Festivals of Newars

Newars’ festivals start from Gathanmugah and ends in Sithi Nakhah. Therefore Gathan Mugah is also known as Kayahmacha Nakhah (the son festival) and Sithi Nakhah is also known as Mhayamacha Nakhah (the daughter festival) in Newar culture. No festival is observed in between Sithinakhah and Gathan Mukhah as the farmers are busy in the their work at that time. The festivals celebrated by the Newars are related with their places and lives. Thus through the festivals observed by the Newars, one can know many things about them.

Gathan Mugah (August)

It is festival of cleaning. Since farmers are busy in farming in rainy season, they do not get time to clean their house and even take bath and wash their clothes.Thus as their work finish by Gathan Mugah, they take bath, wash their clothes and clean house in Gathan Mugah. On this very day, girls throw all their playing dolls. Every corner of a house is cleaned and incense is burnt to kill insects. Chahray angu (a ring made of metal alloys) is wore on this occasion. In evening, effigies of Gathan Mugah are made from green reeds. They are dragged out of the town and burnt there.

Gunla Dharma (August-September)

Gunlā (Nepal Bhasa: गुंला)
Gunla is one of month-long festival that celebrates in the middle of the monsoon according to the lunar calendar in “Nepal Sambat” and matches to August in the “Gregorian calendar”. Gunla is a sacred month of Newar’s Buddhists while reciting the Scriptures, observing hunger and visiting to holy pilgrims with religious music.

Gunla is one of the most important events in Newar Buddhism that observing the holy month is a descendant of the rain retreat greeting to Buddha while the monks stayed in one place and taught the Dharma. Newar Buddhists followed the Gunla Festival since ancient times. It will be celebrate from Gunlatho to Yalatho i.e. 20 days of monsoon month with various cultural music and traditional activities. Day after day in every morning, the sincere Buddhist monasteries pray Bajan Gunla along with cymbals and shwam.

Gunla Festival is not only about Newar festival, but also includes historical significance for all Nepalese living across the country. In this festival, group of people from different age from 5 to 80 years old all be playing nine different kinds of traditional musical instruments together. Duration of the Festival, prayers eat only once a day without salt and travel across the “Chaityas”, “Gumba”, “Bihars” and also many other Temple prays to Dhanla and the other for a month.

Gunhu Punhi (August- September)

Gunhu Punhi is one of the most significant festivals of the Newars which lasts for 9 days.

First day, known as Gunhu Punhi, the Newars drink broth consisting of spouted mixed cereals. Everyone gets doro, a protection cord tied in one’s wrist from the brahmans. On this day, food is offered for the frogs in farms, which is known as Byanja Nakegu.

Saparu is the second day of Gunhu Punhi. On this day people, whose family member died in that year, dressed up as cows parade in the town. It is believed that cows help the departed soul to enter the heaven easily. Other remarkable thing is humor and satire presented on this day.

Last day of Gunhu Punhi is Krishnastami, birth anniversary of lord Krishna, an incarnation of lord Vishnu. Various dances in various parts of the valley are performed in between.

Pancha Dan (August-September)

Pancha Dan is observed by Buddhists only, especially by Shakyas and Bajracharyas. Buddhist antiques are displaced and gigantic effigies of Dipankar are parade around the town. However, the main highlight of the festival is the giving away of alms to Buddhist monks.

Yanya Punhi (September)

Yanya Punhi is dedicated to lord Indra, the king of heaven. This is a week long festival which begins after the erection of Yosin, a ceremonial pole. The main feature of this festival in Kathmandu is a week long display of gigantic mask of Aakash Bhairab and procession of Kumari, the living goddess along with other two living gods Ganesh and Kumar.

Mohani (October)

Mohani is observed for two weeks. It is observed with great joy. Barley seeds are planted on the first day which is known as Nahla Swanegu. It is nurtured for nine days. On the day of Astami, koochhi bhoya (a feast with two manas i.e. about half kilo of beaten rice) is eaten by gathering family members. On Nawami, (Syakotyako) Durga is worshipped with goats, cocks sacrificed. Nahlaswan i.e. the fresh shoot of barley is also offered. The concluding day of the festival, i.e. on Chalan, processions with scimitars takes place in various places o f the Newar settlements, which is commonly known as Payah.

Swanti (October-November)

Tihar, the festival of light lasts for five days. Swanti stands for Swanhu Ttithi which means three days in Nepalbhasa. Among five days of tihar three days are mainly celebrated. On the day of Laxmi puja, Laxmi, the goddess of wealth is worshipped and in the evening lights are burnt to invite Laxmi. Mhapuja is the day of worshiping one’s body. This is the new year’s day according to Nepal Era. Kija Puja , the last day of the swanti, is dedicated to brothers. Sisters worship their brothers on this day.

Sakimila Punhi (November- December)

Sakimila Punhi (Sakimana Punhi) or the full moon day of boiled arum is the festival of eating arum, sweet potato and fried grains. Halimali Bwayegu (exibiting figure designs of fried grains) with Dapha Bhajan or Dhalcha Bhajan (chanting religious hymns) takes place in the evening in every section of the settlements.

Bala Chahre (December)

This is the festival of scattering seeds (sadhbew) and praying for the souls of the departed in Pashupati, Kathmandu. In many places it is celabrated by gathering the members of Milah Guthi (a kind of social association) and banqueting together.

Yomari Punhi (December-January)

It is post harvest festival of worshipping the newly brought rice and Annapurna, the goddess of grains, for good harvest. Yomari Punhi lends its name from Yomari (a typical steamed cake of rice flour dough stuffed with a mixture of sesame and molasses), which is offered in Dhukoo (store room) and eaten on this day. In the evening kids go around the neighborhood to beg Yomari.

Ghayh Chaku Sanhlhu (January)

Also known as hamoh sanhlu, this festival is observed according to solar calendar. On this day, people take bath early in the morning and offer sugar candy, pills of sesame and molasses etc to their priests. They too eat yams, spinach, sweets of sesame and molasses to warm their body. People rub mustard oil over their bodies in the sun.

Swasthani Bakhan Kanegu (January-February)

In magh month, from mila punhi (full moon day- Jan) to seeh punhi (full moon day-Feb.) Swasthani Bakhan (Swasthani Story) is recited every evening for a month. it is believed that worshipping Swasthani brings happiness in life. There is a belief that Parbati succeed to get Mahadeva as her husband by worshiping Swasthani.

Shree Panchami (February)

Shree Panchami or Basanta Panchami is concerned in honor of Saraswati, Hindu goddess of learning. Artists, teachers, students gather at Saraswati temple in different places. Buddhists worship Manjushree on this day.

Sila Chahre (March)

There are 24 Shivaratris in a year, among which Sila Chahre is celebrated as Maha Shivaratri. Shiva is worshiped on this day. people take bath and fast on this day. People who stay awoken for the whole night get success in every works.

Holi Punhi (March-April)

Holi Punhi, the festival of color begins officially with the raising of huge ceremonial pole at the Basantapur of Kathmandu. Though celebrated for a week, holi punhi or (full moon day -march) is the main day. This festival is belived to be observed since the period of lord Krishna. People play with water and color and roam around the streets.

Pahan Chahre (April)

Pahan chare or Pasa Chare is specially observed in Kathmandu only. On this day, Mahadev in the form of Pisach (Lukumahadyah) is worshipped. Thus the festival is also known as Pisach Chaturdasi. Different palanquin circumlocution takes place in Kathmandu for a week.

Biskah Jatra (April)

The word ‘Biskah’ or ‘B isket’ is said to be derived from ‘Bee Sikah’, which means ‘after death of serpents’ . It is said that this festival was begun to celebrate after after the death of serpents, serpents described in various legends. Even though it is said so, from various chronicles, sacred writings, inscriptions and the culture of Bisket, it is known that it was not used in the sense of death of serpents. This festival is celebrated mainly in Bhaktapur and Thimi with Chariot festival, tongue boring festival and with music and dances in other parts of the valley as well.

Machhendra Nath Jatra (May-June)

There are two Machhendra nath festivals, namely Rato Machhendranath (Bunga dyah) Jatra and Seto Machhendranath (Janmah dyah) Jatra. The main features of these festivals are pulling of a huge four wheel chariot of Machhendranath. The former, observed in Lalitpur, starts from Pulchowk and ends in Jawahlakhel, where ritual display of legendary vest (bhoto) takes place. It is observed for a month. The later, observed in Kathmandu, starts from Tindhara and ends in Lagan.

Swanya Punhi (May-June)

Budhha Jayanti- full moon day April/may is the day of birth, attainment of enlightenment and death of Lord Budhha, the light of Asia. On this day worship of Budhha takes places in Buddhist monasteries and specially in Swambhu Stupa of Kathmandu.

Sithi Nakha (June)

Sixth day of bright lunar fortnight is dedicated to Lord Kumar. This is the day when Kartikeya Kumar (Sithi Dyah) was born. On this day, people take bath and houses are cleaned. Wells and conduits are also cleaned on this day, this is also the day of eating Chatamari- a typical rice flour bread and Wo- a flat cake of mashed lentils. It is the last festival of a year that the Newars observe.

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