Flower PowerDuring Tihar, long, bulbous garlands of marigolds hang from the eaves of roofs and the arches of doorways. They are wreathed around images of gods and goddesses and depending on what day it is, they adorn dogs, cows, oxen and humans. These flowers bring fragrance, light and aesthetics to Tihar.
During Tihar, long, bulbous garlands of marigolds hang from the eaves of roofs and the arches of doorways. They are wreathed around images of gods and goddesses and depending on what day it is, they adorn dogs, cows, oxen and humans. These flowers bring fragrance, light and aesthetics to Tihar.
The marigold, or sayapatri, is a favourite of Laxmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, whose worship is central to Tihar. On the day of Laxmi puja, the third day of Tihar, these flowers are dipped liberally in a flour-vermillion paste and used to make footprints of the goddess to welcome her into homes, inviting in abundance.
Flowers and garlands worth more than Rs 150 million are sold in the Kathmandu Valley alone during Tihar. Apart from domestic production, the country imports an average of 300,000 marigold garlands every year. According to the Nepal Commercial Floriculture Survey 2015/2016, conducted by Central Bureau of Statistics, 147.49 hectares of land in the country are used for flower farming.
Given their liberal use during the festivals, marigolds are often in short supply. To meet demands, these flowers are imported from India every year. However, the cultivation of flowers like the marigold and the globe amaranth, or makhmali, another Tihar flower, is taking off both inside and outside the Kathmandu Valley.
West of Swayambhu, past Halchowk and a few minutes on the off-road ridge is Icchangu Narayan, where picturesque hills are covered in fields of yellows. Marigold farming has become a major occupation for the people of Icchangu in the past few years. The months of October and November are busy for farmers with the cultivation and harvesting of flowers to prepare for the Dashain-Tihar demand.
“Each bundle of flower is sold for Rs 20 while a bucketful costs Rs 200,” says 35-year-old Jit Maya Thapa, an Icchangu flower farmer. Due to Icchangu’s fertile soil, they are able to grow flowers twice a year, Thapa relates. As the festive season arrived later this year, Icchangu had an adequate supply ready. With internal supply rising to meet increased demands, Nepal might not have to import flowers from India next festival season.