Sakela: An Ancient Kiranti Celebration Of Nature
Every six months, the Kirant community comes together to celebrate their biannual festival: Sakela. This festival has two different names. Ubhauli for summer, and Udhauli for winter.
Ubhauli is the Nepali word for ubho, meaning to ascend. It marks the beginning of summer, and is a summon to Mother Nature to bring good rain for the plantation season. As the mountains become warmer, they attract birds and other animals, as well as humans which include the pastoral Kirat.
The festival that falls in winter is called Udhauli, which translated into “down”. This festival is to thank Mother Nature for the harvest and signals that it is time to descend from the mountains and head to warmer areas.
Both festivals see plenty of dancing. The dances which are a form of storytelling continue for at least 15 days. The story told through a dance is called a ‘Sili’. Stories about planting rice, weaving, migrating birds, shaman rituals, etc. are sung during the festival. Once a Sili is begun, it has to be completed. A dance cannot be stopped halfway. A shaman oversees the beginning and the end of each dance sequence and blesses it.