Newar Community of Nepal

The Newar are the indigenous people of Nepal’s Kathmandu Valley. Newars are a linguistic community with multiple ethnicity/race and faith, bound together by a common language. The term Newar applies roughly to the descendants of citizens of Medieval Nepal . The different divisions of Newars had different historical developments before their arrival in the Kathmandu valley. The common identity of Newar was formed after their arrival to the valley. Until the unification of Nepal, with the possible exception of the Muslims under Gayasuddin who attacked and destroyed many parts of the valley, all people who had inhabited the valley at any point of time were either Newar or were progenitors of Newar. So, the history of Newar correlates to a great magnitude to the history of Kathmandu valley prior to the Unification of Nepal. The earliest known history of Newar and Kathmandu valley were recorded in the form of mythical scriptures. One of such texts which even account the creation of the valley is Swayambhu Purana.

The Newar maintain a highly literate culture and their members are prominent in every sphere, from agriculture, business, education and government administration to medicine, law, religion, architecture, fine art, and literature. There is a wide acceptance of the fact that Newar architects may have been responsible for developing Asia’s hallmark multi-tiered pagoda architecture. Newar devotional pauba (and thanka) painting, sculpture and metal craftsmanship are world-renowned for their exquisite beauty. The fine temples and palaces of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur are largely the product of Newar architects, artisans, and sculptors. Now however the enterprising Newars are spread across Nepal, Bhutan, State of Sikkim and the District of Darjeeling in India.

Religion: Newar practice both Hinduism and Buddhism. Out of the three main cities of Kathmandu valley which are historically Newar, Patan is mostly Buddhist containing the four stupas built by Ashoka, Bhaktapur is primarily Hindu whereas Kathmandu is mixed.

Caste: The Newar are divided into hierarchical clan groups by occupational caste, readily identified by surnames. In the past, the upper caste people used to look down upon the lower caste. Such a division of people created a rift in the society which has rendered the mention of caste as a taboo.

Music: The Newar Music consists mainly of percussion instruments. Wind instruments such as flutes and similar instruments are also used. String instruments are very rare. There are songs pertaining to particular seasons and festivals. Paahan chare music is most probably the fastest played music whereas the Dapa the slowest. The dhimay music are the loudest ones. There are certain musical instruments such as Dhimay and Bhusya which are played as instrumental only and are not accompanied with songs.

Dance:The Newar Dance can be broadly classified as masked dance and dance without the use of masks. The most representative of Newari dance is Lakhey dance. Almost all the settlements of Newar have Lakhey dance at least once a year. Almost all of these Lakhey dances are held in the Goonlaa month. So, they are called Goonlaa Lakhey. However, the most famous Lakhey dance is the Majipa Lakhey dance. It is performed by the Ranjitkars of Kathmandu. The dance takes place for a week during the week containing the full moon of Yenlaa month. The Lakhey are considered as the saviors of children.

Cuisine:The Newar Cuisine is a unique type of cuisine. It consists of non-vegetarian and vegetarian items as well as alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Mustard oil and a host of spices, such as cumin, sesame seeds, turmeric, garlic, ginger, methi, bayleaves, cloves, cinnamon, pepper, chili, mustard seeds, vinegar, etc. are used in cooking. The cuisine served in the festivals is considered as the best diet cuisine.

Leave a Comment