Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Pahan Chare: One of the Biggest Cultural Festivals of Newah People

Dr Rabin Man Shakya
Advisor, Nepa Chhen, Portland, USA
State Education Director, NRNA-NCC-USA Oregon Chapter

Pahan Charhe is one of the biggest cultural festivals of the Newah people in Nepal. Nowadays, Pahan Charhe is celebrated not only by the Newah people living in Nepal but by the Newah people who are scattered  across the world too.

Actually, Pahan means guest in Nepal Bhasa and Charhe stands for 'fourteenth day of the lunar fortnight. So, in a few words, it means the festival of and for guests. By the way, this year's Pahan Charhe is on March 16, 2018 which is also the day of Pisach Chaturdarshi.

It is to be noted that in Portland, Oregon, Mha Puja - Nepal Sambat and Mohani Nakha are the Newah festivals that are celebrated in community level very enthusiastically. Yes, Pahan Charhe is celebrated in community level too by Newah people in Japan and Britain and also in big US cities like New York and DC. Nevertheless, celebration of Pahan Charhe is confined to family members and friends here in Portland. Well, majority of the Newah people in Portland do celebrate Pahan Charhe in their own way. Last year, my spouse organized a 'Bhoe' (feast) in our family in Portland. This years's Pahan Charhe, we have to live with 'Gwarcha' which means thick soup with different beans and Newar Momo dumplings.

Looking back nostalgically to my childhood days at Naghal Tole, Kathmandu, I remember how we eagerly and fervently waited for Pahan Charhe.

There used to be 'Luku Mahadyo' at our chowk at Naghal Tole. Luku Mahadyo which means 'hidden Mahadev' was enshrined in the ground of our chowk. We, the children of the chowk neighborhood, used to go here and there in the periphery to gather the Lubu ( green rape blooms) and Wobu (radish blooms) to decorate and beautify the Luku Mahadyo.

In the evening, the ladies from each households used to perform worship to Luku Mahadyo by offering feast which included Baji (beaten rice), Dayekaula (meat curry),  Chhoyela, Bhuti, Lain Achar, Laba Tarakari, Tukancha, Pukau etc. Taking a trip down lane memory, we used to enjoy the offerings made to Luku Mahadyo. Boy, that was a lot of fun.

The traditional 'bhoe' (feast) is served to the family members in the evening according to traditions. on the day of Pahan Charhe.

Today even though Pahan Charhe is still celebrated by the Newah people in Nepal and across the world, the tradition of decorating Luku Mahadyo  with rape blooms and radish blooms on the day of Pahan Charhe is slowly vanishing. Thanks to globalization and global media culture, many important components of traditional values of the Newah people are in danger of extinction.

If we go by the assumption that festivals are important component of the culture, then sincere endeavours and appropriate government cultural policy should be enforced to preserve and keep up traditions and festivals.

No doubt, Nepal is a country of festivals. There are so many festivals of different ethnic communities of Nepal. The culture of any country is reflected in the way of living and lifestyle of people. There are many castes and ethnic groups in Nepal. Each ethnic community  including the Newah people have their own customs, culture and traditions. Living in the same nation, they strive to preserve and safeguard their own culture.

In economic terms, Nepal may be a poverty-stricken country, but in the front of arts and culture, there are reasons for Nepal to be proud of her cultural heritage, ancient arts and architecture.

There is no doubt that celebration of Pahan Charhe festival is one of the best traditions of the Newah people.

**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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