Yomari Punhi; a full moon day with the iconic newa cuisine, Yomari

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Yomari Punhi; a full moon day with the iconic newa cuisine, Yomari image

Outlines

  • Yomari punhi is also called Thinla Punhi.

  • In the Jyapu, Awale and Kumah tradition, a very important secret ritual, Gaidupuja is held on Yomari Punhi, annually.

  • Moreover, the day used to be donated as a traditional day for giving tenant farmers a share of the rice harvest to the owner of the land.  But nowadays, they don't wait up until Yomari punhi.

Yomari Punhi; celebrating the harvest

Yomari Punhi is a classic food-oriented festival where the Yomaris are executed as an ideal dish.

Generally, the yomari refers to a portion of traditional Newari food which proportionally is filled with the sweetest fillings and punhi, it means the full moon day. Cause, the festival occurs on the day of the full moon, the festival is called Yomari Punhi.

However, different communities call it uniquely as per their practice and written documents besides, the Yomari punhi. Like, some call it Magra Sirsa Sukla Purnima for the reason of falling on the month of Mangsir of Nepalese Calendar ( most of the time).

Traditionally, people celebrate this festival to celebrate their harvest. That’s why, it is also called dhanya Purnima where the deity of grains, Annapurna is worshipped.

At some other localities and distances, people worship Lord Ganesha, Laxmi, and the Kubera along with the mother goddess, Annapurna.

Moreover, the day used to be denoted as a traditional day for giving tenant farmers a share of the rice harvest to the owner of the land.  But nowadays, they don’t wait up until Yomari punhi.

A little about the dish, Yomari

Yes, Yomari that we all know as one of the most delicious and conventional dishes of newari courses seems not only a favorite of newa people but also of the others. Whoever for the first time taste it would definitely fall for it.

This delicious steamed dish somehow always managed to bring a big smile to your face. The chaku, khuwa, sesame seeds, and the confection of rice flour, only with these manageable ingredients, one can prepare a delightful dish, Yomari.

Isn’t it amazing?

Yomari

Well, including its taste, If we grave quite deeper into the shaping of Yomari, then you can find a lot about this Newa culture too. The figures of Yomari lead you to remarkable plentiful amazing facts about the dish and its meaning.

The reason behind shaping yomari into a fish or the domed shape, all have different meanings. While there are different perspectives on seeing the festival itself.

As per the story narrated by Yomari Cartoon Series, the shape of Yomari was inspired by the citron, a seasonal fruit, which was hung on the peg, in the kitchen. The foremost female character of the story, Krita was in a fuss about shaping her dish.

Hence, while she was thinking and taking a look around, she saw the citron and made Yomari into a Citron shape.

Besides these two types of figures, people make several figures of the representative deities like Ganesha, Laxmi, Kubera, Nayo, and Bayo (eldest and the second eldest member of the family), etc.

Yomari punhi, the classical way of fixing dates

This festival somewhere also touches the ancient way of experiencing love. There was a practice in the early days where the young boys fix their meeting or you can say dating with their loved one while entreating yomari in the neighborhood.

You see, there was an austere society in the early era in Nepal. And, it hasn’t changed a little bit till today. Having a love affair somehow could cause a big fuss in a typical Nepalese family. Therefore, this event then was used to fix the meeting essentially where the young boys stroll around the houses of their loved ones.

Yomari Phonegu

Yomari Phonegu, by the word itself a lot of people might have remembered their childhood, who have spent their livelihood in this antique city, Bhaktapur.

The word Yomari Phonegu means entreating the Yomari. While locals even call it Tyachim Taya Phonegu.

The act of entreating Yomari is more alike to the act done in Swanti (Deusi and Bhailo). The only difference that we found here is that the children wander home to home to collect Yomari in spite of Sel roti.

Children, running out from the home to collect Yomari under the light of the full moon, wearing fancy dresses and masks, singing one particular song and dance, then gathering at one pati (rest house) and start annotating about the collected Yomari (about its shape, fillings, and gestation) is a very rare scene to perceive, especially at this point of the century.

That one song dedicated to Yoamari Punhi is very particular which goes like this:

Tya chin Tya: wakachin tya;
(Blessings to both rich and poor)
Latapata Kulincha Jucha tya:
Blessings for both dull and clever)

Yomari chwamu; uki dune haku;
(Yomari is sharp and filled with black sweet)
Byu sa maaku, mabyu sa fakku:
(If you give it, it’s delicious, If you don’t, it’s not)

Byusa lyasse;
(If you give Yomari, you are beautiful)
Mabyusaa Buri Kuti:
(If you don’t, you are ugly)

I wonder if this song is yet practiced.

Certainly and unfortunately, we are losing this kinda practice.

Myths and stories about Yomari Punhi

There is a saying, saying that there is a story behind each monument, consequently the same goes for festivals too. There is one popular darn related to this festival which relates to one of the ancient, agricultural towns of  Nepalmandal, Panauti. It used to call Panchal then.

The story here is referenced from the Yomari cartoon series.

In a meantime, one couple named Suchandra and Krita, like other farmers finished all their harvesting tasks after Mohani and Swanti. They were an ordinary couple but were extremely kind. One day, following their harvesting and threshing work, they decide to thank god and goddess for blessing them with a good amount of grains.

So, they choose to worship on the upcoming full moon day. But, something strike on the mind of Suchandra that he call his wife and ask her to make a kind of unique dish from the fresh rice grain, this time.

Now, it was all up to Krita, what to make, and how to make it.

She was also no less than Suchandra, thus she accepted the challenge and went to the kitchen. She then prepared the flour of recently harvested rice and look for ingredients that she could use to make one novel dish.

There she found some molasses. She thought it would go well with the rice flour however she suddenly realized that it would be too cloying. So, she came up with another solution. Adding sesame seeds in it maintains the sweetness of the dish as well as add an essence too.

Thereafter, she came with a unique dish from the kitchen, which was a sweet dumpling. Suchandra liked it so much that he wanted to share that dish with all his neighbors. So did he. Even, the neighbors of them liked it so much that they named it Yo;mari. (Yomari means the favorite bread.)

Image by Yomari.khaja

And this is how the name of that sweet dumpling became yomari.

The air of the story also tells that, on the same night, Kubera (the lord of wealth) visited them as a beggar. Cause they were so generous, they treat him as their guest and offer the yomari. From this, Kubera got pleased and blessed them with more good fortunes and wealth.

He even declared that whoever prepares yomari in the form of god and goddess on the full moon of thin la and observe four days of devotion to God will get rid of poverty and will acquire health, wealth, and prosperity. This is how the series of the festival started.

*Note- As per the Social History of Nepal, Yomari punhi was first mentioned in Bhasa Bhamsawali as in the time phrase of King Amshubarma in 6th of the century.

More facts about Yomari Punhi

Images by Yomari.khaja

  • There is even a local song where the children or the young boys approach the yomari givers as the beautiful ladies. (This kind of stuff like giving away the Yomari’s and all are done by the females of the family.)
  • Only in a few places, this act of giving Yomari is done.
  • Yomari punhi is also called Thin la Punhi because of the very second month of the Nepal sambat which is called thin la.
  • In the Jyapu, Awale, and Kumah tradition, a very important secret ritual, Gaidupuja is held on Yomari Punhi, annually.
  • During the festival, Brahmayani, Balkumari, Bhairab, and Nava Durga jatra take place at Harishiddhi. With that, a kind of traditional dance, “Jala pyakhan” is also observed there.
    (Jala Pyakhan is observed only twice a year at Harishiddhi, once at Yomari Punhi, and the next one at Holi punhi or Holi Purnima)
  • Yomari often is again eaten on the fourth following day after the Yomari punhi as the Prasada. Till then, it is stored in a storeroom, under the paddy grains.
  • On the same day of Yomari Punhi, the married daughter is also welcomed for the feast. If she couldn’t make it on that day, the following day waits for her.

When did Yomari punhi fall?

Yomari is a dish that is adored as a warm dish as the festival, Yomari Punhi falls in December/January. This season in Nepal is considered a winter season where the belief of locals says that Yomari gives a sweet taste and warmness to the human body to handle this bitter cold.

One candied recipe of Yomari

Yomari is quite swift and simple to make.

Following the essential four steps, that’s all it would take to make Yomari. In the very first step, the rice flour is blended into a smooth dough and left clothed with a moist sheet. Following that step, you need to prepare for the filling that what exactly you wanna stuff inside the Yomari.

It may be Chaku (gaggery taffy), roasted sesame seeds, grained coconuts, khuwa, etc.

Then you need to shape the rice dough and design it into small pockets. Later, you have to add the filling and seal it. It is formed into different shapes which often represent fruits and marionettes of gods and goddesses.

After the sealing process, you have to steam it just like in the making of MO: MO. (for 10 mins- max) That’s it.

And, here we are ready with our warm Yomari.

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