Life time ceremonies of Newars

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There is a mysterious fact about Nepal that this country holds distinctive types of ceremonies. That roams up around upon a single person’s life from birth till death. And continues even after death. These ceremonies are shora sanskar karma. That indicates the 16 rites in Hindu and Buddhist religions. Somehow, today people perform only 10 rituals out of 16. But they are compulsory in one’s life. While newar people are bind within the Hindu and Buddhist religions. They also perform these rites. But of course, in exceptional ways. The most likely known ceremonies from the birth of a child in the newar community are like this:

Naamkaran

The very first rite performed in anyone’s life is the Naam Karan.  This is a ceremony of cleping of a newborn baby. This cleping ceremony held on the sixth day of the birth of a baby. That is also popular as a nwaran ceremony. 

Annaprasan

Annaprasan is the ritual of rice feeding. Somehow, there is a distinctive canon for a boy and a girl to be fed. A baby boy must have this ritual at the age of six or eight months. Whereas, a baby girl should do this ritual in the fifth or seventh month. This local name of this ceremony is macha janku.

Chudakarma ceremony

Popularly known as bratabandha in Nepalese society and chudakarma is an important rite of the male Newars. They call this loin-cloth and head-shaving ceremony Kaeta Puja. People are performing tradition from thousands of years with religious affiliation. To perform this rite, boys should be five to thirteen years old according to the Newari culture. While other communities have no age limit to do this ceremony.

Buddhist chudakarma ritual

By some means, Buddhist Newars like Gubhāju-Baré (Bajracharya-Shakya), Urāy, Jyapu, and Chitrakār perform their Pravrajyā and Chudākarma ceremony in a unique way. By sending their lads to vihar and Buddhist monasteries for three days to live a life like a monk. Abandoning all the material pleasures. They made their child attain monkshood and nirvana by mimicking Gautama Buddha’s ascetic and mooching way of life. 

On the very fourth day of the ceremony, they returned to their home. And henceforward became a responsible householder. The clan of Buddhist priest Gubhāju-Baré (Bajracharya and Shakya) goes through an additional initiation ceremony. The ceremony is called Bare Chuyegu (becoming a Baré) where categorically Bajracharya boys go through Acharya Abhisheka. This event is considered as a Tantric in grace rite that qualifies a Bajracharya to become a priest.

Hindu chudakarma ritual

On the other hand, Hindu Newars perform this ceremony as a ritual of the first stage among four stages of life. In which, the young boy again abandons his family for the celibate religious life. This event also brought a ton of change in his life. For the first time, his head would be fully shaved except a tuft left at the top. Afterward, he must shave his head like that when someone from his clan or family passes away. Well, talking back to the ceremony, he must don yellow/orange robes of the mendicant and beg rice from his relatives. And act as if he is preparing to wander out into the world. This symbolic act fulfilled the ascetic ideal so that he is now called a responsible family member.

Due to the caste culture, Rajopādhyāyas and Chatharīyas additionally perform the Upanayana initiation. There the boy receives a sacred thread along with a Vedic mantra called Gāyatrī mantra and Shiva mantra respectively. Which after, the boy is said to be fully inducted into his caste status as a Dvija with the obligation to observe all commensal rituals.

Ihi ceremony

Ihi ceremony became the most memorable moment of a Newari girl if she manages to remember it. Since this ritual is done within the age of five to nine years old, it is hard to remember for small girls.

This is a very unique culture of newar people where they manage to arrange a marriage of their children to lord Vishnu. Yes, you can call this a myth or a fact but a girlhood girl is married to a fruit named bael in this event. The bael, a wooden apple which is symbolized as the lord Vishnu had a peculiar quality of not getting rotten and remaining fresh forever. So that if the girl’s husband dies later in the future, she is not considered a widow because she is married to Vishnu, who stands alive always and forever.

This two days long ceremony holds a marriage ritual henceforth, you can see in a typical Newari marriage there is no need to go to the bride’s house for the groom. Since all the rituals are already performed in the ihi ceremony. At last but not the least, the ihi short form of ihipaa means a marriage.

Bahra

Bahra tayegu or bahra choyegu is another tradition of the newar community. This rites again process to the marriage of a girl to the sun. And of course, before the menstruation of girls. Somehow, they choose the odd age number to do this ceremony. This is the second marriage of a Newari girl which marks the turning of a girl to a fertile woman.

Startup of bahra

Traditionally, the process of bahra starts with a pooja conducted by the eldest women of the house. There, samyabji is offered to the sun god. Thereafter, the girl is sent into a dark room for the next 12 days with a friend or a female member of the family, where she is not allowed to meet, not even see any male members of the family. She is not even allowed to see the sunlight. The bahra means gufa. That’s why many people prefer saying gufa to this rite.

What’s next?

During the gufa, many female relatives visit her and bring the delicacy of foods. They also are provided a traditional Newari facial called kghwao which is made of the rice flour, roasted fenugreek flour, sandalwood, and other herbs to make them more beautiful. On the 13th day, the girl is dressed up as a bride with makeup, jewelry, and a traditional wedding dress. All the relatives and neighborhood get together to see the charm of the girl and finally, the ritual starts with the order of the priest. A gradual party is held by the family after the completion of the rite.

Unfortunately, if any girl dies within the periods of the gufa, she is buried under the house where she died. It is done due to the belief that the body of that girl should not see the sun. There is a newer movie that detailly shows the life of a girl processing the gufa and how she dies within that period. This is a horror movie, if you wanna see then you can. The name of the movie is barasi.

Vivaha

Vivaha means marriage. A common ritual where the bride abandons her family and adopts her husband’s name and family. In a Newari culture too, almost every ritual is as same as in other communities. But there is no need to go to the bride’s house for the groom. For the reason, as already explained in the ihi ceremony. But today, the groom also went with the janti for the marriage. 

This community does not allow marriage with cross-cousin and parallel-cousin. Traditionally, parents and go-betweens arrange marriage. But today we can see there are more love marriages than arrange marriage. This rite seems more important to both the boy and the girl. In the girls’ case, she must have the ihi and bahra ceremony before their marriage and bratabandha for the boys.  

Jankwa

Jankwa or Janku is an old-age ceremony which is a celebration. Normally, when a person reaches the age of 77 years. Along with it, seven months, seven days, seven hours, seven minutes, and seven-quarter. Besides this, there are further three more Janku ceremonies. Consequently, it again happens at the age of 83, 88 and 99. Auspiciously, people call the very first Janwa as “Bhimratharohan”. Likewise, the second one “Chandrarat Rohan”, the third one “Devaratharohan”, and the last but not the least, the fourth one is “Divyaratharohan”. 

Sagun ceremony

This is a very common ceremony or an act done in every family of the newar community. Especially, inauspicious moments of life, people give the Sagun. Normally, people give Sagun on birthdays. Besides that, when someone is traveling far away from home. Or, when someone comes back home. Also, when someone achieves something good in their life while learning or achieving success. They prefer to give Sagun. This shagun ceremony is incomplete without eggs and yogurt. 

Death ceremony

The last but not the least ceremony left in newar society is the death ceremonies. All the Newars except the Laakumi and Jogi caste, cremate their dead bodies. According to the myth, the crow and the dogs are the ancestors as well as the god of death. That’s why people offered them offerings during the funeral.  Subsequently, people conduct offerings and rituals within four, seven, eight, 13 and 45 days following after the death. The ceremony that annually occurs is shradh. The sons or the husband or wife of the dead one, they wear white garments for a year and avoid eating things like yogurt.

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