The Seder in Nepal
A Street Sign in Tamal, a central area of Katmandu
The Annual Seder of Katmandu has become the most famous and legendary Seder in the world. (See articles) Every Year hundreds of Israeli and Jewish travelers from around the world gather in Katmandu for what is known to be the largest Seder in the world with more than 1200 participants.
It all started in the late 80's when Nepal became a popular travel destination for young Israelis who had completed their military service. After serving in the army, these young adults really wanted to have a "freeing" experience. Thus trekking in the Himalayas became a popular post-army activity. It so happens that the months of March-April are the second best season to hike on those mountains (the prime season is September-October) and so it was right about the time of Passover that the Streets of the Katmandu Valley and especially an area known as the Thamel would become full of Israeli travelers. In 1988 as the holiday of Pesach drew near, travelers turned to the local Israeli Embassy and asked for some Matzos and wine for the Seder. The Embassy people helped as much as they could, but couldn't meet all the demands of the many travelers. A short while later, the Lubavitcher Rebbe received a letter from a few travelers asking for some help in conducting a full Seder. In response, he commanded his Chasidim to see to it that a real Seder would take place in…Katmandu! And so those legendary Seders began in 1989 when two young Lubavitch Rabbis from Australia traveled to Katmandu to create a Seder. 350 people attended this first Seder, which was held at the "Pumpernickel" restaurant (Norbu the proprietor, discovered a niche business since ordinary Nepalis do not eat bread, hence the name.) in the heart of the Thamel,.
Cooking for Pesach in a modern Nepali kitchen.
In 1990 Asi Spiegel traveled to Nepal for the first time with two other Rabbis (Rabbi David Bisk and Rabbi Chaim Alevski). Upon landing in Katmandu they were shocked to discover that they were in the middle of a local revolution. Nevertheless, against all odds, and with a special blessing of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe- the Seder took place that year in the Israeli embassy, which was able to host 650 people.
In the upcoming years the word was passed along and many more Jewish travelers began planning their trip around being in Katmandu in the month of April in order to participate in the Seder.
One of the unique aspects and an integral part of the celebration was the spirit and joy that naturally stemmed from being with so many fellow Jews. It is an awesome experience sitting together with another 1000 Jews to celebrate the redemption of our people.
Article1: The Legendary Seder in Katmandu
Article2: Himalayan Seder- Passover in Katmandu