Off the shore 9
Celebrating with the Nepa: Pasa Pucha: Amerikaye
Nhu Dan-ya Bhintuna!
Rajiva Shanker Shresta
With Dashain taken exit making way for the Halloween as October ended, people here non-Americans as well as Americans celebrated the festival with equal enthusiasm and spirit colourful of the Fall season. Children came visiting house to house for their share of candies to wish Happy Halloween and the Bamboo we dined at the previous night had given some to us also. On way back home, it was hair-raising experience to see a witch in the swing with a skeleton behind in the dark night. We nearly missed but for Vimal’s quick eyes to take us driving back to the house decorated to scare the passerby. Some compared Halloween with the Gatha Munga festival of the Newars.
It was nice meeting Saroj D. Prajapati, president of the Nepa: Pasa Pucha: Amerikaye (translated Nepal Friends Group in America – NPPA) in the Indrajatra when she invited me and my family to a function soon and later to their 24th Anniversary and Nhu Dan Nepal Sambat 1136 Celebrations - ‘Dedicated to the Restoration of the Heritage of Nepal’. I was there to speak about the Newars in Sikkim and Karunaguthi as per their official letter received. With Swanti Nakha: celebrated, social bodies here organize often in the following weekend a gathering in a grand manner to observe and welcome the New Year and exchange greetings. This year the NPPA is organizing it on 21st November at Gaithersburg, Maryland while the Newah Organization of America on the 6th December at Potomac without clashing each other’s date but doubling the merriment by joining the both promoting and preserving our culture and heritage in the society. A well-wisher from far west USA urged me that let my participation not displease the other group both devoted to the cause common in the area and better be cautious enough maintaining a balance. Welcoming such a valued view, contrary to what was perceived nothing otherwise to observe but both interested in knowing about the Newars in Sikkim and Karunaguthi and we ‘all were working very hard to preserve the Newar identity and traditions’ and ‘as the oldest Newah organization in the USA the NPPA was also working diligently for past 24 years to promote and preserve Newah identity. Since this was ‘a great cultural event with traditional Newah food, forum, cultural programme and festivities’, there was no question of depriving ourselves of such a rare opportunity to be with them in solidarity. Soon a day might come when both, rather more such organizations in the US or elsewhere come together, work in unison taking the Newah people excelling and culture ahead to greater heights.
Understanding well the role religious activities play amalgamating the society, on arrival in Sikkim at a place known as the Black Hill Taksari Chandrabir encouraged settlement clearing wild forests of its dangerous denizens amidst scuffles equaled to battle by some and establishing Rhenock bazar, therein Sri 3 Dhaneshwar Shivalaya Mahadev Mandir and Rhenock Newar Guthi perhaps the first there. Every evening in the temple Bhajan/Aarati was sung with beating of drums and cymbals, Lakhey Naach and dramas performed while Janmashtami had rathajatra taken out till 1950s. In May 2000 Karunaguthi had organized with Rhenock Newar Guthi and Sikkim Newar Guthi Sahasra Chandra Darshanam or Maharatharohan i.e. Jankwa of its founder-father Jai Shanker Lall with Muma Indira Devi three-day-long celebrations. Newly trained artistes from the Newa: Language and Culture Institute, Namthang made maiden appearance in traditional attire performing Dhime Baja, Lakhey Naach in this procession. It was a historic unprecedented procession that some believe inspired Indrajatra in Sikkim - also declared as government holiday in 2012 – a milestone to reach in three decades. In 1982 we youth had propounded the Sikkim Newar Guthi a socio-cultural organization like many other community had in the state but the lackadaisical attitude of the government made its registration possible only in 1994 by the new government. Next year in 1995 Newar along with five/six other languages was accorded the status of official language at par with Bhutia, Lepcha and Nepali. For introducing our rich language and cultural heritage on our Buba’s advice with my wife Ranjana’s help, Karunaguthi brought out Newa; Varna, Lipi ra Bhasha Parichaya in 1996/2001. She had conducted first ever Newar language class in Gangtok. I was then the Information and Public Relations Secretary in the Government to give its official organ Sikkim Herald the first ever facelift in four decades of its existence while a new edition for the Newar language was also brought on my editorial efforts. Here I had introduced a column in Newar language alongside another in Nepali making it easier to understand the text. It was adopted in Kathmandu still seen in Layakoo weekly while back home they are without. Around this time that Newa: the official mouthpiece of Sikkim Newar Guthi was brought out for transparency and accountability and to promote language and culture. Its last issue was dedicated to the Newa: Cultural Evening held by the Nepal Bhasha Manka Khala: on invitation of the state Culture and Heritage department as part of the Golden Jubilee of India’s Independence celebrations in 1997. A glimpse of historic Sikkim coin and this occasion is immortalised on our Facebook page Newars in Sikkim.
Though we in Sikkim lost our mother language long time back, we have been preserving and promoting social customs and traditions keeping the flame of the cultural heritage glowing over the generations. To elucidate, using Mohani during the Dashain or lighting Akash-batti till Tihar and Mha Puja or Kija Puja observed till late night in our childhood also. Anaras and Odalko Roti the Newar specialties considered by many to be from the Rhenock family now seen served along with double-circled Selroti very popular throughout Sikkim and outside. Newar Food Stalls attract many in fete and festivals there. We had distributed copies of Satyamohan Joshi’s Mha Puja in Sikkim and Darjeeling hills during 1990s free courtesy Indra-Jawahar Guthi. We had sent our copy of its Nepal Bhasha edition to Guthi Australia on request from Neelam Pradhanang in 2010. We had similarly distributed free copies of Bhim Tuladhar’s Nasa: for its beautiful folk songs purchased from Kathmandu. We had made and uploaded a video on Mha Puja celebrated by us in the US, Nepal and Sikkim https://youtu.be/5uxM52O8KVE.
Our humble efforts started with Saral Jiva Vigyan, Biology textbook in Nepali written in 1967 and published by the Rashtriya Prakashan in Birgunj might have helped many students in Nepal to be a doctor or scientist. Rachna Books established by my Buba in 1980 contributed much to the society and is declared as the ‘South Asia’s Bookstore of the Year’ recently. Without restricting/limiting efforts to benefit the Newars only, we have published books like Vikasko Goreto with CD Rom, Rachna Katha Anushthan, Sikkim: Three Decades towards Democracy, etc. Space does not allow all the details here but request to visit our website www.karunaguthi.com and know about Jai Smriti Shodh Granthalaya, Uday Bachau Abhiyan and Jai Grameen Pustakalaya Yojana. Presently in Sikkim the Newar language is taught in some government schools teachers provided with textbooks prepared while plans are to take it up to college levels. Many have gone to Tribhuvan University for their Masters in Nepal Bhasha in past several years. A sum of Rs. 50,00,000/- was provided by the Government for the Newar Bhavan and efforts are renewed to build the Newar Art and Culture Centre at Gangtok with massive fund collection drive. Sikkim Newar Guthi extended financial support to the Nepal Earthquake victims while Nepal has been a big support to our efforts always. They also held a seminar in Gangtok inviting eminent Newah scholars from Nepal in 2013.
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Newars are known since days immemorable not only in Sikkim but the world over as the loyal and trustworthy race serving the state and government whosoever in power for the overall benefit of the society and the country, wherever we reached keeping our traditions and culture alive. In the US also we find them working well-settled and successful for over last three generations prove this unique trait we share in common. We gather not only to celebrate the festivals together but also come forward on occasions of distress like in the recent Nepal Earthquake to express our support in solidarity to face such natural calamity. We pray Pashupatinath to bless us with wisdom, conscience, thoughts and strength to overcome and cope with in order to reconstruct the cultural heritage lost thus destroyed.
Karunaguthi had felicitated Dr. Bal Gopal Shrestha in 2004 grateful for coming to Sikkim for his research on the Newars and congratulate him for his book The Newars of Sikkim published this year. On the occasion of Rachna Silver Jubilee 2005, we instituted two awards Jai Smarak Samman and Karuna Smarak Samman for recognizing outstanding contributions to the society made by a person or organization. Considering their remarkable contributions, Karunaguthi would like to felicitate the Nepa: Pasa Pucha: Amerikaye on the auspicious occasion of 24th Anniversary entering the Silver Jubilee year and Nepal Sambat 1136 and award with much love and goodwill from the Newars in Sikkim, Karuna Smarak Samman in recognition of their dedicated efforts continued to preserve and promote the Newah cultural heritage, tradition and customs working together making the difference in the community as a whole significantly over the past several years. This little effort of ours might help inspire and further motivate each other to undertake such good works more dedicated and vigorously so that their name and fame reach far and wide with universal brotherhood and understanding increased. We would like to extend our New Year Greetings for a healthy and prosperous long life to all those present and to fellow Newars spread the world over. To end I would thank them all grateful for the opportunity given and take leave with a request to come forward without any prejudice to support the efforts of the World Newah Organization in achieving the goals.
Next week: Life ordinarily stitches – Little helps much needed
This is author’s personal account of memories updated to cherish and treasure often on a detour here and there en route to share multiplying the joy of the journey called life while in the US. Some names, places and events mentioned are just to connect with and no malice or otherwise whatsoever intended. He can be reached on email@example.com