Bahra

As I mentioned in my previous post Ihi’, every Newar girl have to perform the ritual called ‘Ihi’ and after ‘Ihi’, they have to perform the ritual called ‘Bhara’.

Bahra’ is also known as ‘’Bahra tyagu” in Newari and Surya Darshan or Gufa rakhne in Nepali. In this ceremony, the girl is married to the sun.

In some culture, this ceremony is done when the girl has her first menstruation and in other cultures, it occurs after they get an auspicious date from a priest .

It is believed that the girl is protected by the sun from bad people and the evils after this ceremony.

For this ceremony, a girl will stay in a room of her house for 12 days without seeing sunlight and not meeting any male person. ( I still don’t know the reason for this so please share if you know).

In the room at one corner, a cloth is put as Bahra Khayak (ghost) and worshipped by the girl as she is believed to be in possessed by evil. Before she eats anything, one portion needs to be separated for Khayak. If the ritual is not followed, it is believed, the Khayak will scare the girl at night. 

My Bahra ceremony

The hardest part of the ritual is not to eat salt during the first 6 days. I was only 13 years old when I had my Bahra and I remember crying for salt everyday as food doesn’t taste good without salt. As this culture is different among different families, I am writing about how members of my own family go through this tradition.

After the sixth day, close female relatives like maternal uncles (mama), dad’s sisters (fufu) and other relative will come and meet the girl with food like popcorn and Rotis and fruits. Also from the sixth day, there will be powder called ‘Koaa’ which is used by all the women to make them look beautiful. You have to follow a special direction to use this and it is meant to clean the skin. It is used especially by the Bahra girl to look good when she come out of hiding on the 12th day.

Step to use Koaa.

  • Wash your hands, legs and face with water first.
  • Mix the ‘Koaa’ with water and make a paste. Then put the paste all over your face, legs and hands
  • Leave it for a few minutes to dry.
  • Now rub oil on your hands and remove the paste from your face, legs and hands.

    Alha during Bahra

In these 12 days the girl will be entertained by her female friends and relatives. While I was in my room we had ludo, snake and ladder and dolls to play with. As my family was ok for me to hear male voice we had radio so we used to play it loud and dance.

Some days went really quick as I had many visitors around and then there were days which were so long, I couldn’t wait to go out.

On 12th day there will be a big celebration of the ending of this ceremony.

Surya darshan during Bahra

In the morning, the girl purifies herself  by taking a bath. Then she is dressed in bridal sari and make up. She will then be covered my shawl and take to the open space where Puja is performed. There will be Ganesh Puja first and then Surya Puja followed by Surya Darshan. It will be the first time the girl will see the sun in 12 days. Also Sindoor is put on the girl’s forehead as a symbol of marriage to the sun and a yellow string is put around her head.

Like in Ihi, there will be a special person who cuts toe nails for the girl and then paints the feet with red colour called ‘Alah’. Also, ‘Thaa bu’, a plate which has eggs, yogurt, wine, fruits, Roti, meat, fish and much more for the girlsto eat is served like in the real wedding.

Then she will be given Sagun and gifts by family and relatives. Also after this Puja, the girl will go with her relatives to a nearby temple and do more Puja.

In the evening of that day there will be a big bhoj (party) and lots of relatives and friends are invited.

After this ceremony the girl becomes an adolescent.

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9 responses to “Bahra

  1. I was so sick during my Bahra that I thought I will die inside. Do you know that if someone dies during this ceremony, they need to bury you in the same room? My parents were so worried that they got female doctor for check up. Mine was very bad experience but I survived it.
    Even thought only Newari people perform Bahra, other cultures does perform similar rituals to mark the girl becomes an adolescent.

  2. I am so sorry to hear that you had bad experience during your Bahra Melissa. Mine was not that horrible but still I wanted to go out and play. I am still looking for more answers to this tradition and reason behind few things.

  3. I like this concept in that the sun (light) protects the young girl. What protects the young boy…the moon? LOL

    I plan to go to Nepal some day as I am very interested in the region, the people, and most of all the landscape. I want to see the Himalayas and the surrounding landscape and photograph. I have no desire to climb any towering mountain peaks for the mountains are to be admired from below :)

    I will be back to read some more of your posts on Nepal.

  4. They do something called Bartaman for young boys :) .

    If you are interested in culture and religion, you will have so much to explore in Nepal. Have fun when you go there.

    Thank you for stopping by.

  5. guess the girls are protected by the sun after bahra and they gain so much strength fromt he sun-god that they can then be ready to protect the boys/men..hahahahaha – I love that!!Pray my baby whos getting all set for her bahra gets all the strength and walks into her adolescent phase with delight!! <3

    • Thank you so much for your insight Aarpee. I am still confused about the whole process but your explanation does make some sense. To give strength to the girl to become a women to flight the world or something :)

      Good luck with the whole process with your daughter. Please make sure that she is never alone and always entertained so she will look back at this experience as a positive step in her life. Ohoo it should be fun…

  6. Pingback: I was reading a blog “living in west with values of east”. I was shocked when I found out who its author is :) | nepaliaustralian

  7. I think the concept behind this was to ensure that the Newar girl never become a widow.In Ihi, she is married to the Bishnu and then in barah, to the sun god so even if her real husband dies, she will not be a widow as she is still married to eternal deities. In the traditional hindu societies widows had to face many torments in the society (which is true in many societies even today). When Hindu influence began to increase in animistic and matriarchal Newar society it might have been a way to stop your child being traumatised if she ever becomes a widow. Other rituals inside that might have been remnant of some practices, like ‘biralo badhne’ process.

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