Sunday, October 26, 2014

Mha Puja and Nepal Sambat Celebrated in Portland

 Dr Rabin Man Shakya
President, Newah American Buddhist Association

This year's Mha Puja and Nepal Sambat New Year 1135 celebration in Portland, USA was unique and unprecedented in many ways. It was a collective and group 'Mha Puja' celebration with participation of about 100 people representing Newars as well as non-Newars living in the RIP city.

Over a hundred Mha Puja Mandalas were drawn on the floor for each participant. Cheerful Nepalese Portlanders were seen sitting cross-legged in front of their respective Mandalas. Most of the cultural and ritual procedures were followed while performing the collective Mha Puja ceremony -- which took place at Nekusing Memorial Theater, US World Class Taekwondo Hollywood Portland, USA and which was organized on Oct 24, 2014 by Nepa Chhen, an organization committed to enrich and enhance Nepalese arts, culture and traditions in the US.

The Mandala was worshipped by each participant by offering sacred thread 'jajanka' and flowers, by sprinkling and stamping colored paste 'sinnha' on the Mandala. All the Mha Puja participants were given a dab of colored paste 'sinnha' on their foreheads, provided sacred thread 'kwokha' and a bag of 'masala pwo' and fruits. Then, the Nepalese Portlanders were presented boiled egg, fish and wine which was poured down from a Newar-style 'anti' into a little 'khola' and got refill three times in a row. After that, a traditional feast 'bhoe' was served.

Mha Puja Mandalas 

Diwakar Maharjan Speaking on the Occasion
The Nepalese gentlemen were seen wearing 'sakkali dhaka ya tapuli' while the Nepalese ladies were dressed in Haku Patasi and other sarees. The Nepalese Portlanders  were seen wishing each other: Happy Mha Puja and Nhu Dan Ya Bhintuna. On the occasion, fund raising was also launched for Nepa Chhen by playing 'deusi'. The Mha Puja program was followed by a lot of photo sessions.

Eating the Sagun (Egg, Fish, Wine)
During the Puja
There is no doubt that Mha Puja is a quintessential part of rich Newari culture. It is an interesting coincidence that Mha Puja, a part of a Swanti Nakha, is performed to purify mind, and this cultural ritual is annually held on the day of new year celebration of Nepal Sambat.

It is to be noted that Nepal Sambat -- a national lunar calendar of Nepal -- kicked off in 879 AD during the rule of King Raghav Dev to commemorate the reimbursement of all the debts of the Nepalese people by a Newar trader  Shankhadhar Sakhwa who was declared a national hero of Nepal on Nov 18, 1999 by the then His Majesty's Government of Nepal.

Just less than three decades ago, Mha Puja and Nepal Sambat celebrations were usually confined to the Newar community living in the Kathmandu valley, outside of it, and in some parts of India where Newars had migrated to. Today Mha Puja and Nepal Sambat is observed across the world, thanks to the global migration. The collective celebration of Mha Puja last Friday in Portland is a testimony to the fact that the people leave no stone unturned to celebrate their respective festivals and rituals, no matter, where they are.

Above all, international bodies of the Newah people like - World Newah Organization - and prominent associations of the Newahs in America - Newa American Dabu, Chicago, Nepa Pasa Pucha Amerikaye (NPPA) and Newah Organization of America (NOA) etc have been playing a very tremendous role in disseminating the significance of various festivals of the Newah people.

Cutting the Celebratory Cake

All Together Say "Cheese"
** Dr Shakya , a Portland based writer, is former assistant editor at the RSS, former associate editor at The Rising Nepal and former lecturer of journalism at the Peoples Campus. He is also advisor of Nepa Chhen, a Portland based non-profit and Education Director of NRN-NCC-USA Oregon Chapter.

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