) the umbrella organization of the Nepalese journalists, which was then called the Nepal Journalists Association (NJA). Late Singh also held the leadership position of Nepal Bhasa Parishad from 1955 to 1960. Late Singh was one of the members of the Nepalese journalists’ delegation that had visited the former Soviet Union in 1957. 

It is to be noted that the Nepal Bhasa Patrika was brought out from Kathmandu on September 28, 1955 and continued to be published until 1983. About two  and half decades  of the existence of the newspaper was during the authoritarian Panchayat system. It was the time when editors and journalists were reminded not to publish information, news and views that could jeopardize the “so-called” national sensitivities. Nepal was officially proclaimed a Hindu Kingdom. The newspapers could not openly and directly say anything in support of secularism. But the Nepal Bhasa Patrika always indirectly campaigned for ethnic freedom and secularism. News and views on Buddhism and Buddhist activities were abundantly disseminated by the Nepal Bhasa Patrika. 

As soon as the Panchayat system of governance was introduced, the Nepal Bhasa daily news broadcasting was stopped by Radio Nepal. Later on, a radio program “Jeevan Daboo” was also scrapped. The study of Nepal Bhasa as an optional language in the high schools was also discontinued. These were just the tips of the iceberg. The press had an important role to play to denounce such activities of the Panchayat government. Nepal Bhasa Patrika and some other Nepali newspapers deplored those government acts but they all fell on deaf ears. The Nepal Bhasa Patrika as such was unabashedly anti-Panchayat. Nepal Bhasa Patrika was clearly not shy about disseminating  news and views on Nepal Bhasa movement that would displease the Panchayat stalwarts. 

One of the distinctive features of the journalistic period during the Panchayat system is that while the opposition newspapers, which included the Nepal Bhasa Patrika, were busy doing the “mission journalism” playing the watchdog role, the pro-Panchayat newspapers were playing lapdog roles at the hands of the powerful regime stalwarts. 

Similarly, one of the distinctive characteristics of the Nepalese print media during the Panchayat period was publishing speculative and sensational pieces of news. Various Nepalese newspapers were found disseminating speculative pieces or overhyping some political events. But the Nepal Bhasa Patrika always distanced itself from gossips, speculations and sensationalism.

Even during the authoritarian Panchayat  regime so many publications existed, competition was intense. Criticism of monarchy and the Panchayat system was severely dealt with, but those— which were able to indirectly denounce and criticize the Panchayat system and its leaders— sold the most newspapers and the Nepal Bhasa Patrika was also one of them. 

Therefore, during the tyrannical Panchayat period, Nepal Bhasa Patrika was increasingly becoming a household name among the Newah community in the Kathmandu Valley, and the journalistic legacy it bore was incomparable. 

Given the lackluster performance of the media lapdogs and their pro-Panchayat agenda and seemingly sycophantic attitudes of those newspapers, the role played by the newspapers like Nepal Bhasa Patrika and other anti-Panchayat Nepali newspapers was really formidable. And to be anti-Panchayat during the Panchayat period was like playing with fire. The newspaper had to face the trials and tribulations for being a true voice of the Newah people. Its editor Phatte Bahadur Singh was interrogated and even intimidated by the Panchayat government for what the newspaper wrote. It was obvious that the accusations and charges made against the newspaper by the authoritarian Panchayat government were trumped up and possibly politically motivated.

The economic challenges and problems which were faced by the Nepal Bhasa Patrika vis-a vis other  Nepali newspapers at that time were in deed  palpable since it had to compete in the news stands with the Nepali newspapers with more resources, readership and influence.

During the Panchayat regime, the political parties and organizations were not allowed to function. It was the media which had to work as the platforms for disseminating political awareness. Many anti-Panchayat newspapers including the Nepal Bhasa Patrika always raised their voice for more press freedom, freedom of expression and restoration of democracy.

Taking into consideration the fact that there  simply were no TV and Internet at that time (not even radio programs for Newah listeners), the Nepal Bhasa Patrika was the only newspaper to which the Newah readers could rely on for news, views and other information in their own language. During the Panchayat period, the newspapers had an important role to play to create an environment in order to save the nation from the tyranny, to wage the war for the press freedom and freedom of expression. It was at that juncture that the importance of the Nepal Bhasa Patrika, as the only one newspaper for the Newah community, had been increased greatly by the spread of awareness of the united Nepal Bhasa movement. If we go by the assumption that a local newspaper in your own mother tongue is a key source for local information, then the only Nepal Bhasa daily newspaper had a major impact on the lives of the Newah people in the Kathmandu valley.

Quintessentially, Nepal Bhasa Patrika was a daily newspaper which championed the cause of Nepal Bhasa development and linguistic freedom in Nepal, which is why there is no doubt that the first Nepal Bhasa newspaper was an effective voice that was instrumental in disseminating news stories and views about Nepal Bhasa movement and about the activities of the local Newah organizations.

The Nepal Bhasa Patrika has always been about the community events of the Newah people in the Kathmandu valley. Six decades ago, Nepal Bhasa Patrika’s visionary founder Phatte Bahadur Singh introduced Newah readers to a new kind of newspaper, one that gave Newah readers news and views in their own language and the materials they could not find in other Nepali newspapers: clear, concise and unbiased. Well, the pro-Nepal Bhasa bias   of the newspaper was always palpable. But given the step-motherly attitude of the Panchayat government vis-a-vis the Nepal Bhasa and Nepal Sambat, that bias was was genuine, relevant and time tested.

The antagonism that flared between the anti and pro Nepal Bhasa movement during the Panchayat regime and the fight against the Bahunbadi elites appeared to have been the focus of the Nepal Bhasa Patrika.

The struggle of the Newah people for the equal linguistic freedom and activities to bolster movement for recognition of Nepal Sambat were reflected in the contents of the Nepal Bhasa Patrika: in the news stories, commentaries, editorial and letters to editor.

As soon as Nepal was declared a republic in 2006, journalistic scenario in Nepal Bhasa started to flourish. Yet that optimistic scenario is doing little to duly recognize Nepal Bhasa and Nepal Sambat. Therefore, it is a bitter truth there are too many Nepal Bhasa newspapers and periodicals today but too little national will to duly recognize Nepal Bhasa and Nepal Sambat.

Today, Nepal is a democratic republic. But the democratically elected government is not paying due attention to the peoples’ woes. The ethnic problem is enflaming  the nation, but the government does not give  a damn about it. This is a testimony that the ruling as well as the opposition parties are not serious about the nation and the people, they are just preoccupied with their partisan agenda of “sticking to power” and enforcing the grand designs of “changing the government.”

Looking at the modus operandi of the mainstream Nepalese political parties, it looks like they lack the democratic culture and political credibility. The mainstream political parties are still ill-prepared and lack credibility to deal with wide ranging issues including the ethnic movement with the demand of identity.

(Dr Shakya is a former lecturer of journalism at the People's Campus, Ratna Rajya Laxmi Campus and some other journalism schools in Kathmandu and also a former associate editor of The Rising Nepal. This article was originally published in 'Chicago Newa' 1137 Nepal Sambat brought out by Newa American Dabu, Chicago, USA.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Yomari Punhi: A Day to Eat Yomari Dumplings

Rabin Man Shakya

Punhi means full moon day in Nepal Bhasa, the language of the Newah people of Nepal. Yomari is a steamed dumpling which is made from rice flour with chaku (a kind of sweet and solid molasses) and crushed sesame seeds.

Yomari Punhi which is one of the popular festivals of the Newah people of Nepal is being celebrated, this year,  with a lot of enthusiasm on Dec 13, 2016.

Today, unlike 20 years ago,  the celebration of Yomari Punhi is not just confined to Nepal, it is celebrated by the Newah people across the world.

And, yes, going by the posts in the social media sites, today this festival is not only observed in the family level but in the community level also in various countries of the world.

It goes without saying that Newah heritage is full of myths, legends and folklores. And according to one of the mythologies related to Yomari Punhi, the emergence and origin of the celebration kicked off from Panchal Nagar which is Panauti today. The myth goes on to say that a married farmer couple in Panchal Nagar had an unexpected and unprecedented paddy yield and that they made a new kind of bread that was made of the rice flour and was shared with the fellow village folks who really appreciated and loved it and hence the name  Yomari (favorite bread).

According to the same folklore, the farmer couple presented Yomari to God of Wealth - Kuber who was walking by incognito. The God  of Wealth rewarded the farmer couple with the riches.

I remember in my childhood days, my mother and  my late grand mother used to make not only just regular Yomaris but  also the Yomaris  in the shape of Gods and Goddesses.

I am one of those Newahs who is quite nostalgic for the Newah traditions. I remember during my childhood days, we as kids used to go to our neighborhood  to ask for Yomari and used to chant the traditional rhyme:

Yomari Chwamu
Uki Dune Haku
Byusa Maku
Mabyusa Phaku
Byumha Lyase
Mabyumha Buri Kuti

Friday, November 25, 2016

Nepa Chhen celebrates Thanksgiving Day in Portland

Rabin Man Shakya
Advisor, Nepa Chhen, Portland.

This year's Thanksgiving dinner was organized by Nepa Chhen, a non-profit community organization of the Nepalese Portlanders, at Nekusing Memorial Theater (US West Coast Taekwondo Hollywood) in Portland amidst a program on Thursday, Nov 24, 2016.

This, probably, was the first Thanksgiving potluck dinner organized in the community level in the history of Nepalese diaspora in Portland, and the program was attended by about 40 Nepalese Portlanders.

Among them were the members and activists of Nepa Chhen, Nepali Association of Oregon and NRNA-NCC-USA Oregon Chapter.

Nepa Chhen's president Rajesh Maharjan honored Neelam Pradhananga (Australia), founder and global coordinator of 'Clean up Nepal' and Sajan Chhetri (California), volunteer emergency response coordinator at DirectRelief,  by wrapping Khada on them.

In his welcome remarks, Daya Shakya, advisor of Nepa Chhen and vice president of World Newah Organization said:" Thanksgiving dates back to 1621, the year after the Puritans arrived in Massachusetts, determined to practice their dissenting religion without interference and the indigenous Indians taught them how to grow corns and other harvests."

Addressing the gathering and making a presentation, Neelam Pradhananga of 'Clean up Nepal' said:"The problems and challenges facing our environment are often so complex and overwhelming that it is only natural for us to think about it for a while, shake our heads at the perceived inadequacies and sweep the problems under the rug - out of sight, out of mind."

Neelam went on to say:"With Nepalese cities facing unchecked urbanization, inadequate solid waste management services are becoming even more glaringly obvious."

Speaking on the occasion and making another presentation, Sajan Chhetri of 'DirectRelief' said: "Our organization is committed to spending 100 percent of the remaining Nepal donated funds on our Nepal response. These funds will be used to strengthen Nepal's healthcare infrastructure, specifically focusing on the provision of services to the most vulnerable people in society, and help to prepare the country for future disasters."

Thanksgiving dinner almost always includes some of the foods like roast turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes,  green beans, pumpkin pie etc. Nepa Chhen's potluck Thanksgiving dinner had it all. But there was more than that: Rice, Baji, Aalu Achar, Lain Achar, chicken curry, chicken barbecue, Dhau and so on.

Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday in the US and in Canada. Thanksgiving Day is the second biggest traditional and cultural holiday of the Americans after the Christmas. Thanksgiving is the fourth Thursday in November, but majority of Americans take days of vacation on the following Friday to make a four-day weekend, during which they may travel long distances to visit their nearest and dearest.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Mha Puja, Nepal Sambat 1137 observed in Portland

 Dr Rabin Man Shakya
President, Newah American Buddhist Association

This year's group Mha Puja  organized by Nepa Chhen kicked off Saturday evening, Nov 5, 2016 at Nekusing Memorial  Theater, (US West Coast Taekwondo Hollywood) Portland amidst chanting of mantras  by Newah Buddhist Guruju Prajwal Bajracharya.

The Mha Puja rituals are intended for the prosperity and longevity of life for the participants.

In what has become a  good tradition, the annual Mha Puja and Nepal Sambat new year celebration provides the Newah as well as non-Newah community members a fun way to share greetings and interact with each other. Obviously, Mha Puja celebration is also a sure way to enliven and enhance the Newah traditions and customs,  demonstrating the aspirations of the Nepalese Portlanders to keep up the Newah traditions alive.

The Mha Puja program in Portland focused on the rituals and traditions of the famous Newah festival. The main highlight of Mha Puja is the worshipping of the Mandala to purify the soul and mind.

Actually, in Nepal Bhasa, the language of the Newah people of Nepal, Mha Puja literally means the 'worship of the self'

In fact, observing of collective Mha Puja by Nepa Chhen in Portland is a very constructive and praiseworthy tradition.

Celebration of the Mha Puja and Nepal Sambat new year 1137 in Portland like in other major cities of the United States was a testimony to the fact that Nepalese Portlanders are always aware about making it not just a national celebration of Nepal, but also an international event.  This is the proof of keenness of Nepalese Portlanders to observe major festivals and national days of Nepal.

Over eighty Mha Puja Mandalas were drawn on the floor for each participant. Cheerful Nepalese Portlanders were seen sitting cross-legged in front of their respective Mandalas. Notable participants on the occasion were Daya Shakya, vice president of World Newah Organization and Diwakar Maharjan, president of NRNA - NCC - USA Oregon Chapter. Most of the cultural and ritual procedures were followed while performing the collective Mha Puja ceremony.

The Nepalese gentlemen were seen wearing 'Newah Haku Tapuli' and 'sakkali dhaka ya tapuli', while the Nepalese ladies were dressed in Haku Patasi and other sarees. The Nepalese Portlanders were seen wishing each other Happy Mha Puja and Nhu Dan Ya Bhintuna.

As instructed by Buddhist Guruju, the  Mha Puja Mandala was worshipped by each participant by offering flowers, by sprinkling and stamping colored paste 'sinha' on the Mandala. All the Mha Puja participants were given a dab of colored paste 'sinha' on their foreheads, provided sacred thread 'kwokha'  and a bag of 'masala pwo' and fruits. Then, the Nepalese Portlanders were presented boiled egg, small fish and wine which was poured down from a Newah style 'anti' into a small 'khola' and got refill three times in a row followed by a 'samay baji'. After that, a dinner  was also served.

There is no doubt that Mha Puja is a quintessential part of rich Newah culture. It is an interesting coincidence that Mha Puja, a part of Swanti Nakha, is performed to purify mind, and this cultural ritual is annually held on the day of new year celebrations of Nepal Sambat

It is to be noted that Nepal Sambat - a national lunar calendar of Nepal -kicked off in 879 AD during the rule of King Raghav Dev to commemorate the reimbursement of all the debts of the Nepalese people by a Newah trader Sankhadhar Sakhwa who was declared a national  luminary of Nepal on Nov 18, 1999 AD by the then His Majesty's Government of Nepal.

Last but not least, the fourth anniversary of Nepa Chhen - an organization committed to enrich and enhance Nepalese culture and traditions - was also celebrated by cutting a large cake.

Above  all, international bodies of the Newah people like - World Newah Organization - and prominent associations of the Newahs in America -- Newa American Dabu, Chicago, Nepa Pasa Pucha Amerikaye (NPPA) and Newah Organization of America (NOA) etc have been playing a very tremendous role in disseminating the significance of various festivals of the Newah people.

**Dr Shakya, a Portland based writer, is former assistant editor at the RSS, former associate editor at The Rising Nepal and former lecturer of journalism at the Peoples Campus. He is also advisor of Nepa Chhen, a Portland based non-profit and Education Director of NRN-NCC-USA Oregon chapter.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

11th International Open Friendship Taekwondo Championship Event Organized in Portland

Rabin Man Shakya and Rajendra Gyawali

In what appeared  to be an amazing achievement, the UK taekwondo team led by Master Rastra Rai has, for the second consecutive time, become able to occupy the number one slot by bagging 12 gold medals at the 11th International Open Friendship Taekwondo Championships (IOFTC) held here at the International Convention Center in Portland, Oregon Saturday.

Prior to that, the UK team was also able to occupy the numero uno ranking at the 10th IOFTC games held in London in 2014.

Likewise, the Hong Kong team and Sri Lanka team have been able to occupy the second and third places at the IOFTC events.

Shirish Gurung, Jitiram Rai and Angela Lingden bagged two gold medals each and Prashant Rai, Sindhiya Rai, Mona Ale, Simon Ale, Resham Rai and Aayush Gurung of the Great Britain team won one gold medal each at the 11th IOFTC event.

Similarly, a father and a son from Hong Kong, Dil Paluwa and Bidip Paluwa, have maintained an interesting record by bagging one gold each at the event.

Member Secretary of the National Sports Council of Nepal Mr Keshab Kumar Bista gave away the cups and certificates to the winning teams amid a gala ceremony yesterday in Portland.

In one of the open contests, the match between Binay Karki and Shirish Gurung was very interesting and competitive.

Fourteen year old Nepali boy Binay Karki from Austria prevailed over eighteen year old taekwondo player from Hong Kong on the basis of excellence.

While Binay from Austria was declared the best male taekwondo performer, Alina Wenson from the US was announced the best female taekwondo player, whereas best trainer award went to K. Gurung from the Great Britain.

Likewise, excellence award for referee went to Dinesh Shrestha from Nepal.

In his inaugural remarks, Member Secretary of National Sports Council  (NSC) of Nepal Mr Bista expressed the view that IOFTC has been able to enhance  the standard of taekwondo and promote the taekwondo spirit all over the world.

NSC has full support to the  IOFTC, said Member Secretary Mr Bista adding that Nepal is eagerly waiting for the 12th IOFTC event to be held in Kathmandu.

Taekwondo players from Nepal, the US, the UK, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, Austria, Macao, Canada and Qatar had participated at the 11th IOFTC tournaments in Portland.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

National Sports Council Member Secretary Bista Arrives in Portland

Rabin Man Shakya
Media Coordinator, 11th IOFTC - Portland, Oregon.

Member Secretary of National Sports Council  (NSC) of Nepal Keshab Kumar Bista arrived in Portland on Saturday, Oct 8, 2016.

Member Secretary Bista was received and greeted at the Portland International Airport by Diwakar Maharjan, director of International Open Friendship Taekwondo Championships (IOFTC), other IOFTC officials and taekwondo players.

Mr Bista is accompanied by his spouse.

"I am satisfied with the ongoing preparations for the 11th IOFTC event", Mr Bista was quoted as saying upon the inspection of the preparation for the 11th IOFTC event.

NSC Member Secretary Bista is scheduled to inaugurate the 11th IOFTC event amid a gala function at the International Convention  Center in Portland, Oregon on Oct 15, 2016.

We are very much encouraged to have Mr Bista  as the chief guest of the IOFTC event, Diwakar Maharjan said after Mr Bista's inspection of the US Westcoast Taekwondo Hollywood School.

The gracious presence of the important personality of the Nepalese sports sector in the 11th IOFTC event has provided a new lease on life of the IOFTC organizers, Maharjan said in a statement released here recently.

Taekwondo players from Nepal, the US, the UK, Canada, Guatemala, Qatar, South Korea, Hong Kong, Australia, Austria, Mexico and Haiti are participating at the 11th IOFTC event.

IOFTC events are playing a tremendous role in internationalizing the taekwondo spirit.

The objective of the IOFTC games are to enhance fraternity and solidarity among the taekwondo players across the world, to promote taekwondo skill and competition among the players.

It is to be noted that IOFTC event is organized once every two years. Last IOFTC event was held in London in 2014.

Prior to that, IOFTC events were also organized in Nepal, the US, Hong Kong and India.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

National Sports Council Member Secretary Bista to Open 11th IOFTC Event in Portland

Rabin Man Shakya
Media Coordinator, 11th IOFTC, Portland.

Member Secretary of National Sports Council of Nepal Keshab Kumar Bista  is scheduled to inaugurate the 11th International Open Friendship  Taekondo Championship  (IOFTC) and International Cultural Festival amid a gala function at International Convention Center in Portland, Oregon on Oct 15, 2016.

Meanwhile, intensive preparations are underway for successful organizing of the 11th International Open Friendship Taekwondo Championship to be hosted by IOFTC headquarters. 107 volunteers are being mobilized for the event. Likewise, 28 referees and 11 referee assistants will be involved during the championship events. Similarly, 30 different committees have been set up to facilitate the championship event.

Taekwondo players from Nepal, the US, the UK, Canada, Guatemala, Qatar, South Korea, Hong Kong, Australia, Austria, Macao, Mexico and Haiti are participating at the IOFTC event.

It goes without saying that IOFTC champions the cause of enhancing significance of taekwondo and popularizing it across the world.

It will not be an exaggeration to assert that the IOFTC events are playing  a tremendous role in internationalizing the taekwondo spirit.

The objectives of the IOFTC games are to enhance fraternity and solidarity among the taekwondo players across the world, to promote taekwondo skill and competition among the players.

Going by the history of IOFTC, it was first organized in Kathmandu, Nepal and was inaugurated by His Royal Highness the late Crown Prince Dipendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev in December, 2000 AD.

According to IOFTC sources, subsequent championships have been held in Pokhara, Nepal in December 2002, Portland, Oregon in 2004, Hong Kong in 2005, Portland, Oregon in 2006, Kurukshetra, India in 2007, Portland, Oregon in 2008, Kathmandu, Nepal in 2010, Portland, Oregon in 2012, London, the United Kingdom in 2014.

Diwakar Maharjan of the IOFTC says:"This is an excellent opportunity for competitors from throughout the world to develop bonds of friendship and camaraderie that will last a lifetime. The experience gained by participating in these championships can be used to establish milestones for the development of life skills, as well as taekwondo skills."

Throwing light on the IOFTC event, Maharjan went on to say:"As in the past, this event is sanctioned by USA Taekwondo, the national governing body for the Olympic sport of Taekwondo, recognized by the United States Olympic Committee and a member of the Pan-American Taekwondo Union, a WTF Continental Member."

Asked to shed light on the importance of taekwondo, Maharjan said:"The art of taekwondo is most suitable for those children who are active and sporty. It teaches not only how to stay fit and healthy but also moral values which are so important in our life."

Monday, September 26, 2016

American Movie "Sold": A Damning Expose` of Girl-Trafficking from Nepal to Indian Brothels

Rabin Man Shakya
Former Associate Editor, The Rising Nepal

A special show of Hollywood movie "Sold", a feature film devoted to the burning issue of girl trafficking from Nepal to the Indian cities was organized on Sept 24-25, 2016 at Laurelhurst Cinema Theater in Portland.

The screening of the movie "Sold" was a benefit show for "Childreach International" to help build schools in Nepal.

A number of Nepalese  living in Portland and the periphery  showed up to watch the movie. Many Americans were also there to support the august cause. Officials of Nepali Association of Oregon (NAO), Non-resident Nepalese Association - Oregon Chapter and Nepaa Chhen were among the audience to watch the movie.

The movie "Sold" which was released in 2014 is directed by Jeffrey D Brown and is based on a novel by the same title by Patricia McCormack. The feature film throws light on Laxmi's (played by an Assamese girl actress) odyssey from rural Nepal into a brothel in Kolkata and her saga of struggle for freedom from the brothel. Emma Thompson, an Academy Award Winner, is the executive producer of the movie.

Madan Krishna Shrestha and Hari Bansha Acharya render the cameo roles in the movie. The good samaritan role of a humanitarian photographer was played by Gilian Anderson. The movie was able to bag at least five prestigeous awards in the US, the UK and Italy.

The movie offers a wide spectrum in terms of cinematographic styles, themes and languages.  It provides a powerful message of soul-searching about girl-trafficking from Nepal to Indian brothels. Fortunately or unfortunately, the movie depicts how the young children are victimized from Nepal all the way to Indian brothels.

Children and young women are vulnerable and susceptible to sexual abuse and violence. The movie successfully and realistically portray grim violence meted out to girl-children in the Indian brothels.

There are a lots of socio-economic and political problems facing Nepal today, but girl-trafficking poses a major challenges for the elected governments of Nepal.

The mere facts that more than 10,000 girls are trafficked every year from Nepal to red-light districts of Indian cities and that more than 200,000 Nepalese women and girls are still languishing in the Indian brothels are testimony of the fact that Nepal's elected governments as well as India - the biggest democracy in the world - have done little to effectively address the girl-trafficking issue.

The major problem of girl-trafficking from Nepal is palpably related to poverty and illiteracy and mainly to the open and free border between Nepal and India.

The movie must open the eyes of the governments of Nepal and India to enforce some effective steps and measures to combat the girl-trafficking.

The act of human trafficking should be nipped in the bud to assure the rural people of Nepal of better security of their family life. The culprits must be punished severely so that the perpetrators of violence against women will not dare to resort to this kind of heinous crime.

Finally, kudos to Dr Manoj Kansakar and Kathleen Hoag  for organizing the movie-show in Portland to benefit schools for at-risk children in Nepal

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Yenya: The Biggest Cultural Street Festival of Kathmandu

Rabin Man Shakya
Advisor, Nepaa Chhen, Portland, Oregon.

Yenya is one of the biggest cultural street festivals of Kathmandu. Not only   the Newah people of Nepal but the Newahs living abroad in different continents also celebrate the Yenya festival in their own way. There was a time when children of the local neighborhood in down town Kathmandu used to knock the door after door during the Yenya festival and used to say,"La Chhaku Wayak Samay Baji, Wal Wal Pulu Kisi."

Traditionally, the Yenya festival kicks off with the erection of Yosin or Linga at Kathmandu Durbar Square. This cultural and traditional ritual is famous as "Yosin Thanegu" in Nepal Bhasa.

Yenya is the biggest cultural street festival in Kathmandu. Yenya means the festival of Kathmandu in Nepal Bhasa, the language of the Newah people. Coincidentally,  Yenya festivities consist of two major cultural events: Indra Jatra and Kumari Jatra.

According to historical chronicles, the tradition of Kumari Jatra was launched by Malla King Jaya Prakash Malla in 1756 AD whereas Indra Jatra was initiated by Lichhavi King Gunakama Deva to celebrate the founding of the historical city of Kathmandu in the 10th century.

Kathmandu's downtown areas of Indra Chowk and Basantpur become center of cynosure  with the Kumari Jatra and display of dieties like Aakash Bhairav and Mahankal Bhairav during the Yenya festival. The Kumari Jatra is the chariot procession of the living goddess Kumari, Bhairav and Ganesh.

In fact, Yenya festival, which is a trusted perennial for the Newah people in Kathmandu, signifies the start of the holiday season. It will not be an exaggeration to assert that Yenya is the quintessence    of glorious street festival tradition of the Newah people. No doubt, traditions like Yenya festivities are the cornerstone of Newah civilization. Actually, Nepal is renowned for cultural festivals and ethnic diversity and Nepal is famous all over the world as the land of festivals.

Yenya is also a pot-porry of masked dances of deities, demons and elephant, performances include: Pulu Kisi dance, Majipa Lakhey, Sawa Bhakku, Devi Pyakhan, Mahakali Pyakhan  etc.

Taking a trip down memory lane, I remember the tradition of Nakhatya of the Newah people. Nakhatya is a tradition  which means inviting the relatives and members of extended families for a feast during or after the festivals. Maternal uncle of my mother was from Lagan Tole and we, as kids, used to go to his house at Lagan Tole for Nakhatya during the Yenya and Kumari Jatra during those years. Lagan Tole is one of the places where the chariot procession of Kumari Jatra takes place.

One of the very memorable part of Yenya festival for  me is Pulu Kisi dance which is rendered by the natives of Kilagal Tole which is two minutes walk from Naghal Tole where I used to live. As a kid and teenager in 1960-70s, I along with local kids used to frequent to Kilagal and Bhedasing to have a look of Pulu Kisi, a creature masked as elephant, which I remember, created a feeling of excitement as well as of fear among the kids at that time.

Majority of Newah festivals and Newah values have a lot of historical and cultural significance. In fact, the Lichhavi and Malla eras  were the 'belle époque' of the Newah civilization, the golden age of art and culture in Nepal during the medieval period.

Newahs living in the United States also celebrate Yenya festival in their own way. The mere fact that the Newahs living in different continents celebrate different Newah festivals in their own way is the testimony of the fact that no matter where the Newahs live, they do not and they have not forgotten glorious value of Newah culture and traditions.

Some US Newah organizations do celebrate Yenya festival and other Newah cultural events in a broader community level. For example, Newah Organization of New England, USA  celebrated  Yenya festival in Boston on Sept 17, 2016 by organizing Kumari chariot procession, Lakhey dance, Pulu Kisi dance. Traditional Newah musical instruments Dhime and Bhusya were played on the occasion to create local Newah environment. Likewise,  a program was also organized by Newah Organization of America  in Washington DC to mark the Yenya festival. The main attractions at the DC program were Pulu Kisi dance and performance of musical instruments of  Dhime and Bhusya.

Newah Organization of America, Nepa Pasa Pucha Amerikaye and Newa American Dabu etc are the Newah organizations which are effortful and committed to enrich and enhance Newah value, Newah culture and festivals in the US.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Nepali Association of Oregon Organizes Conference of Nepalese in West Americas

Dr Rabin Man Shakya

In an effort to enhance regional and global cooperation for Nepal and the Nepalese, a conference of Nepalese  in West Americas was  organized here in Portland by  Nepali Association of Oregon (NAO) on Sunday, Sept 4, 2016.

Speaking on the occasion, Ganga Sharma, president of Nepali Association of Oregon (NAO) said that northwest jamghat has brought our communities closer and it has allowed us to work together.

Presenting a paper on "NAO Scholarship and School Building Program", Dr Kush Shrestha, coordinator, NAO Education Fund Promotion and Management Committee said that NAO has an education program for Nepali youth from the Oregon Nepali community as well as the rural communities of Nepal.

Speaking about "Role of Commissioner", Mohan Gurung, member of Washington State Commission on Asia - Pacific American Affairs threw light on the duties, functions and responsibilities of a commissioner.

Similarly, dwelling on "Nepal Seattle Society (NSS): Past, Present and Future",  Ganesh Shivakoti, president of NSS said that the mission of NSS is to unite all the people of Nepalese origin in the state of Washington, to preserve and promote Nepalese culture and to foster relations with friends of Nepal.

Likewise, speaking on the theme of "Nepal Cultural Society BC Vancouver at a Glance", Anil Pradhan, president of NCSBC said,"We should also start thinking about our collaboration to the next level so that we can keep our friendship, Nepali culture and heritage flourishing further."

Representing Non-resident Nepalese Association - Oregon Chapter, Dr Rabin Man Shakya, its Education Director,  expressed the view that NRNA - Oregon chapter would not and should not antagonize other local community organizations. But in stead of parroting the meaningless  and needless rants about the irrelevance of NRNA - Oregon chapter,  Dr Shakya stressed the need for going through the statutory provisions of the NRNA - International Coordination Council (ICC) about the NRNA state chapters of a National Coordination Council (NCC) in different countries.

NRNA heavyweight and Nepal's Honorary Consul for Seattle A C Sherpa said that he would support as much as possible for Nepali communities by social services and promoting tourism, healthcare and education for future generation.

Also speaking on the occasion was Master Narayan Gurung, NRNA ICC member, who threw light on  prospects of NRNA as a world body of the Nepalese diaspora.

Making another presentation on "Open University of Nepal - The Road Ahead" Dr Drona Rasali of NRNA, Canada said:"By opening up the access to formal knowledge that is prepared and structured by academics and approved by a university to the masses of people having varying learning needs, conditions and contexts, an open university adds a new dimension to those who can have formal knowledge."

Similarly, president of West America Nepali Association (WANA) Uttam Karki, speaking on the occasion, urged for financial assistance for Solukhumbu Community Center Project.

Likewise, Uma Karki, founder president of WANA said:" A number of social and non-profit institutions are mushrooming in the US, but WANA was created as an umbrella organization to unite all the local organizations in the US west coast."

Speaking on the occasion, president of Nepal Association for Global Cooperation (NAGC) Mani Nepali Paneru asserted:"NAGC is totally different than other Nepalese organizations. NAGC aims to work for promoting worldwide Nepalese solidarity."

Bharat Banskota, general secretary of WANA, while extending vote of thanks to the participants, said:"It would be a great opportunity if our three Pacific Northwest Nepali communities can work together towards some common projects in supporting the underprivileged people of Nepal."

*Also please read: (1) Nepali Association of Oregon: Pioneering Organization of Nepalese Community in Oregon and (2) Nepalese Community Organizations in Oregon: A Short Glimpse

**Dr Shakya, a Portland based writer, is former assistant editor at the RSS, former associate editor at The Rising Nepal and former lecturer of journalism at the Peoples Campus. He is also advisor of Nepa Chhen, a Portland based non-profit and Education Director of NRN-NCC-USA Oregon Chapter.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Panjaran: An Important Festival of Nepalese Bajrayana Buddhists

Rabin Man Shakya
Advisor, Nepaa Chhen, Portland, Oregon

Nepal is rightly described as a garden of different ethnic communities. Nepal is the land of festivals and cultural carnivals. Festivals  are the important factors that enliven the Nepalese culture and they have added to the cultural richness of the country.

Theravada Buddhism, Mahayana and Bajrayana are the important sects of Buddhism and each sect has its own holidays and festivals.

Panjaran, an alms giving festival, is an important cultural event of the Bajrayana Buddhism in Nepal. Until about 25 years ago, Panjaran was celebrated very enthusiastically with participation of thousands of people. Many important components of festivals like Panjaran are on the verge of extinction. Those were the days when not only kids and teenagers, but thousands of gentlemen belonging to Shakya and Bajracharya castes used to go for taking alms. Not any more. Nowadays, very few people show up for taking alms.

Giving of alms on the day of Panjaran kicks off with offering of alms to Gurju team (a team of household Buddhist priests).

Panjaran is also Panchadan which means giving away five different kinds  of alms, such as, grains and fruit like rice, paddy soya, salt, peas, bananas, radish etc.

Panjaran or Panchadan is a festival of Bajrayana Buddhists of the Kathmandu valley. But there are subtle differences in the ways how Panjaran is celebrated in Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur, Likewise, Panjaran is celebrated on different days too. This year, Panjaran was celebrated in Kathmandu yesterday (Saturday, Aug 19, 2017). Our family here in Portland also celebrated Panjaran in our own way.

Judging by the Facebook posts, a number of Shakyas and Bajracharyas living in the United States display the idols of Lord Buddha and Karunamaya at their homes and apartments on the day of Panjaran.

Taking a trip down lane memory, I nostalgically remember at our own home at Naghal Tole in Kathmandu, my late grand father and then my late father used to decorate shrine on the third story (chota) of our house with big statues of Lord Buddha and Karunamaya as well as traditional Paubha scroll paintings. As kids, we always used to enthusiastically help our grand father and our father in decorating shrine.

When I was still a teenager, I myself with my friends from Naghal Tole neighborhood used to go for making alms around of Kathmandu dangling big bags on shoulder for putting paddy and rice. Besides paddy, rice, salt and peas etc we were also given money.

On this day, the Shakyas and Bajracharyas prefer to eat Kheer (rice cooked in milk and sugar, cashews, cloves, cardamoms, raisins, coconuts etc). Sadly enough, today, we do not find the same kind of zeal and enthusiasm like we did two or three decades ago.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Ban on Khada: A Grand Design?

Rabin Man Shakya

According to a recent news story, the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation of Nepal has banned its subordinate offices from using foreign made Khadas.

Before that, former prime minister K P Oli had vented to his feelings against the use of Khada in an outrageous way at a program organized at the Trihbuvan University.

And not long ago, Prem Baniya of News 24 channel in the "Power News" program assailed those using Khadas with a level of venom rarely seen before, calling them (the users of Khada) "stupid" and urging for the ban of Khada.

Today, Nepal is a secular country. This kind of irrational and not logical demands about ban on Khadas were not brought up even when Nepal was a Hindu Kingdom. The Bahunbadi parties and their stalwarts have forgotten that Nepal is a multi-linguistic, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic country.

If the Bahuns and Khas people are allowed to freely use imported dhotis, janai, Teej sarees and lots of  other  imported things, why should there be any ban only on the Khada. The intention is very clear.

I totally agree if the ban is imposed on all unnecessary imported goods, but taking a target only on Khada is outrageous and unacceptable.

There is no doubt that the ongoing 'ban' thing is a part of grand design to destabilize communal harmony in Nepal.

These developments raise a big question as to whether our mainstream political parties are conniving to the grand rehearsal that is aimed at undermining the importance of the religious  and cultural rituals of the Buddhists of Nepal.

Let us be united and let us hope that the Buddhists and the Newahs will never let Bahunbadi "grand design" to succeed.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Another Perfect Epitome of Nepotism !

Rabin Man Shakya

Maoists have again moved to centerstage in Nepalese political scenario after Prachanda has been elected Prime Minister by the Nepalese Parliament for the second time. It is to be noted that Prachanda's Maoist Communist Party is only third biggest party in the parliament after the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML.

And by appointing his own  son Prakash Dahal to the post of private secretary of the Prime Minister, the newly elected premier of Nepal has become the perfect epitome of nepotism.

When he was the prime minister for the first time, he committed a lot of mistakes. That is according to Prachanda himself. "I was inexperienced then", he said.

Going by the initial activities of the Maoist strongman, it looks like those mistakes will continue. Prachanda is widely disliked by Nepalese of all political stripes who blame him for having allowed the nation to fall into the economic, political and social chaos.

Actually, the Nepalese people have feelings of intense dislike for all the stalwarts of the mainstream political parties. All of them are good for nothing, the people say. There is a lack of a charismatic and honest politician in Nepal.

Nepal's political process is still in transitional phase. Open chasm and sharp divisions appeared in the mainstream political parties during and after the ouster of K P Oli government. It is an open secret that Prachanda orchestrated the 'coup' against Oli  with the Nepali Congress support thereby agreeing to rotate the PM post for nine months respectively.

The political stalwarts of the mainstream political parties should stop making mockery of themselves by doing stupid things.

There is no duubt that politics is done for power. But politics should be done for the good of the people and the nation as well. But the politicians of Nepal do not care about the nation and the people.

All they care about is the personal benefit and the party interest. For them, the politics has become a lucrative business, not a mission  to serve the people. All the politicians of all the mainstream political parties have not been able to rise above their petty partisan interests. This is a big misfortune for the people.

All the mainstream political parties of Nepal have demonstrated their inability and inefficiency to deliver goods to the people. They are worthless. The political parties are blaming to each other for their failure to deliver goods to the people.

Given the zero performance of the political parties and lust for power of the politicians,  given their  dishonest maneuverings and corrupt activities, rampant nepotism and favoritism, it looks like the Nepalese people are destined to be betrayed by the political parties and their leaders.

Friday, August 5, 2016

"Rato Arya Rani" Tweet: A Bahunbadi Affront to the Newah People

Rabin Man shakya

Many Newah people are venting outrage about a fake person named "Rato Arya Renu" who is disseminating hatred and intense dislike against the Newah people through Twitter.

Reactions were swift in the social media sites to what was widely perceived as an affront to the Newah people.

The intentionally provocative tweet by "Rato Arya Renu" has cast a shadow on ethnic divisions.

What is the intention of Rato Arya Renu? This particular behavior  is suicidal at this point. Some  insane people wrongly think that through intimidations, threats and abusive words, they will silence the people.

But going by the reactions in the social media sites, they are getting exactly the opposite. This kind of   provocation and intimidation is outrageous and unacceptable.

Historical experiences have demonstrated that outrageous acts and remarks have not helped anybody and any organizations.

The language used in that tweet by Rato Arya Renu is full of abusive words and hatredness against the Newah people.

Rato Arya Renu assailed the certain ethnic community of Nepal with a level of venom rarely seen before.

There is no doubt that this kind of outrageous remark is a toxic but familiar political virus that may infect reactions to the ethnic crisis in Nepal.

The recent tweet controversy is just an attempt to perpetuate and deepen ethnic divisions in the country. The need of the hour is: the entire Newah community should be united  and should come forward to wage a war against this kind of provocation. Yes, we must deal strongly with this kind of Bahunbadi provocation.

Well, it is true that the Newah people will not be intimidated by any threats or abusive words.

It is a good thing that a complaint has been filed at the Kathmandu Metropolitan Police, Crime Investigation Division against the above mentioned cyber crime.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Gathamuga: One of the Most Unique Festivals of the Newah People

Rabin Man Shakya
Advisor, Nepa Chhen, Portland, Oregon

Gathamuga is celebrated this year on August 1. But usually this festival is observed in the Kathmandu valley in July/August according to the lunar calendar of Nepal Sambat.

Today is the day of Gathamuga and it is all coming back to me now how the effigy of the demon made of reeds was set up at our Nagha Twa neighborhood, how we the local boys followed "Aaju Jaya" ( a guy whose body used to be painted in grotesque colors and who used to go begging for money that day in the neighborhood with burning torch of husk ) chanting "Aaju Jaya Haa, Om Shanti Jaya Nepal".

Here in Portland, Oregon, our family is celebrating Gathamuga by simply eating Samaya Baji (beaten rice with chhoyela, garlic, ginger, beans and Aalu Achar etc). Hopefully, a lot of Newah people scattered around the world celebrate Gathamuga in their own way. Actually, our Newah kids  here in Portland just like in other states of the US and in other countries do not and can not collect money from passers-by to make an effigy of the demon, like we did in our childhood days, nor can they go to buy iron rings and other fancy rings like  we did in the morning of the Gathamuga when we were kids. Boy, that was a great fun.

Hundreds of thousands of Newah people have migrated to other countries in search of jobs and better opportunities owing to dismal economic scenario in Nepal. In fact, as a result of globalization, it will  be hard to find a country where a Newah has not reached. Thousands of enterprising, educated and professional Newahs have also sought opportunities abroad. Even twenty years before, it was unimaginable for the Newahs to go abroad for permanent residency or employment opportunities. The new wave underscores the evolving nature of global migration. However, no matter, where they go, the Newahs try to keep their culture and traditions alive. Therefore, today more than ever,  celebration of Newah festivals is not just confined to Nepal alone.

Nevertheless, young Newah generation living abroad may not be quite familiar with the festivals like Gathamuga, its legend and mysticisms and how it is celebrated in the Kathmandu valley. It is the responsibility of World Newah Organization (WNO), its national chapters in different countries and other Newah-related organizations in many countries to disseminate more printed and audio-visual information about Gathamuga and other unique festivals of the Newah people.

Even though Gathamuga is not one of the greatest festivals, it still is one of the most unique festivals of the Newah people, and it is observed by the Newahs to chase away demons and evil spirits from their homes in symbolic manner.

Taking a trip down memory lane, I remember the activities and traditional rituals carried out on the night of Gathamuga. My late father Pushpa Shakya, as the male head of the household used to hammer iron nails into the main entry-exit door of our house to get rid of the evil spirits. Dousing all rooms of the house with the smoke from black and white mustard seed burnt over in a small Makaa (coal fire on a small clay pot) was another important ritual on the night of Gathamuga.

Likewise, on the same night, an offering of Baji, (beaten rice), husk, green garlic and raw buffalo lungs is put at the street intersection to appease the departed souls. This traditional and ritual procedure was known  as 'Bou Wayegu' in Nepal Bhasa.

According to a legend, Ghantakarna was a violent predator - demon who used to abduct children and women. The predator made himself grotesque by painting his body into red, blue and black colors. He used to dangle a pair of bells in his ears, so he was called Ghantakarna. Ghantakarna was a ruthless bully who extorted money and gifts from the rural folks.

Once, out of the blue, a number of frogs showed up in rescue of the rural folks. The frogs started to annoy Ghantakarna by continuous croaking. Ghantakarna wanted to get rid of the frogs, but the frogs led him to nearby swamp. As frogs jumped into the swamp, so did Ghantakarna. The frogs swarmed all over his head and made him fatally drown into the bog and that was the end of Ghantakarna. Gathamuga festival thus has been celebrated since last several centuries to mark the victory of good over the evils.

Most of the nations in the world have festivals and cultural holidays related to evil spirits, ghosts, demons and monsters. Here in the US, Halloween is celebrated on Oct 31 of every year. American kids dress up in funny or scary costumes and go "treat or tricking" knocking on doors in their neighborhood. The neighbors are expected to respond by giving away children small gifts of candy or money. Adults may also be attired in funny and dramatic costumes  for Halloween parties.

There are more festivals in Nepal than in any other countries. That the cultural and traditional festivals relating to different ethnic communities of Nepal are too plenty is a testimony to the fact that Nepal is culturally a rich and diverse country. In fact, Nepal is the land of festivals and cultural carnivals. Festivals are the important factors that enliven the Nepalese culture. They have added to the cultural richness of the country.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Nepal-Russia Relations: 60 Years of Cordial Ties

Dr. Rabin Man Shakya
State Education Director, NRNA-NCC-USA Oregon chapter, Portland, Oregon, USA.

Journalist Dr. Rabin M Shakya at the
Kremlin Red Square in Moscow.

Six decades of friendly diplomatic relations between Nepal
and Russia have survived both nations' tumultuous history -
the collapse of the USSR in 1992 and the abolition of
monarchy in Nepal in 2006. It is to be noted that the formal
diplomatic relations between Nepal and Russia was
established in 1956 when Nepal was still a kingdom
and Russia was a communist superpower - the Soviet Union.

Nepal was totally isolated from the outside world during the Rana autocracy, even as Nepal was not colonized by any foreign power during her entire history. The coup d' etat orchestrated by Jung Bahadur Rana in 1846 empowered the Ranas to usurp power and rule the nation until 1951. Rana autocracy's downfall at the hands of the popular upheaval in the modern history of Nepal had stunning implications for the nation and people. Therefore, the turning point in the Nepalese diplomacy came in the beginning of 1950s, when Nepal realized the need to diversify its relationship with the outside world.

The then Charge D' Affaires of the Russian Embassy Dr. Nikolai A. Listopadov (Center) with Dr. Rabin M. Shakya, late   Mr. Pushpa Shakya, founder of the then Nepal-Soviet Cultural Association and Mr. Dil Ratna Shakya at a function organized in Kathmandu in March 2000.

The then vice president of the Nepal Russia Cultural Association
Mr. Swaraj Shakya handing over souvenirs to Mr. Alexander V. Soloviev,
the then president of Russia Nepal Friendship and Cooperation Society
at a reception held in Kathmandu in March 2000
Going by the historical ties between Nepal and Russia, the names of two prominent Russians are note-worthy: (1) Ivan P Minayev, an Indologist  who visited Nepal along with India, Sri Lanka and Burma in 1874-75, and later on published articles about Nepal in Russian journals and (2) Boris N. Lissanevitch who launched the first tourist hotel "The Hotel Royal" in Kathmandu in 1951.

Therefore, the downfall of the Rana regime in 1951 paved the way for the process of de-isolationism
of Nepal from outside world. Thus, it was only on July 20, 1956 that the diplomatic relations between Nepal and the former Soviet Union was established. When the diplomatic relations were established between Nepal and the Soviet Union, the prime minister of Nepal was late Tanka Prasad Acharya and the president of the former USSR was late Nikolai Bulganin.

The former General Secretary of the then Nepal Russia Cultural Association Dr. Rabin M. Shakya throwing light on Nepal-Russia relations at a program held at Russian Center of Science and Culture in Kathmandu in May 2000.
When the diplomatic relations between Nepal and the former Soviet Union was established, the whole world was bitterly polarized and divided into two different political camps: capitalist and communist lines, heavily influenced by the cold war between the US and the ex-USSR.

Therefore, when a communist superpower and a tiny Himalayan Kingdom decided to establish diplomatic relations in 1956, many domestic and international right-wing forces had plenty of concerns that the influence of communism would substantially rise in this tiny Himalayan country. As it turned out, those concerns and apprehensions proved to be baseless.

The then minister of state for agriculture Tirtha Ram Dangol inaugurating the 40th anniversary of the then Nepal Russia Cultural Association at the Russian Center of Science and Culture in Kathmandu in May 2000. Also, seen are Dr. Rabin M. Shakya Dil Ratna Shakya, Ichha Raj Tamang, and Vladimir P. Ivanov, former director of RCSC.

There were high-level state visits from the both countries. King Mahendra and King Birendra paid state visits to the USSR in 1958 and 1976 respectively while Soviet President Voroshilov came to Nepal on a state visit in 1960. A lot of details have been published about exchange of friendly visits by Heads of States, Speakers of Parliament, Ministers, businessmen, writers, journalists, artistes and intellectuals of Nepal and Russia to each other's countries. But I would like to mention about one of the visits of  late Krishna Prasad  Bhattarai to the Soviet Union, not as a prime minister but as a journalist.

Late Prime Minister Krishna Prasad Bhattarai was also the first and founder president of Federation of Nepalese Journalists. It was during the first Nepalese  journalists' delegation to Moscow in 1957 that Bhattarai as editor of "Nepal Pukar" had taken an interview with late Nikita Khrushchev, the former powerful general secretary of the then Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
Prominent historian late Bhuvan Lal Pradhan, Dr. Upendra Mahato, former
president of the Nepal Russia Cultural Association with Dil Ratna Shakya,
Swaraj Shakya and Bhagvat Shrestha at a meeting of the NRCA in Kathmandu
in 2000.  
As soon as diplomatic relations were established between the Himalayan Kingdom and the Communist superpower, the bilateral economic and technical cooperation agreements were signed by two countries, as a result of which Panauti Hydro Electric Power Station, Birgunj Sugar Mill, Janakpur Cigarette Factory, Kanti Hospital, Agricultural Tools Factory,  Turpentine and Cement Factory and a section of East-West Highway were constructed by the then Soviet Union. The above mentioned Soviet aided projects gave a much-needed fillip to the development of Nepalese economy which was then trying to break up from feudal system. Therefore, Russia's economic cooperation to Nepal's development efforts in 1960s and 1970s has been highly commendable.

Though the diplomatic relations between the two countries was established on July 20, 1956, it was not until Oct 4, 1959 that the Soviet Embassy was opened in Kathmandu. Likewise, Nepal's embassy was opened in Moscow on July 27, 1961. It is just a matter of pleasant coincidence that this scribe had visited the Nepali Embassy at Neopalimovsky Pereulok in Moscow as well as  the Russian Embassy in Kathmandu several times in the past for formal as well as informal interactions.

Nepal-Soviet economic cooperation was a milestone in reducing the tiny landlocked country's dependence on many essential things like sugar, tobacco products, turpentine and cement, agricultural tools etc at that time. There is no doubt that the Nepal-Soviet economic cooperation gave a much-needed boost to the technical  and infrastructure development of Nepal. Just as significantly, however, Nepal-Soviet relations mirrored the trajectory of economic cooperation between a big communist superpower and a tiny Himalayan nation, while Nepal-Russia relations today is gaining momentum in field of trade and tourism.

The then flamboyant mayor of Kathmandu Keshav Sthapit inaugurating open children's chess tournament at Russian Center of Science and Culture. Also seen are the former director of RCSC Vladimir P. Ivanov and Dil Ratna Shakya.
More than 7,000 Nepalese have received higher education in various educational establishments of Russia and the former USSR. Today, hundreds of alumni of the Soviet universities have been working as top level officials at various ministries and departments of the government of Nepal and as professors at various universities of Nepal. Actually, training of thousands of highly skilled experts free of cost by the then Soviet Union was a testimony of cordial relations between the two countries.

Different bilateral friendship associations and bilateral chambers of commerce and industry as well as Mitra Kunja, an organization of alumni of Soviet-Russian universities have been playing crucial role in strengthening and consolidating bilateral friendly relations in public level.

Thus, late fifties and early sixties saw the mushrooming of friendship and cultural association whose objectives were zeroed in on strengthening and enhancing the friendly relations with  countries which have maintained diplomatic ties with Nepal.

Nepal-Soviet Friendship Association established in 1956 and Nepal-Soviet Cultural Association launched in 1960 were the outcomes of lofty ideals of some enthusiastic Nepalese youths to further strengthen and promote bilateral friendly relations in public level.

These friendship and cultural associations were instrumental not only in promoting Nepal's friendly relations with other friendly countries, they also acted as catalyst to raise public awareness and socio-political consciousness among the people at a time when political parties were totally banned in Nepal for thirty years (1960-1990) during the Panchayat system of governance.

Still when this scribe was the general secretary of Nepal-Russia Cultural Association, he was  conferred with 'Certificate of Honor' signed by chairwoman of Roszarubezhcenter, Moscow and first woman cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova in 2000 AD for his contributions in further enhancing Nepal Russia relations in grassroots level.

Similarly, Nepal-Russia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NRCCI) was established on June 19, 1997 in Kathmandu under the chairmanship of noted entrepreneur Lok Manya Golchha with the objective to further preserve and promote friendly relations subsisting between the two countries through the medium of industry and trade. Likewise,  enhancing the import and export of industrial, consumer and other products in the markets of both countries is also the prime concern of the NRCCI.

NRCCI's establishment a decade ago was guided not only by the objective of further promoting the joint industrial and trading investments between the two countries, but also by exchanging the bilateral visits of the delegations of industrialists and businessmen of both the countries for exploring the trade and investment avenues. No doubt, NRCCI champions the cause of further promoting the joint industrial and trading investment between the two countries. However, as a bilateral chamber of commerce, the modus operandi of the NRCCI should also be focused on tapping potentialities of the non-residential Nepalese businessmen in Russia.

Mitra Kunj, an alumni organization of graduates and post-graduates of educational establishments of the Soviet, Russian and CIS nations was launched in 1967.  Raison d' etre of the formation of Mitra Kunj was the growing awareness among  the alumni of Russian-Soviet universities for developing professional expertise and academic cooperation among them. According to Mitra Kunj, in spite of  a number of vicissitudes in its history, the organizations not only survived but also played a significant role towards the social, cultural, technical and economic development of the nation.

The implications of globalization and global migration have become so intense and forceful that, at present, the members and activists of Mitra Kunj are scattered across the world, and that even a Mitra Kunj Canada Chapter was reportedly formed several years ago.

During the Soviet period, there were several Soviet Nepalogists who were specialized in the study about different aspects of Nepalese literature, languages, history, economy and politics, such as, Ilya B. Redko, Ludmila Aganina, Natalia Karpovich and so on. I had the privilege to meet late Prof Dr Ilya B Redko at the Academy of Oriental Sciences in Moscow in 1985 to discuss about my Ph D thesis.

The then vice-president of Roszarubezh Center Vladimir Korolev (Center) being interviewed by journalist Dr. Rabin M. Shakya in Kathmandu in 2000. Also seen is Dil Ratna Shakya.
The zeitgeist  of free economic and technical cooperation in 1960-1970s provided by the former Soviet Union was replaced by the trade and tourism relations after the downfall of the Soviet Union.

Relations between Nepal and and Russia in tourism sector are expanding steadily. Given the fact that there is no direct flight between Kathmandu and Moscow, the tourist arrivals from Russia is more than satisfactory. If 5554 Russians visited Nepal in 2011, that number rose to 9763 in 2012.

Trade relations between Nepal and Russia is also expanding albeit slowly. Nepal's items of export to Russia include tea, spices, handicrafts, carpets, shawls, clothing accessories where as  Russia sells copper, paper, paperboard, rubber organic chemicals, oil seeds and aircrafts to Nepal.

The historical six decades of Nepal-Russia friendly relations is also a testimony of the fact that, no matter what, the friendly relations between two countries will continue to grow. However, the challenges facing the bilateral Nepal-Russia relations are indeed formidable. Needless to say, the bilateral relations must bear some fruits.

The rapid process of globalization have dispelled the prevailing mistrust among some conservative Nepalese folks that Russia today is, kind of, lagging behind in providing aid to Nepal. Now an atmosphere of trust and new diplomacy has been created in the foreign policy spectrum of Nepal as well as Russia that has helped the people of both the countries to come together to a common platform and move forward in a new direction.

In fact, in the modern age of globalization, Nepal and Russia have changed and have made it known that the status quo is no longer acceptable and that there should be new avenues and  new explorations in the bilateral relations. Therefore, despite the disintegration of the Soviet Union and tumultuous political vicissitudes in Nepal, the bilateral Nepal-Russia relations has always been resilient.

(Dr Shakya who is a former associate editor of The Rising Nepal is an alumnus of Belarusian State University.  He was  founding executive member and former secretary of Nepal-Russia Chamber of Commerce and Industry. He has published numerous articles on different aspects of Nepal-Russia relations in Nepalese newspapers and magazines.)

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Olympic Day Celebrated in Portland

Rabin Man Shakya

A program was organized by International Open Friendship Taekwondo Championship (IOFTC) in Portland on Saturday, June 18, 2016 to mark the Olympic Day.

Chief guest on the occasion was Aaron Paulson, who is the winner of two gold medals and one bronze medal at various Paralympic Games in swimming.

Speaking on the occasion, Paulson stressed the need for discipline and perseverance in the sports. He said: " Life is a journey and is about setting goals for yourself."  Paulson also replied on questions asked by the audience participants.

Karen Blackledge, general secretary of IOFTC informed the gathering that the next IOFTC tournament is going to be held in Portland in October this year. The program was conducted by Sunil Rajkarnikar.

On the occasion, Blackledge handed over the US flag to Paulson while Master Diwakar Maharjan presented Nepalese national flag to Olympian Sita Rai.

To mark the Olympic Day, a peace rally that went through in the neighborhood of Hollywood district was also organized by IOFTC.

The Olympic Peace Rally in Portland was participated by students of the Hollywood Taekwondo School, their parents, a large number of people from Nepalese community in Portland including the representatives of NRNA-NCC-USA Oregon Chapter and Nepa Chhen.

It is to be noted that Olympic Day is celebrated by thousands of people in more than 160 countries.

Commemorating the birth of the modern Olympic Games, Olympic Day is not only a celebration but also an international effort to observe the Olympic values of FairPlay, Perseverance, Respect and Sportsmanship. It is also a day to celebrate the International Olympic Committee's three pillars: Move, Learn,Discover.

Actually, Olympic Day is a chance for us to wave the flag of fair play and sportsmanship. In the chronicles of Olympic movement, the name of Baron Pierre de Coubertin, a French pedagogue, is written in the golden letters.

It was de Coubertin who realized the moral and educational value of sports and on June 23, 1894 began the task of reviving the Olympic Games. He constituted a panel in charge of organizing the first games and created an intarnational Olympic movement.

Hence, the first games of the modern era were organized in Athens in 1896 and the International  Olympic Committee was officially established.