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Pratima Upretee

PhD student at IDLab, imec research group at Ghent University, Belgium

Pratima Upretee
“Nepal is renowned for hosting the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest, along with a diverse cultural blend that intertwines nature and traditions.”

Tracing the mountains and traditions

Pratima, originally from Virkot, Dolakha, Nepal, spent her childhood in Kathmandu before pursuing post-graduate studies in Türkiye. After a stint back in Nepal for two years, she pursued her PhD in Ghent, Belgium, and has been actively engaged with IDLab since 2022.

sagarmatha national park - mount everest base camp
Sagarmatha National Park - Mount Everest base camp
kathmandu - hindu and buddhist god masks
Kathmandu - Hindu and Buddhist god masks
sadhus - nepalese hindu holy men
Sadhus - Nepalese Hindu holy men
lumbini - buddhist temple
Lumbini - Buddhist Temple

Pratima’s Turkish sojourn

Upon her arrival in Kayseri, Türkiye, the first thing Pratima noticed was the sheer size of Erciyes University, which seemed to sprawl across nearly half the city. This contrasts sharply with her college in Nepal, where a small building accommodated around a couple of hundred students. The lecture styles, delivery methods, durations, and examination routines further consolidated this distinction. Pratima’s three-year stint in Türkiye introduced her to a new perspective on Nepal. Memories of the incense’s scent and the echo of temple bells resonated within her, reflecting her profound connection to a land drenched in centuries of spirituality. For three years, Pratima found herself unable to converse in her native Nepali language due to the absence of fellow natives. The confinement of language was not even on the distant list of things she anticipated dealing with. Her longing to speak in her mother tongue grew with time, fostering a profound appreciation for her language and culture. Being away from her roots, Pratima better understood the importance of the culture and traditions of her home country, which helped her to become more open to new opportunities she was discovering in the world.

hot air balloon rides over the himalayas
Hot air balloon rides over the Himalayas
kumari devi - the child goddess
Kumari Devi - The child goddess

The Kumari tradition

Pratima grew up witnessing the special Kumari tradition. The tradition concerns choosing Kumari Devi, a young girl who has not reached puberty yet. People believe the Kumari Devi holds the spirit of the goddess Taleju, and she is treated with immense respect as if she is an actual embodiment of divine female power. Godmen choose a Kumari who can only come from the Shakya clan in Kathmandu. Choosing her is an intricate process. They look at how she looks, what her astrological chart says, and her family. Once she is picked, the Kumari goes to live in the Kumari Ghar, a particular house in Kathmandu Durbar Square. She participates in many ceremonies and duties, like attending religious and cultural events. One can tell it’s her because she dresses up differently, with unique makeup, clothes, a special mark on her forehead which symbolizes the third eye of the Goddess, and jewelry. At the Indra Jatra festival, she walks in a parade through Kathmandu. The head of Nepal, the president, symbolically washes her feet to show respect. To counter the harmful effects on the girl’s education and psychology, the Kumari can meet her family in her community to regain normality in her isolated living. The government in Nepal has made education mandatory for the Kumaris.

A map of Nepal

Nepal’s landscapes and cultural legacy form a medley of natural wonders and authentic experiences. Pratima shares the perfect itinerary to discover the essence of her homeland. The adventure begins in Lumbini, the sacred birthplace of Lord Buddha, where an atmosphere of tranquility envelopes visitors in a spiritual embrace. Venturing further, the picturesque Ghandruk village unfolds in the Annapurna region, revealing a haven of traditional allure. Amid terraced fields and mountain panoramas, travelers can connect with the hospitable Gurung community. Delving into Nepalese life, homestays in places like Pokhara offer a glimpse into local traditions. As the journey progresses, Phewa Lake mirrors the beauty of Pokhara, a town nestled against the backdrop of stunning peaks. Ascending to the World Peace Pagoda, a moment of peace awaits amid breathtaking vistas. For those captivated by heights, both Annapurna and Everest basecamp reside in Nepal.

Nepal presents unparalleled beauty and offers an authentic encounter with its culture, creating an enlightening adventure for travelers.

Must do

Take a hot air balloon ride over Pokhara, for panoramic views of the Himalayas and the stunning landscapes below.