Karnali locals fear losing their cultural identityTraditional songs such as Jhoda, and dances such as Deuda, Rateuli, Magal, Hudke dance—passed on from generations—are slowly dying out in the region.
Kesharkala Malla, 60, remembers singing Jhoda songs since her early teens. The traditional songs would generally be performed by two groups of women—with 15-20 members in each group—at various cultural and religious events. The women would sing the entire night and would be presented with either money or other gifts the next morning. But not anymore.
“The younger generation is forgetting our tradition,” said Malla, a resident of Chhayanath Rara Municipality in Mugu district. Along with the dying Jhoda songs, locals say that other traditional tunes and dance forms of the Karnali region such as Deuda, Rateuli, Magal, Dharu, Chhaiti, Aarati, Hudke Nach, Balo Nach are slowing dying out too.
Traditional customs, which have always been an inherent part of the Karnali Khas civilisation, have been overlooked by the younger generation in favour of westernised and city-oriented lifestyles, locals claim.
“Many things have now become a thing of the past,” said a Deuda singer Kalse Nepali, referring to the traditional culture and arts.
As most of these art forms are passed on from one generation to the next, traditional artistes are being unsuccessful in passing on the baton to the younger generation—because they do not want to learn it.
Two decades ago, Gaja Singh Nepali had purchased Sahanai, a traditional musical instrument which is typically played with Panche Baja, a traditional musical orchestra usually put together for weddings.
“I bought a new Sahanai for Rs 5,500 in Jumla. But my son refuses to learn to play it,” says the 60-year-old.
As a result, the traditional Panche Baja is being shadowed. Like Jhoda songs, Panche Baja is a staple for weddings and other celebratory events in the region.
Another traditional art form, usually performed during such events, which is on the verge of dying out is Hudke Naach.
Seventy-year-old Hastaman Nepali, a local of Khatyad Rural Municipality, said that Hudke—the dancers who perform Hudke Naach—used to have a very busy schedule. Now, they are out of jobs.
“Hudke dance was performed in the bride’s house after the groom’s side reached there,” said Nepali, reminiscing that even a decade ago, the dance was a popular attraction during weddings.
But as people now prefer to have weddings in temples in villages or party palaces in cities, the significance of the traditional dance form has also decreased. The dance used to be a celebrated part of the wedding ceremony, with Hudke dancers asking for money from spectators on the groom’s side—entertaining them.
Amar Singh Nepali, a Hudke dancer, said that the dance form used to be a popular attraction in Mugu, Bajura, Humla and Sinja area of Jumla district. But they are no longer invited to perform.
Along with traditional dances, traditional ornaments such as kalli, bala, sani mala, sanla, duri, dhungri, pahel and seto potya have also been replaced by more conventional jewellery, like ranihar, mangalsutra, jhumka, chhadketilari and chandrama. Similarly, traditional garb manufactured from thetuwa has also been out of use since long.