The month of Asar, which is the beginning of the monsoon season, holds great significance for the Nepali farmers. It’s that time of the year when the hills and fields in Nepal, are covered with green paddy saplings. The air feels a lot fresher, with chunks of clouds making their way past the steep hills. It feels like nature is taking in a breath of fresh air, reciprocating the same feeling to the ones watching it as well. It’s that time of the year when farmers carry their plowing tools and head to the fields for rice plantation. To indicate the beginning of the rice plantation, they celebrate the Ropai Festival.
What is Ropai Festival?
Rice is one of the most popular grains consumed in Nepal. It is a staple food consumed by the locals on a daily basis. Every year, in order to commemorate the planting of rice seedlings, the Ropai Festival is celebrated on Asar 15 (June–July). The period occurs during the middle of the monsoon and is one of the busiest season for farmers as they prepare their fields to plant rice. On this day, most farmers finish planting rice in their fields. This day is also widely popular as ‘Dahi Chiura Khaney Din.’
The Ropai Festival is also called ‘Ropai Jatra,’ in some communities, it is known as ‘Sina Jya Jatra’ (Newari) or ‘Chopai Jatra’ (midwest and far western Nepal). Over the years, this festival has been slowly gaining popularity among local and international tourists. It’s a great opportunity for travelers to mingle with the local community members and plant rice seedlings in the fields. In addition to that, they can also celebrate the end of the plantation by singing and dancing in the mud along with playing different games.
The History behind the Celebrations of Ropai Festival in Nepal
According to Nepali Patro, the Ropai Jatra was first introduced in Nepal by Gajraj Singh Thapa – the Colonel of the Nepal Army during the Rana regime and the governor of Ilam, in 1972 BS (1915 AD). Since then, this festival has been celebrated in different parts of Nepal by different communities, on different days, in accordance with their own customs and traditions. Nowadays, there’s a popular belief that the owner of the paddy field should be thrown in the mud of his/her field, according to a hilarious belief that makes the owner feel closer to their roots and soil.
How is the Ropai Festival Celebrated?
This festival is celebrated across the country with the belief of bringing a good harvest. Families and community members come together and head to the fields to begin the plantation. Both men and women plow the field and plant the seedlings simultaneously. Apart from the hard work, people assemble to sing and dance, engage in mud battles, sing songs of pleasure and sadness, and slap muddy water at one another while in the fields.
Following the mud bouts, they indulge in a delectable yogurt and flattened rice dish called Dahi Chiura. Today, various fruits and handmade beverages are served with this traditional lunch. In the end, farmers also revere their land in the hopes of reaping a bountiful crop later during the harvesting season.
Although the ancient agricultural systems have been replaced by contemporary ones, people still plant rice traditionally out of reverence for the past.
Where is the Ropai Festival Happening?
The celebration of rice plantations is common in most parts of rural Nepal since agriculture is a common profession for most residents. One can even participate in the festival by visiting the fields at Khokana, Kirtipur, Bhaktapur, and Lalitpur if they’re in Kathmandu.
There are many travel entities that are trying to promote the Ropai experience as a part of the authentic Nepali experience. Community Homestay Network offers its guests an authentic and immersive experience of paddy plantation through their festive experience – Ropain Festival.
How can I Participate in the Ropai Festival?
Since the Ropai Festival is a seasonal event, the locals usually celebrate the festival during the monsoon season in Asar 15. However, other communities are open to welcoming guests to participate in this cultural experience too.
Community Homestay Network allows their guests to partake in the Ropai Festival experience during the month of Asar. The event will occur near the capital city in Kirtipur and Nagarkot. Along with being involved in the Ropai Festival, guests will also have an opportunity to learn more about the local cultures, and they can even stay at a local homestay and dine with their host family to end the day on a sweet note.