The Bajrabarahi (a tantric goddess) festival is held once every three years on a Saturday nearest to the full moon of May (Chandi Purnima), and a festival known as Bajrabarahi ko Naach (Dance of Bajrabarahi) is held once every 12 years in a village called Tistung in Makwanpur District. A major purpose of this event is to prepare a new dhami (shaman) whose duty it will be to conduct religious affairs of the village. Sounds interesting, doesn’t it? Now, let’s go into a little more detail about this village called Tistung.
Tistung is also known as Tistung Deurali (deurali: resting place). Once upon a time, when the Tribhuvan Highway was the only road to the capital from outside the valley, most buses used to stop here for lunch. The village had many eating places serving hot daal, bhat and tarkari to famished and weary travelers. Weary? You bet! The ride to Tistung was most testing; vehicles drove up the road from Hetauda, engines huffing and puffing as the climb became steeper, and drivers had a tough time steering their groaning vehicles around hairpin bends on a road that hardly allowed space for two vehicles to cross each other. However, as the climb reached the higher altitudes, one passed some pretty scenic villages like Palung, Daman, and Simbhanjyang, before gliding down into the verdant valley called Tistung. Certainly, this lovely village was a proper ‘deurali’. However, after Tistung, it was still some distance to Kathmandu, 50 more kilometers of mountainous road, hairpins, et al.
If things had carried on this way, Tistung would no doubt have been urbanized by now, but that was not to be. In 1974, with the completion of the Prithvi Highway, Tribhuvan Highway became redundant, and along with it, Tistung too lost its importance. Looking at it from the positive side, this could be said to be somewhat fortunate. How so? You may ask. Well, once vehicles stopped plying on the route, Tistung gradually went back to its old ways, in the process, remaining the pretty little village that it was, and remains now. With the result that what you have today is an ancient village of brick houses with sloping red tiled roofs ensconced in a lovely little valley surrounded by lush green fields that can be visited easily since it’s only 50 km away from the capital.
How’s the journey like, you might want to know. The Tribhuvan Highway begins in Kalanki in Kathmandu and carries on to Naubise (27 km) where it carries upwards to Tistung, and onwards to Hetauda (132 km from Kathmandu). It’s a scenic drive, that’s for sure—the botanical landscape changes with rise in altitude—from rows of pine trees to rhododendron forest, jungle, and terraced fields. Driving around the ‘nau ghoomti’, a spiraling series of nine hairpin bends some one hour and a half before reaching Tistung, is especially challenging.
Nevertheless, once you sight Tistung, chances are you will forget the travails gone by, for it is surely a sight for sore eyes. The gently sloping hills and the verdant fields are soothing to the senses while the traditionally designed houses impart a feeling of harmony to the mind. Added to this, the valley has pleasant weather all-year-round. There are other attributes too that makes Tistung an interesting place to visit.The village has nine wards, of which three are populated mostly by members of a clan called the Gopalis who can also be found in the nearby villages of Makwanpur District, particularly in the villages of Bajrabarahi, Chitlang and Palung. Now, there’s something unique about this clan. There are many who believe that the Gopalis were the earliest rulers of Nepal (that is, of Kathmandu Valley and its nearby areas). In fact, there are some who believe that the name ‘Nepal’ could have originated from ‘Nep’, the earlier name of the Gopali clan. Whatever the case may be, the name ‘Gopali’ itself originated from ‘Gopal’, one of the names of Lord Krishna, who was a cowherd. Aptly enough, almost all Gopali families of the village keep livestock tethered to their homes.
Certainly, Tistung’s inhabitants have an interesting heritage, and this further adds to Tistung’s charms. Tistung, as such, merits a visit, not only to revel in the splendid landscape and observe the tranquil lifestyle of a Nepali village, but also to feel the exhilaration of driving/biking around hairpin bends on a steeply climbing mountain road that itself has a distinguished past. After all, it was the road to Shangri-La once upon a time!
Title Photo by ewnepal/flickr
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