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The Newari Culture of the 3 Kingdoms of Bhaktapur, Patan and Kathmandu are centuries old and have various elements to them. One of the most crucial elements of Newari tradition is the masked dances of various Gods and Goddesses which are celebrated differently in all parts of the valley. There history is contained only with the locals and some have already been lost to time, in today’s modern world most just cherish these events temporarily and in the moment not bothering to understand its symbolic history and importance. Financial constraints, lack of manpower, governmental negligence and general neglect is a constant struggle for the masked dancers and insitutions who bear the responsibility to continue this age old tradition. Here are 5 Newari cultural dances and there symbolic importance:

Harisiddhi Nach

Harisiddhi Naach is the “ First Mask Dance” of the then kingdom of Nepal. It was commenced by Vikram Aditya himself and carried on by his successors. Today the dance is performed by the priests at the temple of Harisiddhi. The dance is taken around the three kingdoms (Kathmandu, Patan, Bhaktapur) once in 12 years. Annually the dance is performed twice on the day of Yomari Purnima and Holy Purnima.

[image] The dance is performed in the community square known as Lachhi and is viewed by the locals and onlookers who have flocked from all parts of the valley.

Asta Matrika Naach

Asta Matrika Naach in the common tongue its called Gaa: Pyakha ( Group Dance) is a symbolic annual dance that occurs in the inner core of Patan. It was commissioned by Sri Nivash Malla who saw the Asta Matrika’s performing in the royal court of Mulchowk, he consulted with priests and his guru’s and learned that it is a sign of good fortune and a blessing of the mother Goddesses. Thus, he entrusted land to 3 guthi’s for the sustenance of the dance which is to be performed every year. 2 out of the 3 guthi’s left the accord and now it is only performed by the Nakabhail Tol, it takes place during the festival of Dashain in Mulchowk, Kartik Dabali and Nakabhail Dabali.

Nava Durga Naach Said to have started 200 years ago during the Malla era, the Nava Durga Naach is an essential part of the people of Bhaktapur. Every year in the month of June according to the astronomical charts the ashes of the old Nava Durga masks are thrown into the river. The new masks are commissioned after a meticulous Tantric rite in July, the new masks are ready by the month of September. The masks are then exhibited in the Ya Che( God House) on the first day of Dashain. On Astami Sukla, the members of the Gatha caste come to steal the masks and its said that back in the day they left some payment. They take the masks and attach a gilded copper bindi thus completing the mask. They perform in the 24 Tols of Bhaktapur and the last performance is given in the southern side of the durbar square at Ikshyu Tol.

It is believed that the Nava Durga dancers begin to grow weak from this time forward. Later, the Nava Durga dancers circumnavigate Bhaktapur on the city’s procession route and then return to their shrine late in the evening

Kartik Naach

During the reign of Siddhi Narsingh Malla, relating the legend, a great misfortune befell on the land. It was as if the city had lost its luster. No amount of pujas and yagyas seemed to restore the original splendor of the city. Downhearted, the king consulted with his learned gurus. They advised him to invoke Narasimha, the ferocious, wrathful and blood thirsty incarnation of Bishnu, to help him solve the problem. But there was a catch—invoking Narasimha to his aid demanded a hefty price—narbali, the ritual sacrifice of a man, which had to be performed annually, without fail.” 

The King was skeptical. Surely, none would gladly put their life on the line, not even for the Gods. His gurus, Haribansha Rajopdhayay and Bishwanath Rajopdhayay, suggested an alternative , one that would avert disaster and, most importantly, spill no innocent blood. They would invoke the gods through Tantrik means, with strong spells, a form of symbolic narbali.

A brilliant idea struck the king; to stage a play. The play would symbolically offer the gods their desired narbali, it would be a good education for the people. He wrote the complete play by himself . The theme revolves around Narasimha, the wrathful god, who was called forth to divert the disaster

Khokana Naach

Sikali Jatra or Khokana Jatra is celebrated during Dashain for 5 days. The people of Khokana are the only in the valley who don’t practice the ritual of tika and jamara as the Sikali jatra falls during this time.” Dashain is celebrated as good conquering over evil, in Kokhana it happens literally, on the first day of the festival 3 buffalo’s are sacrificed at the Sidhali temple. Varipus rituals are performed everyday and on the last day the Goddess Rudrayayni comes out to battle demons in a elaborate atmosphere of traditional instruments, inscents and locals and enthusiasts watching on as she conquers evil.


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