Monday, November 23, 2015

Nepal Sambat New Year 1136 Celebrated in Portland

Dr Rabin Man Shakya
President, Newah American Buddhist Association

News of Mha Puja and Nepal Sambat New Year 1136 being celebrated in Nepal, the US and in other countries of the world have been pouring in in the digital journalism and social media sites. Various organizations like Nepa Chhen and Nritya Mandala Maha Vihar have been celebrating Mha Puja and Nepal Sambat for last few years in Portland.

Last year, about 100 people performed group Mha Puja rituals at a ceremony organized by Nepa Chhen.  This year's Nepal Sambat New Year 1136 was celebrated jointly by Nritya Mandala Maha Vihar and Nepa Chhen in Portland on Sunday, Nov 22, 2015.

At a program to celebrate Nepal Sambat New Year 1136 in Portland, a lecture on historical aspect of Nepal Sambat and its usage in current context was delivered by advisor of Nepa Chhen and vice president of World Newah Organization Mr Daya Shakya.

Mr Prajjwal Bajracharya of the Nritya Mandal Maha Vihar briefly threw light on the activities of the Mahavihar at the program which was attended by more than 50 Nepalese and American guests.

A documentary film "Revival of Nepal Bhasa" was also screened on the occasion to entertain the guests. A potluck dinner was served at the end of the program in which Chhoela Baji, Aalu Tama, Aalu Achar, Bhuti, Simpu Curry, Musya Palu, Pachhai Tarkari, Dhau etc were served. At the Nepal Sambat New Year program, all the Nepalese women were seen wearing traditional Haku Patasi sari.

Belated, but the Nepal Sambat New Year 1136 was observed here in Portland like in other major cities of the US was a testimony to the fact that Nepalese Portlanders are always aware about making it not just a national celebration of Nepal, but also an international event. It is the proof of keenness of Nepalese Portlanders to observe major festivals and national days of Nepal.

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.

Though Nepal Sambat was declared a national era of Nepal in 2008 AD by the government of Nepal, this Sambat has still not been given full recognition and not been used for all practical use and official purposes in Nepal. Thus, the Nepal Sambat New Year should be celebrated to remind the government of Nepal to respect and give due recognition to it.

Celebration of the Nepal Sambat in Nepal and in other countries of the world is a chance for the advocates of Nepal Sambat to raise voice for bringing Nepal Sambat into use as Nepal's official national calendar,  and  to remind the government of Nepal that Nepal Sambat be declared a public holiday, Nepal Sambat be printed in bank notes and coins.

Nepal Sambat was grossly neglected not only during the rule of Rana oligarchy but during the 30-years period of Panchayat regime too. Even today, Nepal Sambat has not been given full state level honour and recognition which it deserves. In such conditions, the advocates of Nepal Sambat should voice their opinion in rational and convincing manner, should try to build the broad public opinion for its cause. They should make optimum use of media, digital media as well as social media for making a convincing case for it.

Overall, there is a sense that despite all the gains (Nepal Sambat being declared national era, all of Nepal's languages being declared national languages, Sankhadhar Sakhwa being commemorated in stamps, road signs in Kathmandu being written in Nepal Bhasa, all major mainstream daily newspapers of Nepal mentioning Nepal Sambat date below the masthead) in recent decades, Nepal's political, social and economic trajectory is still highly uncertain.

That is why Nepal's prime minister K. P. Oli's speech at the Nepal Sambat New Year 1136 program organized  by the Nepal Sambat 1136 National Celebration Main Committee in Kathmandu was a populist rallying cry when he said Nepal Sambat has played an important role in terms of making the social life easier and simple. Let Oli's words not just be like shedding crocodiles tears. Let the government take some effective measures and steps to really honor the Nepal Sambat.

In fact, the discrepancy between the rhetoric and action is the main problem with our politicians. The Nepalese people are sick and tired of the rhetorical tautology of the Nepalese politicians. Nepalese politicians should stop paying lip service to the cause of Nepal Sambat.

Last but not least, Nepal Sambat National Celebration Main Committee should always be able to play a watchdog role and never be a lapdog at the hands of the government.

**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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