by Ashok Silwal
Kathmandu, Nepal

Once people of the mountains felt the snow coming, as the farmers there were perfect meteorologists .. Today also they are surprised when the snow arrives, as yesterday and day before !

Snowing Nepal. So snowy weather mainly in high hilly and Himalayan region. This is a news of snow-weather. But I am not talking directly about snow and snowfall here. Here is the topic today, ‘tradition and progress in the meteorological field.’

Whether you are a farmer engaged in the cultivation of fields, a climber in high mountain, a trekking guide, a driver or simply you would like to organize a picnic with your family, today, the weather forecasts cannot be missed ! After all, they precede generally the television programs and we all downloaded a weather related application on our smartphones that tells us in real time how much sun or how much rain, wind and temperature there will be in Ottawa or in Cape Town, in New York or in Kathmandu, in Rome or in Seoul…so at home and abroad .

Until a few years ago, we were certainly less ‘conditioned’ but really, reflecting about, we can understand that from historical times, weather has settled our activities especially in the agricultural and rural world and works. We find the testimony of this in all our festival that, at the origin, were secular events related to the weather and to the rhythms of the country life.

For example, Laxmi Puja with its lights and exchange of sweets and gifts among families, friends and relatives , means also that earth is ready to rest to recover resources, to renew itself.

Asar Pandra (Asar 15) is celebrated every year with National Paddy Day, marking the beginning of the rice planting and students are happy to play in rice fields with mud. The festival usually starts with people making a parade in their village before entering the rice fields; men plough the field, arranger drain water, level the fields and make fine mud slurry for the plantation. Then people splash each other and play in the mud, plant rice seedlings.. and sing folk song.

Dashain takes place before the rice harvest.

The annual Indra Jatra celebrates the end of the monsoons’ season, worshiping, singing, dancing and feasting in the name of the God of rain and heaven.

And what about Holi festival celebrating in colors the spring coming, Put on some old clothes, and swim in the sea of colors, festivities, water, and music…winter is finished !

So there are just some examples; each festival related with weather and as there are every month .. and more… it would take a whole book and anthropology specialists to tell stories about.

I just wanted to stop on the idea that the peasants of the ‘past’ were able to look at the clouds, at the sky, at the movement of the leaves, at the tree trunks, to listen at the birds’ songs to understand if it was the sun or the rain to come, it it was time to celebrate rice planting or harvesting.

The technique then was experience, practice and poetry. ‘Surprises’ were part of life in good and bad.

Today, fewer and fewer peasants know how to read the weather forecasts in nature. It is a little sad maybe but it is progress too.

Many of them read now on their smartphones or watch on TV, forecasts that make use of sophisticated technical means: thermometers, barometers, rain gauges, hygrometers, anemometers… and weather radar and satellites.

Meteorology has become a science, capable of making fairly accurate weather forecasts. It combines the data from heaven and from earth and can ‘announce floods and landslides, severe weather warnings .It calms us but, at the same time scares us more because we ‘know’ what will happen but often we don’t have the means ‘to run for cover’.

Certainly, science in progress but sometimes peasants’ wisdom surprises us.
Then, we feel a little nostalgia for a world we should keep but that is probably destined to ‘disappear’ despite the efforts of some.

And this quick reflection of mine, also makes me think of the medical field in which there are fewer and fewer doctors who, just looking into your eyes, understand what disease you are suffering. Today they need dozens of tests.

Then perhaps by combining pragmatic culture and science, meteorological and medical diagnosis will be perfect !

Could we conclude this short reflections in two ‘directions’… actually, a little in all fields… Great confidence in scientific progress with an eye to respect for the past and traditions…


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