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Our lifestyle is influenced by our social aspirations which also determine the norms and values. Directly and indirectly, religion shapes our rites and rituals, feasts and festivals, offerings and worships. Religion should not be interpreted only from its superstitious elements. The mode of religious life may sometimes be superstitious but the goal is always sacred. People's involvement in religious activities of worships, offerings, meditation etc, helps in bringing satisfaction, mental peace, discipline and spiritual freshness. Our customs and tradition are spiritual freshness. Our customs are traditions are offshoots of religion. Social aspirations are also expressed in such customs and traditions. Originally our customs and traditions had some scientific implications but over the turns of times, superstition and negativity entered which needs to be discarded.
As per diverse physical environment and ethnicity of Nepalese society, customs and traditions are very many and extremely varied. As you probably know kumari puja is distinctly a Newari observation as Maghi is that of Tharus. Rais, Undhauli and Unbhauli, Gurungs, Rodhi, Tamangs, Lhosar, Terai people's Chhath, Gaura Parva in far-west Nepal and Bisket Jatra in Bhaktapur along with many others are special for specific communities or geographical areas. Below are brief accounts of three of such customs and traditions.
1. Marga Puja
Whether they are Hindus or Buddhists or Rai communities of Nepal, have preserved their distinctly rich cultural life. Rais are further divided into several ethnic groups like Bantawa, Athpahariya, Thulung, Kulung, Khaling and Bangdel. Their religious devotion is high and the customs and traditions are distinctive. Marga puja is a typical worship practice of Athpahariya Rais who originally lived in Dhankuta district. Marga is their main deity which they worship three times a year. But when they have special bhakals (promises) they need to worship extra than three times. Sacrifices of pigs, chickens are given and grains are also offered to the deity. In their Marga puja of Kartik or Mangsir, the Rais perform dances to the music of dhols and jhyamtas.
2. Awadhi women's fasting
Fasting is a common way of religious observance in Hindu culture. It is very important among the Awadhi women of western and mid-western Terai districts like Nawalparasi, Rupandehi, Kapilvastu etc. The women show complete devotion to their religious beliefs and traditions. They observe fasting on the occasion of Nag Panchami, Yama Dwitiya, Dipawali etc. Fasting is accompanied by personal and household cleanliness, meditations, worships, and telling stories and singing songs about the deity they are worshiping. Fasting is also observed for special fulfillment. Unmarried women wish for good husbands and married women pray for the peace, happiness and prosperity of their husbands and children. But fasting without water and fasting when diseased and weak should be discouraged because it causes serious harm to the health.
3. Masta puja
Masta system of worship is famous among the Khas people of Bheri, Karnali, Seti and Mahakali zone of the midwest and far-west Nepal. Masto is their main deity but with no specific image. Dhami himself turns into Masto when he acquires divine power. Then he begins to dictate things. Masto dhami performs several miracles like immersing hands in boiling oil, breaking an iron wire etc. These days, Masto system is declining due to outside influence. Still people worship as the main family deity by those Khas people.
The advantages of religious practices are as follows:
The list of rites and rituals my community observes from birth to death are listed below:
The positive and negative aspects of fasting are listed below:
According to me, the sacrificing animals is not right because it is just a superstitious belief that sacrificing animals will fulfill their wishes. Animals may not be able to speak and fight for their rights but humans, being a social animal should understand that sacrificing animals not only takes a life of an innocent animal but also ruins the peaceful environment making a negative impact in our coming generation.
We should preserve and promote our custom and tradition because custom and tradition is our identity and if we don't preserve our identity then no one else will. Our customs and traditions not only give us identity but also give our upcoming generation the knowledge about the history and our religions.
We can preserve and promote our custom and tradition by conducting awareness program and educating people about the needs and importance of custom and tradition in our society and our upcoming generation.
The fasting is rooted in the Awadhi society of mid-western Nepal. In such activities, women only are allowed to participate. As it is a male dominant society, women have to fast for the betterment and long life of their husband. It is a superstitious practice. Women cannot get any fruitfulness from it. It is against the principle of social justice. Women have to raise their voice for the elimination of such practice and they should understand that hungry and difficult situations could never bring prosperity for anyone. It should be understood that prosperity and luck will be with having employment, opportunity and labour. As women are unified to observe such festivals, they should be unified and effective with participation to change the society drastically. Women themselves should be role model and they should create awareness programme in the society.
The main residence of Aath Paharia Rais is Dhankuta district, the eastern hills. Aath Paharia Rais worship marga as their biggest god. They worship marga thrice a year appropriately in Baisakh, Bhadra and Ashoj or Kartik/Mangsir. In this pooja, pigs, hens are sacrificed and new crops are offered. After the pooja, some musical instruments are played and dances are performed. If special offer is committed to the god, marga is worshipped.
There is one of my friend who is Muslim. He said that there are different other festivals in life except Id. During these festivals, people perform fasting and observe Rojas. On the last day of observing Roja they read "Namaj" and entertain with loads of feast. The main characteristic of this festival is to stay for "Roja". It is celebrated daily for a month. It is their greatest festival. In this way, Bakar Id is the second greatest festival. It is celebrated only for three days in a month. People eat sweet things and wear new clothes. Maraj, Moharam etc. are other important festivals for Muslims. Women of muslim community are given less priorities for any work. They are extreme believer in their religion. They may bit their life for their religion. Mainly, the Muslim community is divided into two tribal community, Siya and Sunni.
Chhath is one of the important festivals observed in eastern Terai. It falls in Kartika shukla paksha asthami. It is celebrated by having partially sunk in the nearby river or pond before the sunsets and rises. They worship the first rays of the sun. Some celebrate it with difficulty as crawling and getting into the river or pond might not be easy task for them to do. They have the belief that if they practice the festival in this way, they can get their desires and wishes fulfilled. They emphasize on freshness and purity or holiness. In this festival, relatives and neighbors are invited and fed in the feast. It is observed with greater importance in Terai. So, Nepal government has declared the public holiday in Terai during its celebration.
Marga puja is celebrated by Aathapahariya Rais of Dhankuta district. They worship this puja three times a year. While celebrating it I have found two evil practices of it, they are:
The rites and rituals observed in my community are presented below: