HIPPIES: The Unconventional Way of Life


Being born and brought up in Lakeside, Pokhara, one of the major touristic destinations in Nepal, I had encountered a few unconventional looking hippies in my early childhood around the 60’s. These people were known to be those who travelled all the way to Nepal along the magic trail in magic bus. The buses were painted in psychedelic colours and tribal prints. I was unaware about the origin of Hippism and moreover I didn’t know much about the major difference between ordinary tourists and hippies. Where do these people come from? Why did they have such long hair and wore colourful rugged dresses? I had no idea.

Around that time, I used to see them smoking Ghanja in pots. They had long hair with shaggy t-shirts and jeans, and walked around barefoot with such ease, it was very strange to me. The young people in Pokhara also seemed to pick up a similar kind of lifestyle over the years. No wonder, they caught my eyes when I was a child. Songs by Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Bob Dylan, The Beatles were very popular among the hippie community and so, the streets and corners of lakeside started dancing to those songs. They liked an arm full of colourful bangles, bracelets, rings on almost every finger, and large decorative necklaces.

As a child, I constantly found myself wondering over why their way of living was totally different from usual seasonal tourists until I added up in years until later. The identity of these unconventional people remained unexplored by my generation and the generation next. My knowledge on hippism broadend as I learned about and started teaching Tourism Management to graduate students. Then, I started researching about it and started loving the interesting parts of their lifestyle and their simple values in living.

There was a good portion of American Youth around the 60’s who denied the war happeing in their world and were in a constant search of peace. Most of them started their journey from New York and San Francisco of America. Via France and Italy, they travelled to the roads of Asia. And similarly, they came to Nepal along the route of Afghanistan following Middle East. This movement was at times seen to be politically and socially related to the opposition of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. Leaving their country for an alternative peaceful way of life has been many times been portrayed as their symbolic protest against war.

Once they entered Nepal, in the centuries old heritage of Basantpur in Kathmandu, a whole new heritage stepped in. These people influenced the Nepalese way of life in many different ways forever. This new culture was totally different where people seemed to live without a care in the world, to be happy and pleased all the time. The foreign youngsters were feeling independent in the small huts of Johchhen community by smoking of Ghanja and Chares.

Jochhen, a small community in Kathmandu which was popularly known as ‘freak street’ used to be the epicenter of Hippism in Nepal during 1960s until the late 1970s. During the time, the main attraction drawing tourists to freak street were government liecenced hashish shops. Slowly, these people dispersed to Lakeside, Pokhara as well.

Hippies from different parts of the world traveled to freak street in the journey to Nirvana. A young restless population in the west of the world, seeking to distant itself from political and social frustration, had first-hand had contact with the fascinating culture, art and architecture, and unique life style which attracted these people more to this little country in the foothill of himalayas. No restriction in dress. No noise and cry. This culture was just in need of independence and pleasure. This culture also provided employment and new business opportunities for the Nepalese living around these areas.

Hippies felt alienated from the middle-class society, where they saw dominance by materialism and repression, and they ultimately chose their own distinctive lifestyle. Hippies commonly took up communal or cooperative living arrangements, and they often adopted vegetarian diets based on unprocessed foods and practiced holistic medicine. Hippies tended to be dropouts from universities, the unconventional ones in the society, forgoing regular jobs and careers, although some developed small businesses that catered to other hippies.

In 1970, the then Nepal Government upon request by the American authorities, prohibited Ghanja smoking. Due to this, the Hippie culture vanished slowly. Most of these Hippies were physically deported to India. The government imposed a strict regulation for tourists regarding the dress codes and physical appearances. After imposing such regulations by the government of Nepal, these hippies felt vulnerable and the hippie movement of Nepal died out in the late 1980s. It was under this directive that the Nepali government came to ban the production and sale of hashish and marijuana in Nepal. The hippie tourism was quickly replaced with the more conventional businesses of trekking and cultural tourism in Thamel and Lakeside. This not only grabbed the pleasure and independency of hippies but affected the tourism business as well.

And then, Hippism which was this unique way of living also became an ”Once upon a time” story.