Mha Puja, Govardhan Puja, Nepal Sambat 1135 todayNewars all over the nation have been celebrating Mha Puja, a Newar custom of worshipping one’s own body on Friday. Likewise, Hindus are also celebrating Govardhan Puja today.
Mha Puja is a unique tradition in itself for the Newars to celebrate it along with their calendar called the Nepal Sambat. This year is Nepal Sambat 1135. This two-in-one day is one of the most important occasions of the Newars as it is also celebrated as their New Year Day. Great religious values are also attached to this day.
The main rituals of Mha Puja start in the evening. Members of the family, first males followed by females, sit cross-legged in a row. The elder group of females plays the role of facilitators for each member. A mandap, decorated with different colours and various grains, fruits and flowers, is drawn for each member of the family. In between the grains and fruits lies a mini mandap of oil, which represents the human soul. The human soul is placed between various grains and fruits so that a person will prosper throughout the year since each object represents a particular God and it is believed that each deity will bless the person. An oil lamp with velvet cloth wick equal in length to one’s own face is lit on top of the mandap facing all four cardinal directions so that a person will be renowned in all the places of this earth.
Apart from worshipping oneself, all the household entities like brooms, water pots, utensils and machines are also worshipped in a same way.
The customs of celebrating Nepal Sambat started from October 880 AD. According to a popular legend, there used to be a learned person in Bhaktapur who ordered porters to get sand from Lakhu Tirtha, a river in Kathmandu because he knew that it would turn into a heap of gold the next day. A person named Shankhadhar Sakhwaa came to know about it, and he enticed the porters to leave the sand in his place.
The next day, the sand turned into gold and with that gold he paid off the debt of all the people in the Kathmandu Valley. So from that day, people started celebrating it as their New Year to commemorate their happiness.
Even today, people are very enthusiastic to welcome the New Year. Every year, the day starts with a rally and the greeting of “Nhu Daya Bhintuna!” which means “Happy New Year”. Different programmes and functions are also organised in the Kathmandu Valley every year on this day.
Though Mha Puja and Nepal Sambat are celebrated on the same day, historians believe that the ritual of the former began in ancient days, long before the latter. In any case, this day is regarded as auspicious and of religious importance.
The Govardhan Puja ritual is also observed today. A replica of the Govardhan Mountain is made out of the cow dung. People prepare a mixture of the cow dung and ochre formed into a paste and apply on the courtyard of their homes and on the floors.
This ritual is linked to the Hindu god Sri Krishna who, according to the legend, lifted the Govardhan Mountain by his hand and protected the people of a place called Gokul from torrential rains caused by Indra, the god of rain. It is believed the rain god was angered and thereby caused the heavy downpour.
Similarly, the ox is also worshipped today as it is a very useful animal in different agricultural works in Nepal which is a predominantly agricultural country.