A year ago, I booked a flight to Nepal, intending to wander around the country for three weeks or so. Three months later, I was still there. I fell in love with the Nepali culture and was eventually “adopted” by a lovely family in Pokhara. These days I base out of Nepal, staying there four to five months of the year and traveling the rest of the year. Earlier this year, my adopted brother invited me to accompany the family to their ancestral village to participate in a puja – a Hindu religious ceremony – being held in honor of his aunt, who had passed away three years earlier. We trekked for three hours to the mountaintop, where women dressed in their finest garments sat on the porch, while the men gathered under a canvas awning were already chanting prayers from ancient scrolls. After enjoying a traditional meal prepared by women who squatted at open fires next to a rustic cow barn, trays of cotton string were set afire and carried around the compound, symbolizing the release of the soul from this earthly plain. After a final anointment of a sacred cow with holy water, the now joyful assembly began to dance until the men fell into a trance where the gods came into their bodies. The festivities continued throughout the night, but I headed down the mountain before dark, thrilled to have been invited to witness this holy ceremony.
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