To Swing On A Ping
|October 2009||Text by : Scott Faiia
Photograph by : Scott Faiia
Dashain is the single most important Hindu festival in Nepal. It is celebrated
across the country, a joyous time when people travel great distances to reunite as families. The weather is glorious, everyone has new clothes, there is food in abundance, plenty of drinks, huge red tikas, card playing, traditional dances and socializing. It is truly a break for everyone from life’s daily struggles. Best of all, for children there is no school for many days and they can play to their hearts’ content. There are many games and pastimes, but the one children’s activity specific to Dashain in Nepal is the traditional swing, or ‘ping’.
A ping is normally made entirely of local materials and is a joint project for the enjoyment of the whole community. This holds true from the Terai plains to the mountains and from remote villages to the capital city. It is just one indication of the strength of this festival as a unifying aspect of Nepal’s national culture. Dashain swings are not like typical swings found in playgrounds across the planet. They are mega swings, with heights exceeding 20 feet where the arc is so long you can easily imagine you are flying. It may be more comparable to a trapeze at the circus.
The main components are four shafts of bamboo for the frame and sturdy lengths of natural rope made from bangera
(jute). The bamboo is simply set in holes in the ground and bent inward and tied securely at the apex with rope – a traditional technology that has remained unchanged for centuries. The seat is most often just a loop of rope, or a simple wooden board. Standing while swinging, however, is more common than sitting. It helps to have a big push from friends to get you started.
Pings are normally erected in the week before Gatas Thapana, the September day when the planting of jamara grass marks the beginning of the 15-day Dashain period. They are normally dismantled just after the Tihar holiday, an important five-day festival that starts approximately two weeks after Dashain. Elders feel that to keep the ping up too long would distract children from their studies. This is just one indication of the ping’s huge popularity. They are popular in both rural and urban settings, but it is increasingly difficult to find sufficient open space in Kathmandu and other cities for them. Pings combine the best of local culture, tradition, community spirit and fun. What could be more glorious than soaring through the crisp mountain air in your new Dashain clothes, without a care in the world and the magnificent Himalayan snow peaks in front of you?
Scott Faiia has lived more than 20 years in Asia, 12 in Africa and three in Haiti. His interest in photography developed as a means to interact with the diverse peoples and cultures he encountered and was one of his survival tools in the revolutions, refugee camps, and disaster zones of the countries he served. Scott recently returned to Nepal to focus his energies on photographing the wonders of life in the Kathmandu Valley. His work has appeared in numerous calendars, brochures, reports and books. The total number of impressions of his images in these various media is over 5,000,000. To learn more about Scott’s photography contact him at email@example.com.
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