Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Panjaran: An Important Festival of Nepalese Bajrayana Buddhists

Rabin Man Shakya
Advisor, Nepaa Chhen, Portland, Oregon

Nepal is rightly described as a garden of different ethnic communities. Nepal is the land of festivals and cultural carnivals. Festivals  are the important factors that enliven the Nepalese culture and they have added to the cultural richness of the country.

Theravada Buddhism, Mahayana and Bajrayana are the important sects of Buddhism and each sect has its own holidays and festivals.

Panjaran, an alms giving festival, is an important cultural event of the Bajrayana Buddhism in Nepal. Until about 25 years ago, Panjaran was celebrated very enthusiastically with participation of thousands of people. Many important components of festivals like Panjaran are on the verge of extinction. Those were the days when not only kids and teenagers, but thousands of gentlemen belonging to Shakya and Bajracharya castes used to go for taking alms. Not any more. Nowadays, very few people show up for taking alms.

Giving of alms on the day of Panjaran kicks off with offering of alms to Gurju team (a team of household Buddhist priests).

Panjaran is also Panchadan which means giving away five different kinds  of alms, such as, grains and fruit like rice, paddy soya, salt, peas, bananas, radish etc.

Panjaran or Panchadan is a festival of Bajrayana Buddhists of the Kathmandu valley. But there are subtle differences in the ways how Panjaran is celebrated in Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur, Likewise, Panjaran is celebrated on different days too. This year, Panjaran was celebrated in Kathmandu yesterday (Saturday, Aug 19, 2017). Our family here in Portland also celebrated Panjaran in our own way.

Judging by the Facebook posts, a number of Shakyas and Bajracharyas living in the United States display the idols of Lord Buddha and Karunamaya at their homes and apartments on the day of Panjaran.

Taking a trip down lane memory, I nostalgically remember at our own home at Naghal Tole in Kathmandu, my late grand father and then my late father used to decorate shrine on the third story (chota) of our house with big statues of Lord Buddha and Karunamaya as well as traditional Paubha scroll paintings. As kids, we always used to enthusiastically help our grand father and our father in decorating shrine.

When I was still a teenager, I myself with my friends from Naghal Tole neighborhood used to go for making alms around of Kathmandu dangling big bags on shoulder for putting paddy and rice. Besides paddy, rice, salt and peas etc we were also given money.

On this day, the Shakyas and Bajracharyas prefer to eat Kheer (rice cooked in milk and sugar, cashews, cloves, cardamoms, raisins, coconuts etc). Sadly enough, today, we do not find the same kind of zeal and enthusiasm like we did two or three decades ago.

1 comment:

  1. Very good article Rabin dai. I also miss the traditional way of celebrating our festivals. I was very curious to know how Panjara started and what is the significance of giving away five things and why in this particular day.