Nepal is a culturally as well as naturally diversified nation. Having around 125 ethnic groups and more than 123 languages, Nepal has been considered a multi-religious, multi-cultural and multi-linguistic country. Among all the cultures of Nepal, Newari culture is regarded as one of the unique and attractive ones.
Newar, a community with rich original culture and traditions, occupies nearly 50% of Kathmandu valley’s population. Inside the valley, they mainly reside in Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, and Patan. Besides these districts, Palpa, Butwal, and Bandipur are also highly dominated by the Newari caste. To be more precise, the Newars are one of the primary reasons behind the rich history, arts, architecture, culture, and business in Nepal.
Origin of Name
‘Newar,’ which means ‘Inhabitant of Nepal,’ was believed to have originated from a colloquial (Prakrit) form. This name was found for the first time in 1654 in one of the famous inscriptions.
Newars’ history is not limited only to Nepal. The majority of Newars flow into Kathmandu valley from India and Tibet. They are the blend of Indo-Aryan, the one who came from India, and Tibetan-Burman, who came from Tibet. Both of these ethnicities mixed and formed the new social structure in Nepal while saving their original languages and culture.
After these, all the notable history of Newars has been observed in Kathmandu valley. Before the ruling of the Gorkha Kingdom, Kathmandu valley was solely ruled by the Newari King. Hence, Nepal Mandala and the development of the Newari caste have a high correlation. After forming the Modern State of Nepal, Newars slowly started fading their position and power; however, their culture and traditions are still alive. Today, Newari people are scattered throughout the country.
Newari Language and Occupation
Newars have their language known as ‘Nepal Bhasa.’ It belongs to Tibeto-Burman languages, but it is also highly influenced by Indo-Aryan languages like Sanskrit, Maithili, etc.
In the past, Newari people were primarily involved in Agriculture as there were many cultivable lands in Kathmandu valley. But, along with modernization, they started to expand their horizons, and now they are famous as businessmen. They rule over the industrial and service sector.
Newars are both Hindu and Buddhist. Indo-Aryan highly follows Hinduism, whereas Tibeto-Burman is more into Buddhism. Both of these religions still exist in modern times and are equally respected. As per the 2001 census in Nepal, 84% of Newars followed Hinduism, and 15% of Newars followed Buddhism.
Newari Culture and Tradition
Newari people are famous for their unique lifestyle. They have the rituals and customs which are to be followed from birth till death. They have their way of celebrating festivals, performing marriage ceremonies and funerals.
I also want to make sure that Newars are the most logical ethnicity as all their rituals are respectful, and they don’t believe in any practices that may harm the individual living.
One of the old and still alive cultures is their unique way of celebrating the marriage ritual. They perform Bel Bibaha, where pre-teenager girls marry Bel (fruit) to ensure that they remain fertile for a lifetime.
The several celebrated festivals represent the Newari culture in the specific month as per the lunar calendar. Festivals are held in the streets and celebrated with the families by worshipping and preparing the feasts.
Some of the major festivals are;
1. Mha Puja
It is celebrated during the time of Tihar only by Newar. Besides the crow, cow, and brother puja, Newar has another day as Mha puja, which means worshipping oneself. This day is fully dedicated to the oneself where they clean themselves and their home, and serve the tasty cuisines to oneself.
This festival is celebrated during September which lasts for eight days. Goddess Kumari, in her Chariot, is pulled in procession in this Jatra. Masked dancers dance to different cultural music and play traditional instruments. The whole street of Bhaktapur and Patan becomes vibrant during this festival.
Celebrated between September and October, this festival is dedicated to Cows. The primary goal of this festival is to console the people who have lost their close ones and make them feel like they are not alone. Paper cutouts of cows are made and carried by the Newari people in the streets while dancing and enjoying.
Newari culture is also marked well by different cuisines made by them. The delicacies of Newari are famous all over the world, and many tourists die for those meals. So, if you ever visited Nepal, then one of the must-try things is to taste Newari food.
List of famous Newari dishes are;
It’s unique in design which is like a dumpling with the filling of another sweet dish inside.
Named Nepali pancake, it is made up of lentil flour and is very affordable and healthy.
It’s like a soup which is made by using five different kinds of beans.
4. Samay Baji
It is prepared by Newars mainly during festivals to show their culture. It consists of different dishes like fried fish, boiled egg, bara, spicy meat, beans, etc.
5. Haku Choila
It is served as a snack with beaten rice and can be made of both buffalo and chicken meat. It is usually spicy.
To conclude, to experience the festivals, dishes, cultures, and living styles, thousands of tourists fly to Nepal every year. Being a citizen of Nepal, I feel proud of the Newari people who are successfully keeping their culture and traditions alive for more than a thousand years. Therefore, to observe the kindness and sincerity of the Newari people, I recommend you all to visit Nepal at least once and enjoy the homestay with them in Patan/Bhaktapur/Kathmandu.
-Article written by: Kusum Kharel for Land Nepal