The other fascinating and worth mentioning diverse culture is that during the marriage among the Sesyo castes, a father-in-law helps the bride wear a feet ornament called Tuti-Baggi just before she is sent away from her natal home.  The father-in-law actually fits the jewelry on bride’s feet, showing his respect for the daughter-in-law and also meaning he considers her as a daughter not a daughter-in-law.  Yet another fascinating diverse traditional practice among the Buddhist Newars is that a bride is welcomed at the door by her mother-in-law by worshipping her and by washing her feet with Hyaun-Thwon (one kind of red wine).  While the bride walks inside the hallway of the house, the other daughters-in-law sweeps the path and purifies it with holy water for the bride to welcome her to the household (I was told that some Sesyo families follow this ritual as well).  There are many other cultural and caste diversities besides those mentioned above.

The diversity among the Newars is not only limited to its various castes.  The diversity goes beyond in some caste groups that have subgroups within their caste, which again have diverse traditional practices (some may call the subgroup as “Thar”).  For example, Sesyo group has three subgroups called “Chhathare,” “Panchthare,” and “Charthare” and Uray group has nine subgroups each with specific traditional occupations and skills namely Tuladhar (traders), Kansakar (bronze specialists), Tamrakar (copper carvers and specialists), Sthapit (carpenters and wood-carvers), Bania (herbs dealers and herbal medicine producers), Sikhrakar (tile-roof and plaster specialists), Shilakar (stone sculptors), Selalik (confectioners), and Sindhurakar (religious thread weavers).  However, marriage is allowed into any subgroup.  One should note the various traditional occupations within other Newar caste groups.  Sesyos have been the administrators, traders, advisors to State affairs and royal families, and so on.  The Jyapus have been the agriculturists, chefs for special feasts and religious feasts, etc.  It is noteworthy that almost all the famous artistic old temples, stone and metal sculptures of Gods and Goddesses, wood-carvings, and so on in the Kathmandu Valley are the creations of the Uray groups.  Related to the traditional occupations of the Newars I would like to explain a bit more about another group, the Vajracharyas.  In most literature, we find Vajracharyas (Gubhaju) defined as “priests.”  This definition is too general and perhaps, it fit well in ancient time when Vajracharyas were “Acharyas or Masters of Vajrayana Buddhism” in the real sense.  It becomes important to mention here that in fact, the term “Vajracharya” used to be a title or a kind of Degree like PhD, M.A. or M.Sc.  If one had complete knowledge of Vajrayana Buddhism and followed its rules and regulations, had Dekha (Diksha) and Chudakarma and studied and performed priestly and tantric rituals he was called a Vajracharya.  Anybody could become a Vajracharya in the past.  There were Brahmans (Bāhun in Nepali and Barmu in Newah Bhāy) and some other caste-members who became Vajracharya by performing Chudakarma and learning Vajrayana approach of Buddhism, including tantric knowledge and priestly rituals.  That explains why today some of my relatives come from Brahman lineage.  Shantikaracharya, the famous Vajracharya of Shantipu (or Shantipur), Swoyambhu was someone from India who became a Vajracharya in that manner by performing Chudakarma.  These days, someone who is born to Vajracharya parents is called a Vajracharya regardless of him or her having any or no knowledge and practice of Vajrayana.

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July 14th, 2015


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