Monday, July 14, 2014

Gupha , Bahra ceremony बराह तयेगु or बराह चुयेगु

Newar girls are married thrice in their lives. The first  marriage is called Ihi or Bel bibaha”. It is performed when a girl reaches her 7th year. She is married to bel “apple fruit” as it signifies immortality. And then they are married to the Sun which is called “Bara Tayegu” (Newari) or “Gufa Rakhne” (Nepali). When they get into human conjugal relationship its actually their marriage. These marriage ceremonies are conducted both among Buddhist Newars and Hindu Newars.

Bara Tayegu: It is conducted before girls strait menstruation. Girls in a group or alone are kept in a room with windows draped with thick clothes and door always locked so that not a single ray of sun can enter the room. She can’t see boys nor hear their voice. Twelve days- she lives a solitary life as if she were a prisoner in solitary consignment. This is how we or I, not belonging to newar clan think or may think. But for Newars it’s a time for celebration. A step taken by woman towards her womanhood.
is a coming of age ritual in newar community of Nepal in which girls between the ages of 7 to 13 are married to the sun god in a 12 day ceremony. Bahra tayegu is a second marriage of a newari girl, the first one being ihi;the marriage with the bael fruit. In Nepal Bhasa bahra means a 'cave' and teyegu or chuyegu mean 'to put', thus Bahra tayegu is the ceremony where newari girls are put in a cave for 12 days.For the first 11 days the girl is kept in darkens away from sun light and any male contact. This is done to symbolize the purification of the girl before her marriage to the sun god on the 12th day. The final day is marked with a bhoj (a traditional party) and celebrations.

The ceremony is conducted before the first mensuration. Generally accepted age is 5, 7, 9, 11, and 13 year old. When the girl is chosen for the ceremony the priest is consulted for a suitable date and place for ceremony. The first day of the ceremony starts with a usual puja conducted either by the eldest woman of the lineage or the prist. The ritual food, Samaybaji which consists of 9 dishes is offered to the sun god to show obedience. Then the seclusion starts. A voodoo doll representing the bahra Khayak, the cave ghost, is prepared and put at one corner of the room. It is believed that for the 12 days the girl is possessed in some way by the bahra khayak and thus as homage the girls regularly conducts puja to the khayak.For the first 5 days she is not allowed to clean herself or eat salted food. After the 6th day her female relatives come to visit her with variety of food delicacies. Also from this day onward the girls has to put on a special facial called Kaoo to make her beautiful.
On the 12th day the girls wakes up before the sunrise to take a complete bath. Then she is dressed up in traditional wedding dress with red sari and heavy gold jewelry as if it were an actual wedding.Finally in an elaborate ritual the priest weds the bride with the sun. The girl is veiled all the time during the ceremony and at the end she lifts her veil and looks at the reflection of the sun on water .The completion of the 12 day ceremony is celebrated with a traditional party.

Story of a girl about Gupha 
Dipita Shrestha-a 10 years old girl just made her walk out of her room which was the only place for her to live since 12 days. Draped in Red saree and gold jewelery, she looked like a bride and yes, she was a bride, walking to a Mandap to get married to the SUN. Looking beautiful outside but what must be she feeling looking at her male counterparts after so long and The SUN-her groom. Dipita is now a goddess-as she marries the GOD. But for this she was imprisoned. Was it worth it? Dipita answers with a shy-smile, “Its our tradition, my mom did it, even my grandma did it and I want my daughter to do it”.
Sangita Shrestha, now in her 30s, is proud that her daughter loves this tradition. Being a mother, she was always on her side when she had to enter the dark room- she slept beside her-played carom and ludo with her so that she wouldn’t miss her friends who were in school preparing for their exam as she was grounded. Sangita is a modern-educated woman and understand the psychology of a girl. Educating daughter’s about pubescent and menstruation is the duty of a mother. During Dipita’s gupha-she made sure that when she gets out of the room than she would understand her womanhood and won’t hide herself from others. But it wasn’t same for her. She remembers how she fought to come out of the room and see the light. How her grandmother scolded her for doing so. She says, “its much easier for today’s generation as they have full access to entertainment in the room, which we didn’t have in our times. Sure, even my mom was with me but she always felt hesitant to talk to me about menstruation and my changes in my body. I don’t want that to happen to my daughter, she should be proud of her body and there is no shame in menstruation.”
Ganesh Maya Shrestha, in her 78th years, smiles as she remembers her gufa ceremony. “I wanted to see the airplane flying above my room, I tried to pick through the window, but unfortunately was caught by my aunty, she hit me and said that by looking at the sun I was breaking the God’s rule. I cried and I didn’t get the point why I was locked in a room and as I’d hear my brothers playing Gucha (marbles) outside”.
Even though Ganesh maya hated sitting inside the dark room, she wanted her own granddaughter to go through it. WHY? In the name of preserving what was started long long back. Noone knows who started the tradition of Gupha and nor why it is done. All they know is it is a part of Newari culture and they don’t want it to disappear.

Ihi, Ehee or Bel Marriage (Nepal Bhasa:ईही)

 (Bel bibaha) is a ceremony in the Newar community in Nepal in which pre-adolescent girls are 'married' to the bel 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.
This ritual is in practice since hundreds of years. It is very sacred ritual and a real kanyaadaan as a virgin girl is handed over to the God. Actually, in Ihee girl is married to a golden statue of lord Vishnu known as Suvarna Kumar and Bel fruit is given as its witness. As bel fruit (wood apple) has a peculiar quality of not getting rotten and remaining fresh forever, it is sometimes considered as Dibya Purush (divine male) or incarnation of the god. This ceremony lasts for two days. All the rituals of a Hindu marriage are performed in this ceremony. So, these rituals need not be performed again while getting married with a man. that's why in Newars it is not necessary for a Groom to go in wedding procession [janti (nep) Baaraat (Hindi)]. The family members and friends bring the bride to groom's house where few rituals are performed. But nowadays newar grooms take part in their wedding procession hence the wedding in this community has become a bit lengthy as compared before.

Story of a girl about her IHI 

I am writing about the first marriage in Newar girl’s life which is called ‘Ihi’. “Ihi’ is also known as Bel Bibaha in Nepali. It is performed before a girl turns 13 years old. It is a compulsory ceremony every girl has to go through in most Newar community.
I too had the ceremony held for me but I can’t remember a lot about that day. I was quite small, I think 7 or so years old when the ‘Ihi’ was held for me.
In ‘Ihi’ ceremony, the girl is married to Lord Vishnu with the bel fruit (wood apple) as a witness. This ceremony is performed to save the girl from evil and malicious spirits but the most important reason is to protect the girl from unpleasant humiliation of widowhood. It is really hard for the women in Nepal when they become widows. They had to take part in ‘Sati’ process in the old days, so in order to save their daughters from ‘becoming Sati’, Newars started a tradition in which they married their daughters to Lord Vishnu first. So even if her human husband dies in the course of her life, she doesn’t need to take part in ‘Sati’ ritual since her first husband, Lord Vishnu is still alive.
Some also believed this tradition allowed women to be more independent of their husbands. They can divorce or become widows without losing reputation.
Ihi is performed in mass over two days. It is normally organised by priests in their own house or backyard or someone can choose to host it in their house.

The first day is called Dusala Kriya. On this day, young girls have to bathe with pure water and are dressed like a bride in ankle length skirt, blouse and shawl. These days, you will see them as mini versions of traditional Nepali brides. Then all the girls will gather in the priest’s house. They sit on the floor in a long line with their mothers. Then the Puja begins where these girls go through sequences of ritual actions of purification. They have to worship images of Suvarna Kumara, the golden Bachelor which is an aspect of Lord Vishnu. It normally takes 5-6 hours for this ceremony to be over.

The second day is the most important day of the ritual  ‘Kanyadan’ (giving away of the daughter by the father) is performed on this day. For this day as well, the young girls are dressed as brides and taken for the Puja. On this day, they wear some special ornaments as well.

There will be a special person who cut toe nails for all the girls  and then paint the feet with red colour called ‘Alah’. Also at the end of the day, ‘Thaa bu’ , a plate which had eggs, yogurt, wine, fruits, Roti, meat, fish and much more for the girls to eat is served like in the real wedding.
There will be more Puja performed and the day will end by the father doing a ‘Kanyadan’ and giving away his daughter to Lord Vishnu in marriage with the Bel fruit as a witness.
‘Ihi’ is one of the many tradition the Newar community in Nepal follow and is unique to them.