Sat, 20 Apr, 2024

New Year's Celebration And Its Diversity

By Shreeya Pandey

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Our motherland, Nepal, is very rich in cultural heritage. This multi-dimensional heritage surround the diversities of Nepal's various social groups, which has its own distinct music, art , language, religion, and festivals, many of such are influenced by Indian, Mongolian and Tibetan culture.

Among various festivals celebrated, New Year celebration is one of them, which is celebrated by different ethnic groups in different manners. Though the 1st of Baisakh is considered as the national New Year day, due to our diversified culture, people of different ethnic groups celebrate it on their respective festival dates.

The Newars observe New Year on the day of Mha Puja. This day marks the beginning of Nepal Sambat, the national lunar calendar of Nepal. Mha Puja refers to “worship of self’ so people from the Newari community purify their soul by worshiping oneself. During this day, ‘Mandalas’ are drawn and the family members sit on their respective ‘Mandala.’ The household lady puts ‘Tika’ on their forehead and presents them with 'Khelu Itah' and sacred threads, symbolizing long life and good fortune.

Similarly, Lhosar marks the New Year for the people of Gurung, Sherpa and Tibetan community. Lhosar is the Tibetan word for “New Year” where ‘lo’ holds the semantic field “year, age” and ‘sar’ holds the semantic field “new, fresh”. There are mainly three Lhosars celebrated, one is Sonam Lhosar, which is observed by the Sherpas and the other is Tamu Lhosar, celebrated by the Gurungs. There is also Gyalpo Lhosar.  All are celebrated in a similar manner by organizing rallies in traditional attires and cultural programs. People also visit Buddhist shrines on that day. The monasteries perform a special ritual with mask dances to expel negative force. It is a public holiday in Nepal during all Lhosars.

Likewise, Tharu community from the southern part of Nepal celebrates Maghi, or Makar Sankranti as the beginning of the New Year. Like their fellow countrymen, the Gurungs and the Sherpas, they also get dressed in traditional clothes and join in the celebration of the "Maghi Festival" by performing traditional dances and eating Ghee and Chaku. Maghi is celebrated by Nepalese on the first day of 10th month in the national Lunar Calendar to mark the half of winter and the Tharu people take this day as the start of New Year.

There is also a growing number of people, particularly the younger generation, that enjoy the celebration of International New Year, January 1. Most of such celebration is done through dining and partying with friends and families.

The most important aspect of Nepalese New Year celebration, I think, is that they offer cultural diversity and cultural harmony. That is why many different ethnic and social groups give a lot of importance to different festivals, including New Year celebrations where members of the other community engage, embrace and enjoy such festivals equally.