Let’s Listen to the Stories: “Baakhan Nyane Waa” in Nepal

A Scene of Baakhan Nyane Waa ⓒ Baakhan Nyane Waa

Storytelling is an integral part of many cultures and social practices. It is also a way of transmitting knowledge from one generation to another. There is an undeniable change in the ways people across cultures practice storytelling due largely to the advent of technology. People in the past, as televisions, computers, internet, and even electricity were nonexistent, used to gather and share stories, even life events were narrated in the form of a story.

Old people still recall gathering near a fireplace during winter and telling stories in Nepal. Slowly this traditional conduct of storytelling is being replaced by new media, so young people have little to no chance of experiencing storytelling as a form of social bonding and interpersonal interaction. With the aim of reviving the traditional form of storytelling as well as documenting these stories relating cultural heritage and social practices in the public space, a group of young people engaged in heritage conservation started a storytelling program known as Baakhan Nyane waa (literally: let’s listen to the stories).

The first edition of Baakhan Nyane waa started on 8 September 2018 with a storytelling session about the Gunla Festival celebrated by the Newar Buddhist in Kathmandu Valley. Gunla Festival is held in the September. The venue for the event was a courtyard known as pinganani in Kathmandu of the Tamrakar community, and the storyteller was Mr. Swatantra Bahadur Tamrakar, a retired professor of physics and one of the gurus of Tamrakar Gunla Baajan Khala, the traditional musical group of the Tamrakar community.

The latest storytelling series (fifth edition) was done on 19 January 2019 in Kirtipur city in front of Uma Maheshwor temple with the theme, “Name of the places.” Since the first edition, the event has been taking place in the different historic cities around the Valley, and stories related to the history and culture of the place have been shared. The chosen storyteller is somebody who has a deep knowledge about the community where the storytelling session is held, including the community’s history, culture, and rituals. The participants of the event are locals as well as people from other places, since the event information is disseminated via a Facebook event page. Live streaming of the event is done through Facebook live for the people who are not able to attend physically. One of the interesting parts of this event is after the storytelling session the organizer distributes popcorn or nuts, traditionally known as baakha paa, which used to be distributed traditionally after every storytelling session. The small snacks after the stories used to be a motivational factor to come and listen to the stories for many as joyfully remembered by older community members.

This is a new initiative by young people to safeguard oral traditions. Those engaged in this program contribute their free time, expertise, and even resources. More details about this event can be found at https://www.facebook.com/baakhannyanewaa/ .