Festivals in Nepal -
Badhe - festival in Manang
BADHE, THE LOST FESTIVAL OF MANANG
Hundreds of years of preservation and
perseverance nourished and timely practiced are the basic attributes that gives
birth to a cultural phenomenon. Sometimes the culture becomes identity and other
time identity reflects the culture.
Major Hindu festivals like Dasain and Tihar are celebrated in the lower reaches
Manang district. Since Upper Manang is occupied largely by Buddhist, and in some
parts Bon Po, the Nyeshang valley have its own unique set of customs and
festivals. Older Manangis vividly remember how villagers used to gather once
every three years in the fall to celebrate Badhe, a Nyeshang oral tradtion and
intricate performing art. Basically a play, where mother earth is the stage,
with courtyards and terraced field forming the backdrop Badhe was to free the
village from evil spirits, demons, enemies, diseases and natural calamities, to
ensure peace, security and prosperity in the village.
Badhe is celebrated once in three years and is held on a rotational basis in
Manang, Nar and in Sampa village of Mustang. The ceremony generally falls on the
1st day (approximately 8th of November) of the tenth month of the Tibetan
A decade ago, the Badhe tradition started to disappear, as Manangis migrated to
Kathmandu and took with them economic and cultural resources. It is celebrated
widely in observation of the distinct communities scattered in many parts of the
country, the costumes and finery will be brought out from gompas and households,
and the people of Nyeshang will come from far and wide to revive the ancient
No historical manuscript highlighting the origin of Badhe exist. According to
local belief, the festival started in the village of Ngawal, then shifted to
Bhraga and finally to Manang where it established its roots for many years. But
it has been a while since the props and manuscripts related to the festival have
been locked away in private homes and the small monastery in Manang village.
For seven days and seven nights, the performers and local villagers remain
outdoors. Apart from the roles of king and priest – character roles inherited by
a generation of the same family – various other roles can be enacted by any
villager. Badhe has interesting ties with the cultural practices found in the
middle hills and the high Himalayas regions. It is similar to the ‘dohari’
songs, a popular folk tradition among the mid hill communities of Nepal.
Villagers dressed as warriors display war techniques similar to that of the
ancient Tibetan kings and their armies. They are dressed in gold and don exotic
bird feather on their forehead. It is a rhythmic festival full of sound, color
and intense drama leading to a peaceful climax. There are two different groups.
The narration begins with two brothers who are camped on opposite sides who
berate each other through the ‘dohari’ songs. They fight out their battle
accompanied by songs and satire. To boost the morale of their teams, both sides
also display their war skills through role-play.
Carried away in their various roles, sometimes the villagers do start a brawl
that is soon controlled by the younger soldiers who stand between the supporters
of the two brothers. But actual violence does not occur. When things start
getting out of hand, villagers step into bring things back to normal. Spectators
from surrounding villagers flock to Manang for the festival. They are all
welcome. Nyeshang households disperse roasted millet and wheat powder rolls from
their rooftops. The spectators then sleep under the skies while the actors
retire in their camps. The last day of the festival is celebrated as the grand
carnival day. All women folks who would be busy preparing meals and taking care
of the guests also join in the merriment.
Earlier 12 virgins used to be sacrificed to the gods at the beginning of the
Badhe festival. Owing to Buddhist beliefs, the practice was stopped and goats
were offered instead. Later only the tips of the ears of goats were offered. Now
that the Nyeshnag community follows the peaceful middle path of the Buddha.
Badhe festivals however is not accustomed to an prehistoric manner. It does not
encourage the sacrifices anymore and is celebrated peacefully for the sake of
uniting against violence. Destination Manang 2004, has a motto to revive this
ancient tradition but just in its most appropriate way.
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