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The Gurung Celebrate Tohotay in Pokhara
Traditional enemies replaced by modern foes
Rup Narayan Dhakal (a2zruna)     Print Article 
Published 2007-04-11 06:06 (KST)   
Gurung youngsters take part in Tohotay rally in Pokhara.
©2007 Ram Gurung
Nepal's Gandaki zone, especially the rural villages on the southern flank of the Annapurna mountain massif, is home to the Gurung. Due to the trend of migration, these villages are being emptied day by day as the Gurung leave for urban areas.

Pokhara valley, also in the Gandaki zone, is a favored destination where every year thousands of people come and build their houses. Pokhara and its surroundings are also known as Gurung land. From here, thousands of people go overseas for employment and send their earnings to their families in Nepal. The Gurung most often go to India and the U.K. for employment in their armies. According to Nepal's latest census (2001), the Gurung's population is 543,571.

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On Tuesday, Pokhara was the scene for one of the Gurung's longest rallies of the year: Tohotay, their national festival, which they celebrate against their enemies. Tamu Dhin Kaski, a leading Gurung organization in Pokhara, organized Tuesday's rally. Due to the rally, Bhimsen Chok, Chipledhunga Bazar and Naya Bazar faced traffic jams.

According to Krishna Gurung, a college lecturer in Pokhara, the Gurung's traditional enemies are ghosts, giants and evil spirits but in the 21st century the Gurung have come to celebrate Tohotay against corruption and bribery. "These days, corruption and bribery are our prime enemies," said Gurung. In the past, when the Gurung lived in their birth land (rural village) they celebrated Tohotay in their own homes in the traditional way for the security of their villages and homes.

Today, a large number of Gurung live in urban area and overseas. But according to Karma Gurung, president of Tamu Dhin Kaski, they haven't forgotten their culture.

For Tuesday's rally, most Gurung wore traditional attire. Since it was hot and sunny, a few also carried umbrellas. Some youngsters wore denim. One leader rode a motorbike, sported vulture's feathers on his back and wore colorful clothes.

Children painted their faces and body black and most were topless. Some wore green creepers and herbs and carried a curved knife (Khukuri) or sword made of wood. "It is because we want to chase our enemies whether it is ghost or bribery and corruption," said Devi Raj Gurung, secretary of Tamu Dhin Kaski.

Gurung in traditional theri attire.
©2007 Ram Gurung
Some shouted; others blew whistles. Some beat on a dhangro (a flat or depthless drum that can be struck with a stick on both sides), clap cymbals or jangle other musical instruments.

At the end of the rally, the Gurung held a funeral ceremony for their enemies on the bank of Seti River. After the rally, they gathered in their community halls and greeted each other with happiness.

Tohotay is observed twice a year in Chaitra and Shaun, according to the Nepali calendar.

Gurung with swords in hand.
©2007 Ram Gurung
Gurung women dance in traditional attire.
©2007 Ram Gurung
©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Rup Narayan Dhakal

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