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gufa...a newari tradition..and some of my experiences

Marrying with the Sun is quite unbelievable in this scientific world. You might be puzzled of thinking that how it is possible to marry a raging fire. It is a traditional ritual for a Newari girl to marry the Sun. Newari is one of an ethnic groups in Nepal. Their language, lifestyle, culture, tradition and the rituals are totally different from other ethnic groups. One of their unique traditional ritual is “Gufa”, when a girl of age between 12-14 years old has to stay in a dark room for twelve days before menstruation. Gufa is also known as ”Surya Darshan”, a marriage with Sun on 12th day. This traditional ritual has its own significance and it is performed by different families in different ways. It is believed that the girl is protected by the Sun from the bad people and the evils after the marriage. On contrary, it is hard and risky for the girls to spend twelve days in a dark room to complete this ritual .In the following paragraphs , I’ll briefly mention all 5w’s +1H of this ritual that is when, where, why, what, who and how this traditional ritual is done including my own experience.

Dark room signifies Gufa tradition. Gufa is set in one of the dark room of the house. This traditional ritual is only for the girls of age between 12-14years who are kept in a dark room for twelve days in the month of February and March . During these days, ”Bahra Khayak” (ghost) is made and worshipped . Girl’s aunt, marital uncle, father, mother, and grandmother are the most important persons who have their own particular roles for completing this ritual. After twelve days,aunt brings the girl who will be blind folded out of the house; marital uncle puts the oil on girls hair; father and mother gives “sagun” which is an egg and curd and the grandmother ties the girl and the Sun as a husband and a wife.

The ways of performing this traditional ritual differs according to the family. Some of the families keep their girls in a dark room for six days ,whereas most of the families keep their girls in a dark room for twelve days .Likewise ,in my family a girl is kept in a dark room for twelve days and she is not allowed to see a male person and the sunlight. Here are some details that my family do during this traditional ritual .In this occasion , Bahra Khayak (ghost) is made and worshipped because it is believed that the girl is under the evil possession .The head member of the family separates meal for Bahra khayak everyday .Oil is not applied by the girl for twelve days .On 6th day ,relatives visit her with fruits .The girl is entertained with folk songs and dances which are performed by her friends .

On the 12th day ,the girl gets married with the Sun. She takes bath before the sunshine. Her aunt brings out of the house blind folded to have “Surya Darshan”(to see sun ).During this ritual , grandmother performs a major role. She first worships God Ganesh and the Sun .Then she gives wheat seeds and rice grains to the girl which the girl throws backward for three times. ”Sindoor” ,a red color is put on the forehead of the girl and her marital uncle puts oil on her hair .After this the girl is considered as a wife of the Sun.The ritual ends with a party which we call “Bhoj”, a traditional meal made from meat, beaten rice, different types of vegetables like potato, bamboo shoots, cabbage ,cereals .All relatives come to attend the ritual with clothes and rice grains for the girl.

Each family member now considers that the girl is not mere child but has now become an adolescent . This traditional ritual signifies the changes in life of girls. However ,it shows the significance of Newari tradition. According to my view ,Gufa also has a negative aspects that means it is very risky. While performing this ritual , most of the girls get sick and even die. If the girl die during this period then she is buried in the same room. I have already experienced this ritual .

I was 13 years old when I was kept in Gufa , and I got sick continuously for seven days. Everyday my mother used to hug me tightly and cried a lot. Even my father wept sitting near the door of my room , as he was not allowed to see me . I was lucky enough to recover my sickness after ten days. The situation of mine was so worse that made everyone cry and frightened .When I came out of the house ,all the male members of my family were waiting outside to see me .My father ran towards me and lift me up on his arm. He was too delighted to see me . That time was the hardest time in my whole life. So, these are my experience of doing this ritual. Whenever I think about that day , I got scared and tears appears in my both eyes remembering the situation of my father and mother.

I like my traditional ritual that is “Gufa’’ though it is hard which I did it for twelve days staying in a dark room . Being a girl of Newari group , I have to follow its rituals . Gufa is one of them , which is the most important traditional ritual for the girls which signifies girls maturity. The way of performing this ritual differs from one family to other but the belief is same. It is believed that the girl is under the protection of the Sun ,her husband from the bad people and evils after the marriage.

Comments

Carri Pence's picture

Reading your journal was both

Reading your journal was both fascinating and interesting. the Gufa tradition is beautiful and shows the relationship not only your culture has with nature but the strength of your family. Though the girl has to endure being in a dark room for 12 days the family understands and deals with their own pain during this time. I love it because it shows both the individual strength and the strength of unity. You had to be alone during this time but had the courage to withstand the darkness through your families visits and love. Thanks so much and please write more of your cultural traditions, they are beautiful.

maharjan's picture

thanks for your precious coment

Hello Carri,
I am happy that you adore my tradition which I have written. It is a tradition which is only prevalent in Newari community, one of the ethnic group in Nepal. A girl have to move towards her life through this ritual or a process which denotes a kind of maturity for a girl. It is really hard to stay 12 days inside the dark room without any communications and entertainment. I have already expereinced my painful moments when I was kept inside the room for this ritual. I was not only one person who suffered during my ritual, my family were equally stressed and worried about my situation when I got sick. Moreover, one negative side of this ritual is when a girl dies during 12 days period, then she is buried in the same house inside the same room. Though it sounds terrific, we have to follow this and family love and support is something that is very important during the stay inside the dark room. I am lucky enough that I recovered from the illness, and for me it is like a nightmare.

Carri Pence's picture

You truly are lucky that you

You truly are lucky that you got better. It does seem like a hard experience that only few can complete. And I am so happy that you had the love, courage, and support that you did compete it. How often does one die during the twelve days?

maharjan's picture

if u really want to know

if u really want to know about this u can watch a movie "Barasi" a newari movie..its related to this ritual..

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