When anyone visits Nepal for the first time, one might assume that everyone here is Nepali and everyone speaks only Nepalese language. Well, it is a kind of true but you might be surprised to know that Nepal is a diverse country with more than 125 different ethnic groups and 120 different languages. Further among each ethnic group, there are again subgroups. Among different ethnicities of Nepal, as I am born and raised in a typical Newari family, I am happy to share some interesting and untold facts related to the Newar community of Nepal.
Who are Newars?
The Newars is one of the indigenous groups of Kathmandu valley that used to make almost the entire population of the valley before the Shah invasion in 1968. The Newar community can be found especially in Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhaktapur. However, in modern times they can be found throughout all of Nepal. Other large communities outside of Kathmandu include Palpa, Bandipur, and Butwal. The language used by the Newar is called Nepal Bhasa, commonly known as Newari and has its own script and a rich literature. Newari culture and society are influenced by both Buddhism and Hinduism. Newari people are a mix of Indo-Aryan and Tibeto-Burman ethnicities.
Interesting Facts of Newars
*Newar caste system were divided into groups on the basis of the Vedic varna model and divided according to their hereditary occupations by the inhabitant of Kathmandu valley.
*Newars were the first living people who have made the Kathmandu the capital and populated town.
* Newari caste system consists of more than 115 surnames. Some of the most common Newari surnames are Shakya, Bajracharya, Maharjan, Shrestha, Manandhar, etc
*Newars are famous for its artistry
*Newars of the Kathmandu valley is very popular for their love of good food. The Newar cuisine is famed in the country for its range of different dishes. Some of the most popular Newari food items are Samay Baji , Bara, Chatamari(Newari Pizza), haku choela etc
Major Ceremonies of Newars
The Newars are rich in culture and religion and the best example for the numerous jatras, pujas and social ceremonies that they have managed to conduct even in today’s fast life. Newar community holds many distinctive types of ceremonies that roams up around upon a single person’s life from birth till death.
Naamkaran – the ceremony of cleping of a newborn baby
Macha Janku (Annaprasan)- the ritual of rice feeding performed at the age of five(baby girl) or six months(baby boy)
Barchu(Bratabandha) -the important rite of the male Newars usually performed within the age of 6 to 12 years old (must perform a ritual before the marriage)
Ihi– a unique ceremony of a Newari girl usually performed within the age of five to nine years old where the girl marry to fruit names Bael(wooden apple) that is considered as lord Vishnu
The myth related to this ceremony: The bael which is symbolized as 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.
Bahra- another ceremony of a Newari girl that is performed after Ihi . before the menstruation of girls where the girl marries to the sun.
The myth related to this ceremony: This is considered the second marriage of a Newari girl which marks the turning of a girl to a fertile woman.
Vivaha (marriage) – common marriage ceremoney but the process and rituals are quite different. Newari community doesnot allow marriage with cross-cousin and parallel-cousin. Before marriage, girl must have the ihi and bahra ceremony and Barchu ceremony for the boys.
Janku- is an especial old-age ceremony that is performed when a person reaches the age of 77 years (Bhimratharohan). Along with it, seven months, seven days, seven hours, seven minutes, and seven-quarter.
Besides this, if the person is lucky enough, there are further three more Janku ceremonies that happens at the age of 83 years (Chandrarat Rohan), 88 years (Devaratharohan) and 99 years (Divyaratharohan)
Sagun ceremony – a very common ceremony that is done in every special and auspicious moment of life where a person is offered egg, fish and yogurt . For example: birthdays or when someone is traveling far away from home or when someone achieves something good in the life
Death ceremony- last but not the least ceremony where Newar people conduct various offerings and rituals within 4, 7, 13, 45 days and 1 year following after the death.