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Newar Buddhist culture

By Devik Balami at
seto machinadranath

The Newars are the historical inhabitants of the Kathmandu Valley and it surrounding areas in Nepal. Newar community constitutes of primarily Indo-Aryan and Tibeto-Burman ethnicities which follows Hinduism and Buddhism as the religion with the common language, Nepal Bhasa. Newars who follows Hinduism observe Newar Hindu Culture while Buddhist Newars observe Newar Buddhist Culture. Even though there seems to be division both the group participate in each other's cultures, festivals. Newari festivals like Indra Jatra, Janma Deyo Rath Jatra, Bunga Deyo Rath Jatra, Paachare, etc. are celebrated in a different period of the year. Newars also observe various ceremonies throughout their lifespan which generally have symbolic representation in their society.

Some of the Newar Buddhist Culture

Annapraasan

Annapraasan or Rice feeding ceremony is performed at the age of six or eight months for the boys while at the age of five or seven months for girls. From this day onwards, the family will feed rice to their babies along with the breast milk.

Ihi ceremony

The word Ihi is the short form of Ihipaa which means marriage in English. Only girl child performs this ceremony and is their first marriage. This ceremony is the observed between the ages of five to nine in which the girls are married to bael fruit (wood apple).

Bahra

After Ihi ceremony girls observe another ceremony, Bahra ceremony before the onset of puberty. In this ceremony, the girls are married to the sun god. Before the ceremony, the girl is kept in a room for 12 days, hidden from the male person. The family members prepare this room in such a way that the sunlight doesn't pass into the room. On the final day, the girl is taken out dressed like a bride and then performs the rituals. Since the girls are married to wood apple and then sun god, Newari women are not considered widow even if her husband dies before her.

Chudakarma ceremony

This ceremony is observed by the boys of age five to thirteen in which the boy's head is shaved completely and is presented with loin-cloth. This ceremony has a special importance because with this completion of this function, boys are accepted as grown up and introduced in the sangha. Generally, the shaving of the hair is done in the Baha or Bahi (a Newar monastery, Buddhist temple) in front of the Buddha statues. This ceremony is also important because the boys mimic the life of Gautama Buddha.

Janku

Janku is an old age ceremony which is performed when the person reaches the age of 77 yrs, 7 months, 7 days, 7 hrs, 7 min, and 7 quarter. It is also called "Bhimratharohan". After this ceremony, that persons will observe another Janku ceremonies at the age of 83, 99 and 105 which is called as "Chandraratharohan", "Devaratharohan", and “Divyaratharohan" respectively. Therefore if a person can observe at most four Janku ceremonies in his/her life.

Jana Baha Deyo Jatra

Jana Baha Deyo got its name from its location Jana Baha. Actually, it is bodhisattva Karunamaya. In this festival, chariot or rath housing statue of Karunamaya is drawn through central Kathmandu for three days. This festival is celebrated with happiness by all the people.

Bunga Deyo Jatra

As Jana Baha Deyo Jatra takes place in Kathmandu, Bunga Deyo rath Jatra is celebrated in Lalitpur district. Bunga Deyo also got its name from its location Bungamati and it is also bodhisattva Karunamaya. Unlike Jana Baha Deyo, Bunga Deyo Jatra is celebrated for a month duration and ends with Bhoto Jatra displaying Bhoto, a sacred vest. Once in every 12 years, the possession takes place from Bungamati to Jawlakhel where officials shows Bhoto of Karunamaya.