Newar religious culture is rich in ceremony and is marked by frequent festivals throughout the year. Many festivals are tied to Hindu and Buddhist holidays and the harvest cycle. This includes jatras, sacred masked dances, family feasts and worship. The celebrations are held according to the lunar calendar, so the dates are changeable.
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. 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.
Yanyā Punhi (Indra Jatra) is a holiday related to Hindu god king of heaven, Indra. The festival begins with the carnival-like erection of Yosin, a ceremonial pole, accompanied by the rare display of the deity Aakash Bhairab, represented by a massive mask spouting beer and liquor. Households throughout Kathmandu display images and sculptures of Indra and Bhairab only at this time of year. Finally, the Kumari, or virgin goddess (living goddess), leaves the seclusion of her temple in a palanquin and leads a procession through the streets of Kathmandu to thank Indra the rain god. The procession consists of Majipa Lakhey, Pulukishi, Sawan Bhaku, Ganesh, Kumar and Kumari.
Majipa Lakhey (Nepal Bhasa: मजिपा लाखे, लाखे आजु) is a special lakhey in Nepalese folklore. He is also known as the Peaceful Bhairava(शान्त भैरव). The dance of this Lakhey takes place only in the week of the full moon of the month of Yenlaa of the Nepal Sambat calendar. He is considered to be the protector of the children.
Pulu Kishi is an elephant mascot believed to be lost after being left by Lord Indra when He descended to earth from heaven to search for a flower called parijat. In this performance, Pulu Kishi goes around the town, dancing under the music of a single bell in search of his master Lord Indra.
Sawan Bhaku is claimed to be god who wears mask with red cultural dress. One who carries the sharped weapon in blue dress is reagarded as Bhairab. They show dance in many places and eat raw eggs and drink too much wine. Most amazing thing is that their health is not affected due to lots of raw eggs and wine. It is said to be encarnation of the god in them in the time of wearing the mask.
The Kumari is the only living goddess worshipped by Hindus and Buddhists. The literal meaning of Kumari is Virgin. The Kumari is a young pre-pubescent girls who receive the power of Goddess Kali and Taleju. She is the living incarnation and the human embodiment of Goddess Taleju symbolizes power and protection.
Gai Jatra, (gāi means cow and jātrā means festival in Nepali: गाई जात्रा, and Nepal Bhasa: सा पारु) is a festival of Nepal, mainly Kathmandu valley celebrated by the Newar community to commemorate the demise of the loved ones during the year. It falls on the month of Bhadra (August to September), one day after Janai Purnima, the thread changing occasion. Gai Jatra is celebrated by a local Newar community residing in Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur districts with great enthusiasm and excitement. It is observed for a whole week, eight days to be exact.
Bisket Jatra, commonly known as Biska Jatra is an annual event in Bhaktapur, Dhapasi Thimi and Tokha and other places in Nepal. Bhaktapur's weeklong festival marks the ancient solar Nava Barsha (New Year) and is the only festival that does not follow the lunar-based Nepali calendar. The jatra commences after a special Tantric ritual in th Bhairab temple in Taumadhi Tole in Bhaktapur. A chariot carrying a statue of the God Bhairava is pulled by hundreds of people to the Khalla Tole. Approximately a month earlier, the chariot is assembled near the Nyatapola temple (five stair temple).
Newari community of Nepal observes the auspicious Bhimsen Jatra on the ninth day of the lunar dark fortnight i.e. in Bhadra (Bhadra Krishna Pachaya as per Nepali Newari calendar), which usually falls in the month of August/September, every year. Devotees worship the God Bhimsen as the ‘God of Commerce, Industry & Fortunes’. Public celebrate the Bhimsen Jatra with a strong belief of gaining prosperity in business, and the business community has high regard for the festival. The festival is held with high reverence across the country.
Mohani is one of the most important festivals among the Newars which involves a packed itinerary of religious services, pilgrimages, family gatherings and outdoor celebrations lasting several days. Special dinners known as Nakhtya, to which all the relatives are invited, continue for weeks later. Mohani is the equivalent of Nepal's biggest festival Dashain, and there are similarities and differences between the two.
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.
Mha Pujā is an annual ritual performed by the Newar people of Nepal to purify and empower the soul as part of New Year celebrations. It is performed on New Year's Day of Nepal Sambat, the national lunar calendar of Nepal, which is cherished as "Nhu Daya Bhintuna" and occurs during the Swanti festival.
Mha Puja means "worship of the self", and it celebrates the spirit within oneself. The ceremony signifies an auspicious beginning of the New Year, and invokes prosperity and longevity for the participant. Mha Puja and Nepal Sambat are also celebrated abroad where Nepalese have settled.
Swanti is a five-day festival of Nepal which is one of the year's greatest celebrations for the Newar people. It is the Newar version of Tihar or Diwali and is also termed as 'the festival of lights'. The festival highlights the central role of women in the household, and the rituals are related to wishing for good fortune of the family members by presenting them auspicious items and praying for longevity by placating the god of death.
During the festival, windows and doorways are decorated with flower garlands and lamps. Deities, animals like crow, dog, cow, and people are honored as part of the celebrations. The festival is marked by both Hindus and Buddhists. It is held according to the lunar calendar so the dates are changeable.
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.
It is organized in six or seven months of birth if the child is the boy. But if the child is the girl then this ceremony is organized in 5 months. Family members, relatives were gathered and this ceremony is performed. After worshipping Ganesh, the child is offered rice pudding with lots of varieties of food with the belief that the child gets similar food as offered in this day throughout his life. At this ceremony, the baby child is dressed in the red cultural dress.
Kayatapuja or fixing of loin cloth is done to mark the attainment of puberty. Bajracharya and Shakyas perform the tonsure ceremony, Chudakarma. During this, one has to visit shrines and pay homage to Kwahpahdyoh and make offerings. After kayatapuja, Jyapus and Sayamis undergo Ohla (which is less practiced these days.)
Ihi is a ceremony in the Newar community in Nepal in which pre-adolescent girls are "married" to the bael fruit (wood apple), which is a symbol of the god Vishnu, ensuring that the girl becomes and remains fertile. It is believed that if the girl's husband dies later in her life, she is not considered a widow because she is married to Vishnu, and so already has a husband that is believed to be still alive.
After the age of 11/12 years, the girl is kept in dark room with no light of the sun and no interact with opposite sex. She even can’t go out of her room up to 12 days. This custom is called gufa or barah. At the first day, she is kept in a room at night neat and clean in the absence of men. In the room, two girls are kept but if there is only one girl then the doll is made & is kept with her. Up to 3 days, no salt is taken. In the 4th day, friends, relatives come to meet them offering varieties of food. In the 12th day, the girl is made pure by bathing and she is allowed to look at the sun by making little space from her fingers each for 12 times. Now she is married with the sun by making puja.
Marriage in Newar culture is social union of two families. The parents arrange marriage for their sons and daughters. After the groom's and bride's families decision, the marriage is confirmed by giving 10 betel nuts along with fruits, sweets etc (known as lakha) from groom's family to the bride. Marriage ceremony is performed at the time scheduled by the astrologer. Swayamber, Honkegu, Chipa Theeke (symbol of sharing everything) is performed. Bride presents 10 betel nuts to all her family members. Brother of her mother, paju, takes on his back and carries her out of the house. He then presents her to the groom's family.
Jankwa or Janku is an old-age ceremony which is conducted when a person reaches the age of 77 years, seven months, seven days, seven hours, seven minutes, seven-quarter. Three further Janku ceremonies are performed at similar auspicious milestones at age 83, 88 and 99. The first Janwa is called "Bhimratharohan", the second "Chandraratharohan", the third "Devaratharohan", and the fourth "Divyaratharohan". After the second Jankwa, the person is accorded deified status.