Categorized | Festivals

“Sithi Nakh”, An Indigenous Style Environment Festival Among Newars

Posted on 06 June 2014 by admin

Uttam Makaju

Torotno

Newars, the ancient inhabitants of Kathmandu valley, have been preserving the cultural heritage through celebrating different festivals as it was hundreds years ago. Newar culture has diversity in their society. Similarly, Newari cuisine also has diversity in their taste. The social importance of food in Newar culture is readily apparent. Each Newar festival holds different kinds of food and connected with climate, health and nutrition.

Among the various festivals, ‘Sithi Nakha” is one such festival which pays special focus on environment. It is celebrated at the onset of rainy season and paddy plantation. This festival falls on the sixth day of bright fortnight of Jestha (May or June).

The legend is that on this day we bid farewell to summer and welcome rainy season. This festival is devoted to Lord Kumar’s birthday, the son of Shiva. So it is also called “Kumar Khasthi.”

 Kumar is the Hindu God who sits at the main entrance of each house in the form of eight petal lotus carved stone (Pikhalakhu) and gets first offering before lord Ganesh. Kumar Khasthi is also the last day of the year to worship ancestral god, which is mandatory to Newar clan each year.

On the eve of “Sithi Nakha” Newar people make special dishes to offer the God. They prepare Newari dishes, specially “Bara “(pancake ) made of black lentil, green lentil, small peas, rice flour (Chatamari). Legumes like kidney beans, black eyed bean along with other dishes of Newari feast like bitten rice, meat and so on are prepared on this day.

Another special item of the festival is “Shattu” ( a fried wheat flour mixed with sugar or brown sugar). It is believed that different kinds of lentils and legumes bring lot of energy in the body which is accumulated for the upcoming paddy plantation work. Paddy planting work is considered as very hard, calling it “Sinaajya” (working hard like that you feel almost die) in Newar language.

The tradition and festivalmlinks itself with social and environmental awareness aspect apart from religious aspect. On this day, Newar people clean water sources, wells, stone spouts, ponds and surroundings of their respective communities. This shows the prime respect to the natural resources, specially water sources and its periphery.

It is their belief that if you do not clean water sources on this day , there will be paucity of water throughout the year and diseases may spread.

Realizing the festival’s core theme as an environmental aspect and sustainability, Nepalese government has decided to observe it in a great manner on June 4th and 5th, 2014 in coincidence with “World Environment Day”, which falls on June 5th. UN Habitat, an organization dedicated to promote environmentally sustainable shelters, has also supported the festival for its indigenously architected environmental sustenance activities.

‘Newar families residing around Greater Toronto Area and other parts of Canada celebrate this festival within their family members”, states a member of Canadian Newa Guthi (CNG), an organization dedicated to preserve, practice and showcase Newar culture in Canada.

It is the objective of Canadian Newa Guthi to inspire, create awareness, showcase and celebrate different Newar culture and festivals in a time honoured manner in GTA and other parts of Canada.

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