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.