Celebrating Mha Puja and Newar New Year in Sikkim
Reminiscences Old and New
As we all know by now that the Newars in Sikkim got new lease of life after the recognition of their language along with six others as a State Language at par with the existing Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha and Limbu languages in accordance with the Extra Ordinary Gazette Notification No. 5/LD/90 dated April 3, 1995 after the new/present Government came into power the previous year. On this occasion, we had brought out and distributed some five thousand copies of “Newa: Varna, Lipi ra Bhasha Parichaya” in 1996 followed by its revised enlarged edition 2001 that reached households not only in the hills and vales of Sikkim, Kalimpong and Darjeeling but beyond to Kathmandu Valley, the mainland Nepal. There too our language was much threatened under the influence of intruding culture at the verge of extinction like here. We can find language enthusiasists still sharing pages from the book without giving the source or credit on social media like Facebook. We are aware that though we do not speak the language forgotten over the ages struggling for our mere existence in the newfound land establishing well our identity, some of the typical Newar words like, Aja-Aji, Paju-Maleju, Tata, Chama-Chaba (chima-Chirba), etc. are profusely in our day-to-day use addressing relatives in the family and household. This takes me back to the Felicitation function held last January by the Akhil Bharatiya Newar Sangathan, Kalimpong Region in honour of Pancha Ratna Pradhan for being awarded as the National Teacher. It would be of interest to share here what another learned teacher Yogbir Shakya shared with us there in the function.
Yogbir narrated about an important aspect of our attitude we generally have towards our mother language. During Census or other surveys when we are asked to mention our mother language, we usually mention some other in place of our own mother language under the impression that we are unable to speak it. Sometime ago he had an informal talk with the director of the Linguistic Survey of India, who was of the view that simply not knowing or speaking your language does not debar you from owning your mother language. It does not matter if you know or not it since you have been using the Newar Bhasha terms in your daily-life like, Ba, Ma, Tataju, Paju-Maleju in the family or while Chrima-Chiriba, etc. As you are grown up using the traditional household goods like ankhora, anti, karuwa, sinhamu-jwalanhyaka, kota, etc. Similarly, you have been observing social and cultural rituals in your festivals like Janma Din, Mha Puja, Kija Puja, Jankwa, Indrajatra, etc. or in sorrow using Khye-Aila Sagan or Dhau-Laddoo Sagan to mark some achievement, marriage, journey or cleansing ritual following a death in the family or Dhau-Baji for conceivement of a baby, or use of chhoyela, kachila, woh, bara, chatamari, lakhamari, etc. in our feast or functions. These sufficiently and amply prove directly or indirectly that you are a Newar in the core. We have been religiously following our culture. rituals, customs and traditions. It does not matter much if you do not know the language as such and that was lost not in use anymore. Even if you know a little many do not speak under the impression of being teased speaking correctly or perfectly. It could be due to lack of proper environment also to keep us away using it. Those who know and speak in the family feel awkward acknowledge/speak outside - least they may be called 'Sahuji' and belong to some other country even! An interesting anecdote once narrated to me by a former president of the Sikkim Newar Guthi comes to my mind to share here – earlier somewhere in a West Sikkim bazar people seeing a Newar pass by used to say “Look, Sahuji is going!” but now they graduated to say, 'Guthi' is going. It simply gauges how far we have assimilated ourselves in the society.