Friday, November 25, 2016

Nepa Chhen celebrates Thanksgiving Day in Portland

Rabin Man Shakya
Advisor, Nepa Chhen, Portland.

This year's Thanksgiving dinner was organized by Nepa Chhen, a non-profit community organization of the Nepalese Portlanders, at Nekusing Memorial Theater (US West Coast Taekwondo Hollywood) in Portland amidst a program on Thursday, Nov 24, 2016.

This, probably, was the first Thanksgiving potluck dinner organized in the community level in the history of Nepalese diaspora in Portland, and the program was attended by about 40 Nepalese Portlanders.

Among them were the members and activists of Nepa Chhen, Nepali Association of Oregon and NRNA-NCC-USA Oregon Chapter.

Nepa Chhen's president Rajesh Maharjan honored Neelam Pradhananga (Australia), founder and global coordinator of 'Clean up Nepal' and Sajan Chhetri (California), volunteer emergency response coordinator at DirectRelief,  by wrapping Khada on them.

In his welcome remarks, Daya Shakya, advisor of Nepa Chhen and vice president of World Newah Organization said:" Thanksgiving dates back to 1621, the year after the Puritans arrived in Massachusetts, determined to practice their dissenting religion without interference and the indigenous Indians taught them how to grow corns and other harvests."

Addressing the gathering and making a presentation, Neelam Pradhananga of 'Clean up Nepal' said:"The problems and challenges facing our environment are often so complex and overwhelming that it is only natural for us to think about it for a while, shake our heads at the perceived inadequacies and sweep the problems under the rug - out of sight, out of mind."

Neelam went on to say:"With Nepalese cities facing unchecked urbanization, inadequate solid waste management services are becoming even more glaringly obvious."

Speaking on the occasion and making another presentation, Sajan Chhetri of 'DirectRelief' said: "Our organization is committed to spending 100 percent of the remaining Nepal donated funds on our Nepal response. These funds will be used to strengthen Nepal's healthcare infrastructure, specifically focusing on the provision of services to the most vulnerable people in society, and help to prepare the country for future disasters."

Thanksgiving dinner almost always includes some of the foods like roast turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes,  green beans, pumpkin pie etc. Nepa Chhen's potluck Thanksgiving dinner had it all. But there was more than that: Rice, Baji, Aalu Achar, Lain Achar, chicken curry, chicken barbecue, Dhau and so on.

Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday in the US and in Canada. Thanksgiving Day is the second biggest traditional and cultural holiday of the Americans after the Christmas. Thanksgiving is the fourth Thursday in November, but majority of Americans take days of vacation on the following Friday to make a four-day weekend, during which they may travel long distances to visit their nearest and dearest.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Mha Puja, Nepal Sambat 1137 observed in Portland

 Dr Rabin Man Shakya
President, Newah American Buddhist Association

This year's group Mha Puja  organized by Nepa Chhen kicked off Saturday evening, Nov 5, 2016 at Nekusing Memorial  Theater, (US West Coast Taekwondo Hollywood) Portland amidst chanting of mantras  by Newah Buddhist Guruju Prajwal Bajracharya.

The Mha Puja rituals are intended for the prosperity and longevity of life for the participants.

In what has become a  good tradition, the annual Mha Puja and Nepal Sambat new year celebration provides the Newah as well as non-Newah community members a fun way to share greetings and interact with each other. Obviously, Mha Puja celebration is also a sure way to enliven and enhance the Newah traditions and customs,  demonstrating the aspirations of the Nepalese Portlanders to keep up the Newah traditions alive.

The Mha Puja program in Portland focused on the rituals and traditions of the famous Newah festival. The main highlight of Mha Puja is the worshipping of the Mandala to purify the soul and mind.

Actually, in Nepal Bhasa, the language of the Newah people of Nepal, Mha Puja literally means the 'worship of the self'

In fact, observing of collective Mha Puja by Nepa Chhen in Portland is a very constructive and praiseworthy tradition.

Celebration of the Mha Puja and Nepal Sambat new year 1137 in Portland like in other major cities of the United States 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.  This is the proof of keenness of Nepalese Portlanders to observe major festivals and national days of Nepal.

Over eighty 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. Notable participants on the occasion were Daya Shakya, vice president of World Newah Organization and Diwakar Maharjan, president of NRNA - NCC - USA Oregon Chapter. Most of the cultural and ritual procedures were followed while performing the collective Mha Puja ceremony.

The Nepalese gentlemen were seen wearing 'Newah Haku Tapuli' and '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.

As instructed by Buddhist Guruju, the  Mha Puja Mandala was worshipped by each participant by offering flowers, by sprinkling and stamping colored paste 'sinha' on the Mandala. All the Mha Puja participants were given a dab of colored paste 'sinha' on their foreheads, provided sacred thread 'kwokha'  and a bag of 'masala pwo' and fruits. Then, the Nepalese Portlanders were presented boiled egg, small fish and wine which was poured down from a Newah style 'anti' into a small 'khola' and got refill three times in a row followed by a 'samay baji'. After that, a dinner  was also served.

There is no doubt that Mha Puja is a quintessential part of rich Newah culture. It is an interesting coincidence that Mha Puja, a part of Swanti Nakha, is performed to purify mind, and this cultural ritual is annually held on the day of new year celebrations 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 Newah trader Sankhadhar Sakhwa who was declared a national  luminary of Nepal on Nov 18, 1999 AD by the then His Majesty's Government of Nepal.

Last but not least, the fourth anniversary of Nepa Chhen - an organization committed to enrich and enhance Nepalese culture and traditions - was also celebrated by cutting a large cake.

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.

**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.