By Amar Raj Naharki, Tanahun, Nov. 10: There is an old Nepali saying, “Dashain comes and brings happiness. Dashain goes and leaves debt.” This saying has unfortunately turned out to be true for Karna Bahadur Bote of Botegaun, Vyas Municipality - 10.
In order to celebrate Nepal’s biggest festival, Karna Bahadur took a loan of Rs. 35,000 and is now sifting through the sands on the banks of different rivers to look for gold with which he can pay it back. “Every year, I seek loans to celebrate Dashain and then repay them with the gold I find in the sand,” he said.
But Karna Bahadur is not alone in doing this. With winter arriving, many Botegaun villagers have reached riverbanks in search of gold. Like him, most of them will use the precious metal to pay off their Dashain debt and any remaining money will be used to care for the family, according to Niraj Majhi, president of the Bote Society.
Mesh Bahadur Bote, 52, was also one of the villagers going to the river in search of gold. He was accompanied by his wife Sani Maya. “I have to pay off the Rs. 40,000 loan I acquired to observe Dashain,” he said.
Every year, the Botes leave home a couple of days after Kojagrat Purnima and go to the banks of rivers like Marsyangdi, Trishuli, Budhigandaki and Kaligandaki to find gold. They also carry tents, blankets and utensils and use tools like Dood, Chinauto and Kuto to sift through the river sand.
Mangali Bote said that floods and landslides brought bits and pieces of gold from the mines and deposited them on the sand. Santa Bahadur Bote shared that more gold was found in Karnali than in other rivers. “But we don’t often go there because it is hard to travel that far,” he said.
As informed by Harka Bahadur Bote, there are 32 houses belonging to Bote families in the village and every able-bodied person except children and elderly go to the rivers, hoping to strike gold.
The Botes of Patan, Vyas Municipality - 5 and Pathra, Vyas Municipality - 7 also go out looking for gold, the Bote Society stated. It informed that the gold search continued till April and people brought back one to one and a half tola of gold annually. President Majhi said, “It is a tradition in the Bote community to take loans from gold and silver traders to celebrate Dashain and then pay them back with the gold collected from rivers.”
However, it is getting more and more difficult to find gold with each passing year. “We don’t find gold like we used to because of the haphazard bulldozing of riverbeds and banks,” Bir Bahadur Bote complained.
Shree Krishna Acharya, a teacher at the local Chandidevi National Secondary School, Baireni, told that the Botes were a financially weak community. “We could open up a whole new dimension of tourism if we linked it with the gold finding practice of the Botes,” he said.