Each year on 15th Poush, I get to wake up with the amazing smell of sel roti. Poush 15th, also known as Tamu Lhosar, is the festival of the Gurung community and is celebrated with great enthusiasm. Lhosar is when the Gurung community ushers in a new year. We divide time in a cycle of 12 years and each year is represented by 12 different animals – garuda, serpent, horse, sheep, monkey, bird, dog, deer, mouse, cow, tiger and cat which are called “lho.” Each Lhosar we bid farewell to the existing lho season and welcome a new one.
In our family Lhosar means reuniting with all our relatives and family friends. Early in the morning we visit the gumba and do our prayers and receive blessings for prosperity and happiness. The monasteries are decorated with colorful lights. Each home raises a prayer flag on top of its roof. Since most of the Gurungs have migrated to the cities, to keep their traditions alive, they form a community according to their former villages, which are called samaj ghar. During the day everyone goes to their own samaj ghar to celebrate Lhosar with our traditional food and clothes. The men wear Bhangra, a white cloth shirt-like apparel tied across the chest and open like a bag at the back which was used for carrying things back in the days, and a Kachhad, like a short sarong or kilt. Gurung women, as well as children and adolescents, wear maroon velvet Ghalek and gunyo-cholo, paired with gold accessories and semi-precious stone necklaces.
Food and dance are a big part of the celebration. There are varieties of meat and snacks present at the samaj ghar, but nothing beats sel roti, achhar and local chicken curry. The elders sing “thado bhaka” whereas others dance to “chudka”( a fast paced dance style). The younger generations who are born and raised in the city get a good exposure of their culture through it and it helps keep the traditions alive. Greetings are exchanged, long lost friends and relatives are met and new members are introduced to the samaj (community) on the day of Lhosar as the prayer flags flutter in the wind from the rooftops.