Kija puja, generally called Vai tika, is the celebration done on the fifth day of Swanti (Tihar). This celebration is dedicated to the brother and sister’s bond, where sisters offer a long procession of special puja to their brothers.
The sisters offer sagan to their brother, which consists of various auspicious as well as food items.
It is not a major surprise that Aaila( a local wine ) plays a significant role in the pujas of the Newa people. In addition to this, other compulsory items like meat, fish, lentil cake, and eggs are offered to brothers. These five items are believed to hold five tantric concepts of light, earth, water, air, and sky, respectively.
Another major attraction of this celebration is the garland of colorful marigolds and Vadamalli flowers. The globe amaranth-Vadamalli flower, or Makhamali, is a noteworthy part of the Kija puja. You will know about it once you read the full article, especially the mythological story about Kija Puja.
The sisters following the procession present the brother with a long burning wick (Khelu Itah), which is placed next to the mandala, a sacred thread (Kwacha), and various fruit items.
Basically, sisters worship the lives of their brothers and pray for their longevity and good fortune. This puja is also another aspect where mythology has feminist principles, which depict women with the power to win over the god of death.
Getting gifts from their brothers in return is the most exciting part of the puja, just like the Rakshyabandhan. I personally look forward to it too.
So, what is the mythological story behind celebrating Kija Puja?
As every celebration holds mythical stories, so does the celebration of Kija Puja. The story behind the celebration of Kija puja is kind of special to everyone. Why don’t we just dwell on the most celebrated story of Kija Puja?
As heard, long ago, there was a girl named “Yamuna”. Her brother was severely ill. A loving sister in the agony of her brother’s pain started praying for his long and healthy life. However, the god of death approaches to fetch the brother of Yamuna. In front of Yama, the god of death, she began to pledge mercy for her brother.
She knew she couldn’t afford to ask the god of death to spare her brother from death. Then she applies her witty plan to fool Yama and let her brother live for some more time.
She pledges to Yama to lend her some time until she performs a long and final celebration of puja for her brother.
In pity, Yama agreed to lend her some time. Then the Yamuna began the ceremony by making a very complicated mandala in front of her sick brother, putting a tika on his forehead, and offering him a mala (garland) of Vadamalli flowers.
(Note: The slow withering character of the flower made it a necessary component in Kija Puja)
She also embeds an oil circle inside the mandala and puts some oil on his head too.
Yama was also pleased to see the devotion of a sister toward her brother. Taking hold of this remarkable opportunity, Yamuna pleaded with Yama to promise her some conditions, to which he agreed.
The conditions were that, until the globe amaranth flower faded away and the oil on his forehead got dry, the circle of oil drawn on the mandala got dried, Yama would not take her brother to the death realm. As said earlier, the flowers remained fresh and colorful until the next Kija Puja arrived. The circle of the bargain of death continues by following the procession of Kija puja.
This way, the brother was saved from the doom of death.
Since then, the sacred celebration has been done to illuminate the brother’s life with longevity and prosperity. Every sister on the day performs the puja with devotion and loyalty.
That’s why this entire puja is a celebration of brother and sisters’ bond and devotion.
But why is Kija Puja celebrated at night?
Traditionally, in Newa communities, a celebration of kija puja doesn’t look for any “Saaiet” means auspicious time. Unlike others, the Kija puja is done during the nighttime.
The typical process of Kija puja generally elongates the whole night. The reason for this is connected back to the mythical story of the celebration of Kija puja as a whole. Let’s connect with the story once again.
As the Yamuna was holding a procession of puja, she purposefully made the process go long and complicated. She continues the process for the whole night till the morning sun glows. She did it for a reason because, back then, there was a belief that the god of death could not fetch a man’s life in broad daylight.
This way, the Yama had to spare the life of the man.
And now comes another attraction of Kija puja; the Mandala
The celebration of Kija puja always begins with the preparation of the mandala in front of the brother. The mandala is made over red mud spread over the floor. Mostly, women engage in making mandalas, which have various interpretations and meanings.
The preparation of the mandala begins with the base drawn from the rice flour. The basic design of a mandala is to draw two overlapping triangles inside a circle.
These days, various complicated templates for the out sketch of the mandala are available on the market. But, no matter how complicated the designed template forms are, the significance of the mandala is outshined by the materials and constituents used in its making.
As said earlier, regardless of the variation of complicated design, the most significant constituents of every mandala in the Newari celebration are Tyah(parched rice), black soybean (usually polished with oil for shine), unhusked rice, Kalo mas (black gram), Ankhey ( unpolished rice), and Sinha(vermillion powder). These materials are placed sequentially in five concentric circles.
The mandala prepared is tied to the myth of Yamuna bargaining for her brother’s life with Yama, the god of death. In addition to this, in the center of the mandala, a circle is made out of an oil-dipped wick.
As expressed earlier, Yamuna asked Yama to wait until the circle of oil dies. And here is the fact that the circle drawn over the dried red mud doesn’t lose its presence. This made Yama leave empty-handed.
Nevertheless, the legend makes the making of the mandala more interesting and significant.
Hence, Kija puja is prominently a celebration of togetherness, bonding, and affection that connects the family with each other. It is a celebration of blessings, offerings, devotion, and love spread within. After the puja, every home is full of laughter, smiles, gift exchange, and exciting and delicious food served to every individual. I believe it is the most awaited celebration of every household.
Well, you can also check out our other blog post related to Swanti; Mha Puja.