The small Newari village of Khokana is often upstaged by the bigger and better known, village of Bugamati . The last three days saw Khokana completely steal the spotlight. The Khokana festival was a flawless display of traditional Nepali living, with the ideal mix of entertainment and cultural information.
The drive to Khokana perfectly set the scene. The slow roll out of Kathmandu and into the rural surround, through rice fields that seemed to struggle up the sides of surrounding mountains and demonstrate a tradition of lives spent working hard in the soil. On arrival tall red-brick houses with intricate wood carving dominate the village streets, forming a curling maze, perfect for stumbling across new cultural treasures.
Dressed in Newari outfits, both young and old gathered in the streets, to prepare foods, play instruments and explain cultural exhibits to visitors. Residents and organizers should be proud, the last day of the festival saw the whole small communities mobilize to provide visitors with an exceptional experience.
Demonstrations of Khokana’s distinctive mustard oil production were a welcome break from the cold winter wind. The warming scent of roasting mustard seeds and smoke wafts out of the workshops and fills town with the delicious atmosphere of a huge kitchen. The village is famous in Nepal for its traditional method squeezing seeds between a two large beams wood to release the oil. Newari weaving, paintings and carvings were also on display.
A number of cultural dances captivated tourist and locals. The Thimi dance and Devi dance were particularly skilled; audiences blocked the whole street while the village stood to watch.
The real star of the Khokana festival was the Newari food. The women, who sat around small fires and stoves, cheerfully preparing dishes, were eager to share their cooking knowledge. There was an I selected a Newar Pancake (Who), a sweat steamed snack bursting with golden syrup and sesame (Yomari) and strong Nepali wine (Yela).
I have attended many cultural festivals in Nepal. The difference at Khokana was the festival felt vibrant and residents actually seemed excited to be sharing their traditions with visitors. It was a unique experience and the community really earned their reputation as a living museum. I hope organizers will consider turning the event into a yearly celebration.
Khokana is located 8km south of Kathmandu. A taxi from Thamel could cost as much as 500NR. A local bus operates from the Ring Road, south of the Ekantakuna area of Patan, which is a much cheaper option. A map for the Khokana area can be found here.