ACHHAM, April 13: Not all people within the same country celebrate New Year the same way. People in the Far-Western Region celebrate New Year in a unique way . Locals here celebrate the occasion by beating each other with the green stem of a stinging nettle. This practice is known as Bisu Tihar.
This tradition is especially to be found in the hill districts of Province 7 such as Achham, Dadeldhura, Doti, Bjahang, Bajura and Baitadi. On Baisakh 1 last year (April 14 by the Western calender), Kabita BK of Mangalsen could hardly rest during the day as her brothers-in-law kept coming up and beating her gently with a nettle stem.
She was left with burning and itching skin the whole day. She was going for a bath at the water tap early in the morning when one of her brothers-in-law moved a nettle stem along her body. Later, when she was busy cooking behind closed doors, another brother-in-law reached her with a nettle stem pushed in through the window. "I have many brothers-in-law to put up with every New Year," recalls Kabita, who was found defending herself with a bunch of nettle stems of her own. "I start having sleepless nights from a few days before New Year," she said.
Not just Kabita but most married woman of her village have a troublesome time on New Year. The more the number of brothers-in-law the more the nettlesome woe. This oldest of traditions of the Far-Western Region is mostly observed between brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law. Sometimes, the stinging nettle is soaked in water to sharpen the sting..
According to Janaki Rawal of Mellekh-7, it is believed that the nettle stem treatment takes care of all skin ailments and allergies . She further informed that it is compulsory for everyone to touch a stinging nettle on this day. Those without brother-in-law or sister-in-law should themselves move a nettle stem over their bodies.
Also on this day, women present puppet dances while the men make a puppet tiger called Bisu and make it run. In Achham and Bajura women already start the puppet dance a week before New Year. The puppets are later disposed of in the water. Locals also cook Gatani Dubka, a local food item, after worshipping their ancestral deities. All this is believed to be in celebration of a Hindu legend surrounding the Indian emperor Vikarmaditya.
It is also believed that the sun completes making a round of Earth on this day.