How much Newari Culture do you know? Well as a Newar myself I can say that even I don’t know all of the cultures that we follow. The main reason is that there are simply too many of them. Well here is a list of 10 Newari Cultures that you may think you know but I bet you didn’t know well.
1 Biska Jatra
More commonly known as a Bisket Jatra. This is one of the most popular Jatras that almost all of you might know about but I bet that most of you did not know what the Newari name was. This is an annual event in Bhaktapur, Dhapasi, and Tokha.
According to the legend that this celebration is the “festival after the death of the serpent”. The most eventful places are Bhaktapur Durbar Square and Thimi where a chariot carrying a statue of the God Bhairava is pulled by people to the Khalla Tole. This chariot or “rath” is made around a month earlier after looking at the appropriate date as per the lunar calendar.
The signature event on Bhaktapur Taumadhi is a tug-of-war between the Thane (upper) and Kone (lower) part of town.
2 Sithi Nakha
This is one of the major Festivals of Newari which is celebrated on the sixth day of the Jestha. This festival is celebrated to honor Kumar who is the elder son of lord Shiva. Due to this reason, this festival is also known as Kumar Sasthi or Kuma: Sasthi. Along with this it is said that Lord Ram got victory over Ravana on this day as well.
The legendary Newar cuisine namely “Wo” ( lentil patty) and Chatamari (liquid rice bread) are consumed on this day of the Newari culture. Newar people must complete Dewali Puja as well on this day. This is a puja in which the family more commonly known as Digu Deya is worshipped. The Diwali Puja is of special significance as the newly married daughter in laws are welcome in the family.
3 Mha Puja
This again is one of the known festivals of the Newari culture. In short this is what the meaning literally translates, “self worship”. This puja signifies an auspicious beginning of the New Year, and invokes prosperity and longevity for the participant. Along with this a Newari New Year is also celebrated on this day as well.
In this puja, the family Members draw mandala on the floor and follow a series of Pujas, in up, down, left and right directions signifying a protection from hell and enemies as well as blessing from heaven.
The worship of the mandala is the principal ritual during Mha Puja. The mandala represents the universe, and the wick and incense stick which are lighted during the ceremony means that the participant should spread brightness and fragrance for others.
Commonly known as Matya, this is a festival which is celebrated by the people of the Lalitpur District. This culture may seem weird and this festival festival on the surface looks like a mash of Halloween and other random pujas and it is somewhat true as well. The literal meaning of Mat-tya is “Burning of the Lights”as “Mata” in Newari means “light” and “tya” means to “Win” or to “Burn”. Both of these meanings are significant as this festival mainly honors the dead (which are cremated in most cases hence fire) and to wish relief on the eternal cycle of life and win nirvana.
During this festival, a long parade of the enthusiastic shrine-walkers goes around all the Buddhist shrines (also known as Thur) scattered in and around the city of Patan. This is an amazing feat because there are more than 1300 Buddhist shrines in Patan alone.
5 Rice feeding Ceremony
While this ceremony is not unique to Newari Culture, how it is performed is certainly unique in it’s own way. It is organized in six or seven months of birth if the child is the boy. But if the child is the girl then this ceremony is organized in 5 months. The family members, relatives are gathered and this ceremony is performed. As Ganesh is the lord of start, the deity is worshipped, the child is offered rice pudding with lots of varieties of food with the belief that the child gets similar food as offered in this day throughout his life. It is to be noted that the child is also fed a drop of high quality sweet “Rice beer” also known as “thwo” in newari and “chhyang” in Nepali.
More commonly known as Gufa among Nepali people, for newari girls this festival is one of the most important festivals. After the age of 11/12 years, the girl is kept in dark room with no light of the sun and no interact with opposite sex. She is not allowed to leave the room under any circumstances and all the things that need to be done are done within the room.
At the first day, she is kept in a room at night neat and clean in the absence of men. In the room, two girls are kept but if there is only one girl then the doll is made & is kept with her.and no salt should be taken till the third day. On the 4th day, friends, relatives come to meet them offering varieties of food. The girl is made pure by bathing and she is allowed to look at the sun by making little space from her fingers each for 12 times on the 12th day. On the ending day, she is married to the sun god after the Puja.
The likelihood of this culture existing probably has to do with Sati Pratha. Since the sun god is the first and primary husband of the girl, even if the man she is later married to dies, she does not have to follow sati as her first and promari husband “the sun god” is still alive.
This another method that is likely made to deal with Sati pratha. More commonly known as Bel Bibaha (not bal bibaha), pre-adolescent girls are “married” to the bael fruit (wood apple), which is a symbol of the god Vishnu, ensuring that the girl becomes and remains fertile. Now due to her being married to a god, even if her husband later dies, she is not considered as a widow. Add Bara to the list and she can marry pretty much anytime she likes even after the lady’s husband dies.
As bel fruit (wood apple) has a peculiar quality of not getting rotten and remaining fresh forever. It is sometimes considered as Divya Purusha (divine male) or incarnation of the god. This ceremony lasts for two days.
8 Yomari Punhi
This is again one of the more popular festivals of Newari Culture. This festival is celebrated on the full moon of december and it is when Newari makes Yomaris. Yomari is a dumpling filled with brown cane sugar (known as chaku) and sesame seeds. They are made and distributed around the neighbourhood.
The kids also go around and “beg” for yomari by singing songs and dancing. This is somehow similar to deusi. It is different as the people who participate are mostly kids who are out to have fun. Somewhat like the kids on Halloween out to have fun with candies.
As with a lot of Newari festivals, sacred masked dances are performed in the villages of Hari Siddhi and Thecho.
9 Matina Paaru.
In short this can be called Valentine’s day in Newari Culture. The name literally translates to “Love Day”. This is celebrated the day after Yomari Punhi. According to Basu Pasa’s historical book ‘Kantipur’, among different shapes yomari. ‘Bayo’ symbolizes the male sexual organ whereas the triangle shaped with two points at the end known as ‘Mayo’ yomari suggests the female sexual organ and represents . The
The culture of ‘Yomari Fonegu’ or begging for yomari as mentioned previously relates with love and romance. Back in those days the lovers got a chance to sneak peek and talk with their loved ones. As we all know that in olden times , society was restrictive with love. Yomari Punhi’s ‘Yomari Fonegu’ culture was utilized as a cruising day in those times. Lovers would secretly meet each other that day and have some much needed face to face interaction.
10 Ghya Chaku Saalu/ Maghe Sankranti.
I know I have been going on and off with the cultures and festivals you know and don’t know and this is something that you all must know about. Maghe Sankranti is celebrated all throughout Nepal. What makes it different for Newari people is the way they celebrate it.
As with other cultures, this is celebrated to enjoy and prepare for the upcoming winter. Different from other cultures, Newari people celebrate this by drinking Kwati. Kwati is a soup with a mix of beans and potatoes). On this day the Newari also have a custom of going to the Gama Ghar (the mothers parental house) and taking an offering of Ghee and Chaku from the Mama (mother’s brother) or the elderly of the house. This is believed to increase the cold tolerance and exchange the karma.