July 21, 2024, Sunday
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Yomari Punhi the festival of Newars and Jyapu Divas

The Nepal Weekly
December 14, 2021

The Newar community who are known as aborigines of the Kathmandu Valley, spread across the country and abroad observes ‘Yomari Punhi’, the post-harvest festival on the full moon day in December while the Kirat community, who mainly reside in hills of eastern Nepal, also celebrate ‘Sakela Udhauli’ festival with fanfare. The ‘Sakela Udhauli’ festival gives a glimpse to the agricultural life-style of Kirat people.

Literally Yomari meaning lovely sweet food item, holds special significance for Newar community. A Yomari is a steamed sweet food dish made of new harvest rice flour dough in a shape of sharp point at lower end and swelled and locked at the upper side. It is filled with brown sugar candy known as Chaku and paste of sesame seeds. This is offered to Annapurna, the Goddess of food grains for the recent paddy harvest.

Small kids,young boys and girls go to their neighbours to ask Yomari from housewives in the evening.

Yomariis cooked at one’s home is gifted to neighbours and relatives as well. Yomari is cooked for many other celebrations such as birthdays of young ones, Junko (old age celebrations at 77 years, 7 months and 7 days), completion of construction of a house, special ritual functions and so on. 

Last year hardworking chef from Nepal, in an international cooking competition prepared and displayed Yomari elegantly to the international community with a great enthusiasm.

The Newars observe religious functions in many places on Yomari Punhi. On this day sacred masked dances are also performed in the villages of Hari Shidhi and Thecho. The Newar community, especially the farmers of the valley also celebrate the day as Jyapu Divas or Farmers’ Day. Though Jyapu Divas has been observed lately since 2002, Jyapu Divas has become a festival in addition to Yomari making. Most of the Jyapus of the valley take part in the cultural procession organized in the Kathmandu core city with traditional music and attires. The political leaders, litterateurs, social workers, business people also take parts in the Jyapu Divas celebration.

The Jyapus

The farmer community of the Kathmandu Valley is believed to be the aborigines. A section of them are thought to be decedents of Yalambar, the Kirat King in the ancient time who went to take part in the Great Mahabharat battle between Pandava and Kaurava, but he had happened to be an audience despite of all his greater martial abilities. His character has been elaborated in Mahabharat, the great epic as Ekalavya. The idol of Akash Bhairava in a big temple at Indrachok in Kathmandu even now is worshipped as the great ancestor. The god Akash Bhairava is worshipped by all.

The hard working Jyapus are the resident farmers of the valley since the time immemorable. They had not only cultivated the land but also enriched culture and traditions. Craftmanship in many household products, music, dances are their contributions. They take part in almost all festivals and fanfares observed in the valley. Their presence is a must at many such occasions.

All Newars are not Jyapus

Notably, the Newar community does not belong to one single clan or caste or origin. They are a mix-up of various origins joined to be Newars. People come from many directions in search of opportunities in Kathmandu Valley in the ancient period as this place was used to link Tibet to Indian territories. Traders and saints reside here for short time or permanently in quest of their business or meditations. All those who resided here for permanently turned as Newars. They learnt the native language, performed the culture and behaved to be fit for all reasons. The new comers were welcomed here with appreciation of the culture they belong and parts of such assets are mixed to the Kathmandu Valley culture and to enrich the heritage.

Newars are divided vertically keeping in view that the Buddhists have Bajracharyas as priests and Hindus have Rajopadhyays as their priests. Moreover, there are number of castes in Buddhist and Hindu Newars. No dispute yet had occurred in name of the caste and priests in the Kathmandu Valley. Jyapus, who cultivated land and kept traditions as stated above in the past are one such caste who enjoyed being with all such castes. In recent decades they had been emerged in many such as administration, health service, trades and industries. Farming trade in the valley has been practiced by other than Jyapus also. But they are not included in the Jyapu communities by one or other reasons. Therefore, all Newars are not Jyapus.

Matinaa Paaru

The culture of ‘Yomari Fonegu’ or begging for Yomari as mentioned above relates with love and romance as well. Back in those days the lovers got a chance to sneak peek and talk with their loved ones. As in olden times, society was restrictive with love and affairs. Yomari Punhi’s ‘Yomari Fonegu’ culture was utilized as a cruising day in those times. Lovers would secretly meet each other and communicate in the evening of Yomari Punhi to meet next day at certain location to know more with each other and express love and affections. As such, the next day to Yomari Punhi is taken as similar to the Valentine’s Day in Newar culture, but run for the centuries.