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The Religious World of guthis: Three facets of Newār civilization, Nepal

Gérard Toffin

Abstract

Despite the impact of Hinduism and Tantric Buddhism, the religion of Jyāpu ‘farmers’ of the Newār ethnic group still presents features that do not fit in with these two ‘high religions’. This paper is devoted to this indigenous cultural heritage and deals specifically with religious aspects linked to the Jyāpu guthi (association, religious group) organisation. It first of all explores rites and beliefs associated with dance and music. The cult of the aniconic deity Nāsaḥdyaḥ, central to these questions, is analysed. Second, sīkābhvāy, the banquet during which the head of a sacrificial animal is offered to a specific deity and eaten by the eight seniormost men within the group is studied. This religious feast, imbued with hierarchy, male dominance over women, secrecy, prominence of senior people, thakāli, animal sacrifice and meat eating, echoes other indigenous religions of Southeast Asia. Third, death and cremation associations, si guthi and sanāḥ guthi, both key social units of the village organisation, are scrutinised. In Jyāpu villages, these death cult groups are closely associated with territorial bonds and with the symbolic protection of localities – a feature that figures to a greater degree in the indigenous tribal universe than in the Hindu world. Finally, I show how the two concepts of Indianisation and vernacularisation throw light on this ethnographic material and may explain some developments of religious faiths and beliefs in the Kathmandu Valley and in the Himalayas.

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Introduction

  • 1 A short version of this paper was presented as a keynote lecture at the 10th Global Newāḥ Confer (...)

1I have been undertaking anthropological research in Nepal since the early 1970s. Over the last five decades, I have devoted a considerable part of my time to studying Newār (or Newāḥ) culture and society, to learning Nepal Bhasa (the Newari language, which belongs to the Tibeto-Burmese family) and to conducting case studies in several villages and towns of the Kathmandu Valley (ie Nepal Valley), the original location of this specific ethnic group and the oldest civilisational centre of this Himalayan country.1 Traditional Newār society is mainly organised according to the Hindu caste system and is scattered over towns and rural villages. It comprises about thirty castes, each with a particular ritual specialisation and a religious status within the overall pure/impure hierarchy. It is culturally very diverse and includes a strong, conservative Buddhist Mahāyāna/Vajrayāna (nowadays also Theravāda) community (Lewis 1984, Gellner 1992), more or less acclimatised to Hindu values. This Buddhist community is mainly concentrated in cities.

2Despite these Indianised (both Hindu and Buddhist) features, Newārs are classed today as a Janajāti/Ādivāsī indigenous (ethnic or tribal) group, supposedly separate from the country’s Hindu mainstream. At first glance, this classification may appear problematic since Newārs are far removed from vanvāsī, jungle dweller stereotypes, and display a sense of hierarchy that is sometimes more acute than among any Hindu Parbatiyā (Nepali-speaking) caste. Many of them have been city dwellers for centuries. Anthropologists working in South Asia are well aware that these labels are imposed by local authorities and that they are used strategically by local people to gain full official recognition and to benefit from some advantages. However, the situation there is extremely intricate and difficult to decipher since caste patterns and indigenous features are extremely interconnected. To tell the truth, there is also some evidence in favour of an indigenous Janajāti/Ādivāsī designation. The fact, for instance, that the members of this ethnic group form a distinct community, that they have their own distinct culture and a non-Indic language cannot be ignored. What is more, the religion of some of its members, in particular Jyāpu farmers, shares some features with populations usually classed as ‘indigenous’ or ‘tribal’. These affinities, which may support the idea of an older indigenous stratum, strongly defended by the Jyāpus themselves, must be analysed in a totally unbiased manner. This is an urgent undertaking since the syncretism formed within Newār civilisation between these indigenous features and the Indian cultural heritage has so far been given very little attention.

3Since the beginning of my research, I have deliberately chosen to lay emphasis on the social organisation and religious practices of Jyāpu (Maharjan) farmers, the largest group among the Newār ethnic community. These ‘farmers’ can be considered as the backbone of Newār culture and today proudly claim their status as Ādivāsī. Between the 1970s and the 1990s, I carried out various periods of fieldwork among this community. Jyāpus clearly display strong indigenous features, somewhat different from upper and lower castes. Obviously, Hinduism and Tantric Buddhism are extremely important to them and underlie most of their rituals. They mostly call upon Vajrācārya Buddhist ritual experts for their funerary rites, though a minority (mainly in Bhaktapur district) invite Hindu Brahman priests. Yet these ‘high religious’ rituals and beliefs are in many ways integrated into a more vernacular type of culture. They are permeated with autochthonous patterns, which do not fit in exactly with textual Hinduism and Buddhism. My purpose here is to lay emphasis on their vernacular Jyāpu heritage and hybrid forms of religion. As I will show, the two concepts of Indianisation and vernacularisation can help to understand these processes of mutual acculturation. I will limit my essay to the case of these urban and rural ‘farmers’. It is important to note that they are assigned a middle-ranking position in the Newār caste system, halfway between the lower impure castes and the upper Hindu or Buddhist castes.

4Jyāpus live in villages and in cities. In both cases, they form compact localised communities linked to various territorial units, marry mostly endogamously and are organised according to their own rules. Interestingly, until the 1960s, these peasants were mostly illiterate. Only a small minority of them used to read religious texts (in Newari and in Sanskrit). Today, as in the past, they take part in spectacular festivals held in cities at regular fixed lunar (and rare solar) dates and they call upon a number of lower- and upper-caste members to celebrate their life-cycle rituals. They also have to perform some subsidiary services themselves towards upper castes, whether Hindu or Buddhist, especially on the occasion of religious ceremonies. As farmers, they cultivate or used to cultivate their own land and also worked as tenants on private parcels of land owned by upper castes or on guthi land reserved for religious purposes. In other terms, Jyāpus were/are not separated from the collective life of other Newārs. Their basic role in major festivals, such as Yẽyāḥ (Indra Jātrā) in Kathmandu or Buṃgayāḥ (Rāto Matsyendranāth Jātrā) in Lalitpur, clearly reveals this integration. Jyāpu farmers belong to the wider ethnic Nevāḥpiṃ Newār sphere of identity, in which the same language is spoken.

5It is a well-known fact that these agriculturists (known by other names such as: Suwāl, Duwāl, Ḍangol etc) gradually abandoned their farming activities over the last three decades and turned to new economic sectors. As a matter of fact, the Kathmandu Valley, which was five times less crowded in the early 1970s compared to today, has been largely transformed. Fields have almost disappeared, replaced by buildings and roads. The Jyāpus turned to the building trade, to salaried jobs, to the tourist sector and hotel business, and many other white-collar activities. Yet they have not totally abandoned their former way of life and their vernacular religion, which are still very important for understanding the Newār cultural heritage. Like many other Nepalese populations living in the Himalayas, traditional values as well as religious discourses still largely prevail among them.

6Non-modern types of thought emphasising the role of various supernatural beings or forces coexist today with secular modes of thinking, which are increasingly invoked. This dual mindscape, oscillating between opposite lines of reasoning, shows a deep contrast to what occurs in more individual and modern Western types of cultures and societies where religion has been progressively expurgated from the process of rational knowledge or devaluated. For example, Newār farmers never forget to mention supernatural causes or changes in moral values to explain disease, suffering or climate change, whereas these factors are rarely reported in modern Western–influenced societies or are considered to be signs of ignorance and superstitions. At the same time, they regularly follow TV weather broadcasts formulated in scientific terms and are eager to introduce modern techniques into their means of subsistence to maximise their earnings.

7In addition, it should be noted that a reverent attitude towards deities and religious commitment during ritual ceremonies do not prevent Jyāpus from expressing political attitudes associated with atheism, for instance adherence to a leftist rhetoric. As a matter of fact, a great number of them have long belonged to communist parties, especially in the large towns of the Kathmandu Valley (Kathmandu, Lalitpur/Patan, Bhaktapur). They are prompt to organise demonstrations if their own interests are threatened. Similarly, Jyāpu ‘farmers’ are perfectly conscious of the borders opposing secular and sacred realms. They can be very religious during ritual ceremonies and extremely relaxed and bawdy in daily life – even during large collective banquets of a semi-religious character. On such occasions, rice beer, alcohol and meat dishes, which are greatly appreciated, help break down social barriers but may also cause rifts among guests.

8For the purpose of this article, I have selected three themes among those on which I have conducted fieldwork. First of all, I will be discussing the role of music in Jyāpu farmers’ urban social environment, especially in the old town of Kathmandu (Yeṃ in Newari). Then I will move over to masked dances and Jyāpu religious choreographic groups, both in villages and cities. And lastly, I will discuss the socio-religious organisation of Jyāpu villages, mostly those situated in the south of the Kathmandu Valley.

9These three themes are closely related to the importance of guthi (guhi in the Nepali language) social groupings, most of which are involved in religious matters. Guthis – derived from the Sanskrit term gohi (‘organisation’) – prevail in most Newār castes and are an original feature of this ethnic group. Yet those of the Jyāpus are mostly compulsory groups for all grown-up male individuals and lie at the very core of their social rules, whereas those of other castes tend to be optional and are not of equal social importance, except perhaps for those related to funerals.

10More than a decade ago, I analysed the role of guthis in a lecture entitled From Kin to Caste (see Toffin 2005). In this earlier paper I showed how guthi associations are crucial among Newār people and how they are specific to this ethnic group. I was then mainly concerned with the sociological aspects of guthis. In addition, I sketched a comparative viewpoint with the ‘confraternities’ of the medieval European period. In this article, I will introduce new, recently collected ethnographic material and propose a fresh, more culturally oriented perspective on this subject. I will, for instance, pay more attention to the changes in cultural forms as well as to the impact of external influences and acculturation processes, even if these developments are sometime difficult to document. Hence, I will suggest some considerations concerning the development of these beliefs and rites within the broader South Asian and Himalayan zone. This new perspective does not contradict the former one but complements it. The main point I wish to explore is the inner religious world of these organisations.

Music among the Jyāpu community: Nāsaḥdyaḥ, the Newār god of music

  • 2 In Newari, nāsaḥ means ‘charm, delight’. The cult of this god of music is widespread among Newā (...)
  • 3 It is likely that the number 32 conveys some ethical values, as it corresponds in Indian thought t (...)

11This first section focuses on music, especially drum playing among the Jyāpu community. Jyāpu farmers of the old Kathmandu city are split into 32 neighbourhoods, ol in Nepali, tvāḥ in Newari (Toffin 1994). Each of these neighbourhoods has a specific Gaṇeśa (Ganedyaḥ) temple, an altar dedicated to Nāsaḥdyaḥ, the Newār god of music and dance,2 and in most cases a specific local god or goddesses, solidly anchored in the territory, Bhimsen, Bhairava or an Ajimā/ Mātṛkā, who protects the locality. In addition, each of these neighbourhoods corresponds to a specific uni-caste social unit, a tvāḥ guthi, of which all local Jyāpu farmers are necessarily members. It is forbidden to intermarry within this social group, that is in one’s own ol.3

12ol/tvāḥ socio-territorial units are linked to music and more specifically to double-headed drums called dhimay in Newari, which are played on festive occasions. The playing of dhimay drums with cymbals by male Jyāpus is remarkably important. All young men have to follow an apprenticeship to learn to play this instrument. This musical education ends with an extremely important initiation ritual called waḥlāḥ cvanegu, which is specific to the Jyāpus of Kathmandu’s old city. You cannot be recognised as a full member of the Jyāpu tvāḥ if you have not undergone this training. In addition to the apprenticeship, young men have to learn acrobatic postures and the proper way to handle the dhunyā pole that is decorated with a yak tail. As in India, acrobatic performances are associated here with the cult of Hanumān. Dhimay drums, the largest of which is not normally allowed to be played outside the ol, have become the self-chosen emblem of Jyāpu farmers throughout the Kathmandu Valley.

13Jyāpu musical culture has a rich religious content. In this domain, Nāsaḥdyaḥ, the Newāḥ god of music, is an all-important but somewhat enigmatic deity. In contemporary Hindu terms, this god is identified with Nṛtināth, Śiva as ‘Lord of the Dance’, and his cult comprises a number of elements linked to this deity or to Bhairava, the furious form of Śiva. In some shrines associated with the former Malla royalty, the god is even embodied in iconic Śaiva statues in accordance with iconographical precepts. On some Nāsaḥdyaḥ altars, one can see Gaṇeśa and Kumāra, the two sons of Lord Śiva (Kölver 1992: 213). Similarly, Nāsaḥdyaḥ is represented as Śiva on curtains that are sometimes hung up during religious theatre or dance performances. He is flanked by two divine drummers: Śinghiṇī and Vyāghriṇī, who belong to Śiva’s retinue (Fig 1). Interestingly, among Buddhist Vajrācārya priests, Nāsaḥdyaḥ is known as a form of Bodhisattva Padmanṛtyeśvara (Fig 2). Young Newār Buddhists are unaware of this identification.

Fig 1. Painted curtain used during religious theatrical performances by the Balāmi (a Newār caste) community in Pharping, a locality situated on the western edge of the Kathmandu Valley.

Fig 1. Painted curtain used during religious theatrical performances by the Balāmi (a Newār caste) community in Pharping, a locality situated on the western edge of the Kathmandu Valley.

Nṛtināth (Śiva as ‘Lord of the Dance’)/ Nāsaḥdyaḥ is represented flanked by Śinghiṇī and Vyāghriṇī.

Photo: G Toffin, 2010.

Fig 2. Nāsaḥdyaḥ/Padmanṛtyeśvara, the god of dance and music, of Guji Bahal (ex-Buddhist monastery), Patan (Lalitpur).

Fig 2. Nāsaḥdyaḥ/Padmanṛtyeśvara, the god of dance and music, of Guji Bahal (ex-Buddhist monastery), Patan (Lalitpur).

Photo: G Toffin, 2015.

  • 4 Hanumān, the monkey-god, is also sometimes represented by triangular openings in the wall, for in (...)

14Yet, the Newār god of music and theatre is generally represented by one or three triangular- or rectangular-shaped openings in the wall of his altar or in the walls of temples or altars dedicated to other deities. These recessed cavities can most often be found in sets of three. From these holes, Nāsaḥdyaḥ’s divine energy flows from one place to another, always in a fixed direction following invisible lines that must never be obstructed. These openings represent passages through which the divinity comes and goes.4

15This shapeless god plays a prominent role in Newār religion, especially among Jyāpu farmers. As previously specified, in the old town of Kathmandu, each Jyāpu neighbourhood (New tvāḥ) is associated with a Nāsaḥdyaḥ sanctuary, situated more often than not in an obscure place. Like Gaṇeśa’s sanctuaries, these small shrines are the symbolic pillars of socio-religious life in these neighbourhoods (Toffin 2007). They are often decorated with buffalo horns. As a matter of fact, the Nāsaḥdyaḥ cult is centred on various animal sacrifices, buffaloes, goats or chicken, and includes the offering of alcohol. The cult also consists in filling the cavities of the god, nāsaḥ pvāḥ, with sticky dough made of yogurt and beaten rice so that the god cannot escape (Wegner 1992: 125). The musicians eat these pieces of dough to absorb the blessings of the music god. The quality of the performance of Jyāpu musicians depends entirely on this supernatural being. Without Nāsaḥdyaḥ, no music is possible. These features do not belong to Sanskritic tradition (save during the mostly aniconic Vedic era), which for the most part ignores shapeless deities or acknowledges them from very far.

16These vernacular elements are omnipresent in the Jyāpu farmer community. According to a Newār legend recounted by the Jyāpus of Kathmandu, Nāsaḥdyaḥ himself comes from a specific place in Nepal, Kapilas (or Kabilas), which is situated along the road to Trisuli, about 30km from the capital, outside the Kathmandu Valley itself. Another legend recounts that Nāsaḥdyaḥ raped a local Tāmāng girl who was working in a field near Kapilas. From this sexual union a boy was born. While quarrelling about who should take care of him, the parents decided to divide the boy into two: the father took the skeleton and the mother the boneless part of the body. The two different body parts became two separate beings, Kavaṃ and Khyā, who are incarnated by dancers in most choreographic religious performances (Toffin 2021). Interestingly, this symbolic opposition between bone and flesh is common to both Nepalese and Indian indigenous groups (Carrin-Bouez 1986).

Masked dances among Jyāpu farmers and Gathu gardeners: the skābhvy meat-sharing ceremony

17Masked dancing is one of the most typical features of Newār culture (Toffin 2014). It is widespread among nearly all castes, but more particularly among Jyāpu peasants and Gathu gardeners. These dances, which are for the most part religious in character and linked to the cult of specific deities, are not unknown in India, especially in Bengal. Their affinity to Tibetan culture should also be noted. They may belong to a more global Himalayan tradition.

18Religious dramas, dyaḥ pyākhã or dyaḥ khvāḥpāḥ pyākhã, in which dancers incarnate sets of divinities, mainly Hindus, are the most religious among Newār masked dances and do not include any dialogue. These sacred dramas, sometimes derived from old Malla plays, mainly focus on battles (yuddha) between gods (dyaḥ) and demons (daitya); both are armed with a sword (taravār) and sometimes with a shield. The issue at stake is the establishment or the reestablishment of dharma, cosmic order. By the end of the sword dance, the gods invariably overcome (New kvaḥ thalegu) the demons. Dances are performed once or twice a year, at festive times, on an open-air stage. Enactments attract numerous spectators and devotees. They are linked to the regular cult of local Hindu or Buddhist deities and must observe a set of rules with a preponderantly symbolic content.

19The group of masked dancers and associated musicians forms a select guthi association made up of about 20 to 50 male members, always in a set number (Fig 3). This pyākhã guthi, as it is called, is a sort of secret society with its own very strict regulations. It is restricted to men, both young and less young who have been initiated to Tantric practices, and is accessed through male descendants, normally from a father to his eldest son. The repartition of the different divine characters is also inherited through the agnatic line. The guthi is headed by elders and a dance master, pyākhã guru, who directs rehearsals and outside performances. This person is responsible for the transmission from one generation to another. The apprenticeship includes numerous rituals and animal sacrifices to deities. Here the deity Nāsaḥdyaḥ again plays a very important role. This god, who is placed at one side of the stage, provides the masked dancers with the grace, the power and the knowledge to dance in a religious and artistic way.

Fig 3. Jyāpu Musicians, members of the Jala pyākhã guthi (Harisiddhi), the guthi organisation in charge of the Jala religious dance in Harisiddhi Jyāpu village, Lalitpur district.

Fig 3. Jyāpu Musicians, members of the Jala pyākhã guthi (Harisiddhi), the guthi organisation in charge of the Jala religious dance in Harisiddhi Jyāpu village, Lalitpur district.

This guthi organisation includes 29 members.

Photo: G Toffin, 2010.

20During the performance, the dancers embody the gods they incarnate and, accordingly, drink the fresh blood of animals (buffaloes, goats, chickens and even eggs), which are offered up as a sacrifice to them. They have the ability to step outside the confines of the human world and to act as if they were gods (Fig 4). The performance of these religious forms of theatre is particularly dramatic and has the reputation of being very risky for the dancers. They involve a number of powerful supernatural deities and any attempt to control them can prove perilous. In the past, they were so dangerous for impersonators that numerous groups of dancers decided to abandon this practice and to hand it over to a lower-ranking group in the caste hierarchy, which is known to be more rustic in its manner and character. This is how, according to tradition, several of these dances were transfered to Jyāpu and Gathu farmers and gardeners a long time ago and are now performed by these castes (Toffin 2019).

Fig 4. Religious masked dance in Harisiddhi/Jala village during Holī Punhī, full moon of Phālgun, February–March.

Fig 4. Religious masked dance in Harisiddhi/Jala village during Holī Punhī, full moon of Phālgun, February–March.

The performance, called Jala pyākhã, is enacted by the Jyāpus of this village. It is staged twice a year and includes about forty mythological characters. Here in the photograph is Rāmacandra (Rāma). The performance is divided into nineteen parts (bhg) and is chiefly inspired by the Rmyaa epics, though it also includes Shivaite and indigenous features. Jala pyākhã is said to be one of the older religious dances of the Kathmandu Valley. According to tradition, it was introduced in Nepal from Ujjain (Madhya Pradesh, India) by king Vikramaditya/Vikramapati. It was later largely revived by King Amaramalla in the sixteenth century and Pratapmalla in the seventieth century. It seems that in ancient times dialogues took place between the characters, but over time these conversations died out. However, today chants still accompany the dance.

Photo: G Toffin, 2010.

21Here, I will focus on a special Newār custom that is associated with these select guthis made up of dancers and musicians: the consumption of the head of the sacrificed animal (New sīkābhvāy or sīkābhu or syukegu bho in Panauti) during which the head of the animal, generally a goat, is divided into eight parts that are eaten in a fixed order by the eight male elders of the guthi (Fig 5 and 6). These elders, thakli, preside over most religious affairs and are consulted at every critical moment in the life of the group. They are the de facto headmen of the local social unit and wear white turbans on ritual occasions. This custom is observed during a number of ritual performances, for instance when Kathmandu Jyāpu farmers worship Nāsaḥdyaḥ. It is also performed by most Newār castes when paying homage to digu dyaḥ family lineage deities, as well as during guthis funeral gatherings and local festivals, deś jtr. The head of the animal is first offered to the revered divinity. Afterwards, it is eaten as prasd (devotional offerings, consecrated leftovers) because it is the most important part of the body.

Fig 5. The head of a sacrificed black goat is offered to a deity (here a funeral guthi deity), Panauti.

Fig 5. The head of a sacrificed black goat is offered to a deity (here a funeral guthi deity), Panauti.

Photo: P Shrestha, 2020.

Fig 6. Division of the head of the goat into eight parts for the sīkābhvāy banquet, Panauti.

Fig 6. Division of the head of the goat into eight parts for the sīkābhvāy banquet, Panauti.

Photo: P Shrestha, 2020.

22Śreṣṭhas traders and shopkeepers also practise skbhu during the great Dasain (Daśarhā) festival held every year in the autumn, as well as during local festivals, deś jtr, rites of passage such as marriage, the kayt pūj male initiation ceremony and offerings to a Tantric deity, pīha pūj. The situation is more complex in bhs (Sanskrit vihra), ie former Buddhist monasteries, of Kathmandu and Lalitpur. Though skbhu is not a Buddhist ritual and is not based on a Buddhist religious text, Śākyas and Vajrācāryas used to observe it in ancient times during family feasts and on other occasions. Today, this custom is dying out and many families have abandoned it. Today, Vajrācārya priests view this practice as an old Hindu influence, thus a sign of ignorance. Animal sacrifice is also an issue in Buddhist learned discourses. Abandoning this old ritual can be seen as a Buddhicisation of archaic vernacular forms.

23The skbhvy meal usually follows the banquet that is organised every time an animal is sacrificed to a deity. In the case of the sacred dances discussed here, this deity is the main god of the temple associated with the dance. The meal, bhvy (festive banquet, ceremonial meal in Newari), is open to all male participants of the guthi. It consists of the meat from the sacrificial animal which is cut into pieces, of vegetables and beaten rice (Newari: baji). Rice or maize beer or rice alcohol is served with the food. When this first feast has ended, the head of the sacrificed animal (goat or buffalo) is roasted with straw and then cooked in water with the animal’s lungs. Afterwards, the head is divided into eight parts: the right part of the snout is reserved for the thakli, the eldest male person in the guthi, the left part of the snout goes to the nvaku, the second person in line of seniority, the right eye of the animal goes to the soku, the left eye to the pyeku, the right ear to the nhyku, the left ear to the khuku, the right side of the jaw to the nhayku, and finally the left side of the jaw to the cyku, the eighth most elderly person in the group. If musicians belonging to Newār low castes are present (at some distance or on the lower floor) for the ceremony, they play their instruments during the distribution of the sanctified pieces of meat. The feast takes place in a solemn atmosphere and follows strict etiquette. The deity presiding the banquet is revered at the beginning. Subsequently, the eight seniormost members eat their pieces of meat in silence. Women cannot attend the ceremony. If the skbhvy takes place within a small group, the animal’s head is cut only into five pieces and eaten accordingly among the five eldest persons.

24This type of sacred banquet is imbued with hierarchy, male dominance over women, secrecy, prominence of senior people, thakāli, animal sacrifice and meat eating (Toffin 1976). These characteristics are all emblematic of Newār cultural heritage. I consider sīkābhvāy as an important element of the secret religious realm of guthi. By eating the head of the sacrificial animal, the eight elders of the group absorb the most precious parts of the sacrifice and somehow acquire sanctified, divine status. This ceremonial banquet evokes the sacrifice of Puruṣa quoted in the Rig Veda (Toffin 1976: 338). In ancient India as well as in the Newār case, the relationship between the sacrificial body and the social hierarchy is emphasised. But, as far as I see it, skbhvy also amounts more importantly to communion with the spirit of the slain animal and to its incorporation into the social body of the village/town, which echoes other indigenous religions of Southeast Asia (Århem and Sprenger 2016: 283).

Death guthi groups in Jyāpu villages’ religious mindscape: death and prosperity

  • 5 In the 1970s, the population of each of these Jyāpu villages, especially those of Lalitpur distri (...)

25Jyāpu villages in the Kathmandu Valley are very closely grouped together and possess well-defined boundaries, at least traditionally.5 These settlements are mostly monoethnic and are very often single-caste settlements or quasi single-caste village settlements (Fig 7 and 8). This feature immediately differentiates Newār localities from localities in India, where multi-castes villages are the norm, even if castes are distributed among (and separated into) neighbourhoods. Rural Jyāpu localities show a high rate of endogamy and married daughters maintain close links with their parents’ home (thaḥ-che in Newari, māit in Nepali) during their lifetime. In Pyangaon, the first village where I conducted fieldwork, it is even forbidden to marry outside the settlement. Men can marry locally with distant matrilateral cousins (in this line, three degrees of collateral kinship must be observed before entering into an alliance). It is forbidden to marry agnatic relatives. These marriage rules, where matrimonial links are replicated through generations, intensify bonds with the local community and reinforce the village’s unity.

Fig 7. The only street in Pyangaon/Svangu village (Lalitpur district), with two rows of terraced houses on both sides.

Fig 7. The only street in Pyangaon/Svangu village (Lalitpur district), with two rows of terraced houses on both sides.

Traditionally, this village was mono-caste and its inhabitants belong to Gāmo, a sub-group of Jyāpus. The house of a Newār barber (Nau caste) is situated just outside the old boundaries of the village.

Photo: G Toffin, 2010.

Fig 8. Aerial photography of Khokana/Khvakna Jyāpu village, Lalitpur district, 1967.

Fig 8. Aerial photography of Khokana/Khvakna Jyāpu village, Lalitpur district, 1967.

Photo: Peace Corps volunteer service.

26In most cases these villages are placed under the protection of a tutelary deity whose temple is erected somewhere in the settlement. In some places, as in Theco village (Lalitpur district), the upper and lower parts of the locality are each protected by a specific goddess (in Theco: Brahmāyaṇī and Bāl Kumārī). This patron deity, male or female, belongs to the Hindu/Buddhist Tantric pantheon (Bhadrakālī, Mahālakṣmī, Śikālī, Kāleśvar Mahādev etc) and is believed to reign as sovereign over the people living there. He/she is considered to be responsible for the general prosperity of the locality and can bring down disasters on the village if he/she is not revered in the appropriate way or if villagers break moral rules, for instance by marrying close female kin or stealing sacred icons. In many ways, the deity plays the part of a territorial god and can be compared with other Bhūme (from Nepali bhūme, ‘land’) types of deities across Nepal, all of whom combine two aspects: one benevolent, the other violent and frightful (Toffin 2008: 204–205). The priests at these temples belong to the Jyāpu caste. They receive a Tantric initiation, dekhā (a word derived from the Sanskrit dk), to perform their sacrificial functions. These offices are usually hereditary and are handed down from father to son.

27The main community festival, deś jātrā, ‘the festival of the locality’, or mū jātrā, ‘the main festival’, is linked to the celebration of this/these patron deity/deities and constitutes one of the biggest ceremonial events of the year. It takes place mostly according to the lunar calendar and usually includes numerous buffalo/goat sacrifices (Fig 9), except when the festivity is dedicated to Śiva/Mahādev, and many family and guthi banquets where meat is eaten. This festival serves to regenerate the locality for the coming year. It ensures its well-being and establishes a new link between the tutelary god and its inhabitants. On this occasion, the patron deity is carried by young boys through the streets of the village in a palanquin. This god is considered to be so powerful that it is often thought that it causes the death of a villager every year during the festival. The unity of the village is therefore reinforced by the worship of mutual gods, including more often than not a joint Nāsaḥdyaḥ, the local god of music, and a joint Ganedyaḥ (Gaṇeśa) (Fig 10).

Fig 9. Jyāpu farmer carrying the head of a sacrificed buffalo on his back during the main festival, de jātrā, of Khokana village, Lalitpur District, celebrated in honour of the local goddess Śikālī (Rudrāyaṇī) in October 2012.

Fig 9. Jyāpu farmer carrying the head of a sacrificed buffalo on his back during the main festival, deś jātrā, of Khokana village, Lalitpur District, celebrated in honour of the local goddess Śikālī (Rudrāyaṇī) in October 2012.

The festival is organised by the three main guthis of the locality.

Photo: G Toffin, 2012.

Fig 10. Ityphallic Unmatta Bhairava deity with outstretched arms (Panauti, Indreśvar Mahādev compound).

Fig 10. Ityphallic Unmatta Bhairava deity with outstretched arms (Panauti, Indreśvar Mahādev compound).

He is represented standing between Jay and Vijaya companions/gatekeepers and Aṣṭa Mātṛkā goddesses. Unmatta Bhairava is one of the main protective deities in Panauti. He is carried in a palanquin during the main local festival, de jātrā, in May/June, Jyā Punhī.

Photo: P Shrestha, 2019.

28The ‘festival of the locality’ is significantly also the moment of the year when members of the local funeral and cremation associations, si guthi and sanāḥ guthi, both in charge of the funerary procession and rites, get together in a ceremonial manner and partake in joint feasts. These organisations play a central role in the socio-religious life of the village. Affiliation to a si guthi/sanāḥ guthi is necessary for a person to be considered a full member of the locality. Membership is compulsory. It is inherited through the agnatic line and is reserved for men, even though women can benefit from the ritual services of their husbands’ funeral groups at the time of their own funerals. These associations are not totally differentiated from kinship units and generally form exogamic groups. In some exceptional cases, such as in Sonaguthi, there is only one funeral guthi for the whole village. The entire Jyāpu population is affiliated to a single sanāḥ guthi within which marriage is possible between distant relatives – that is those who do not belong to the same patrilineage deity cult group and those, so people say, between whom ‘genealogical links have been forgotten’. Generally speaking, affiliation to these death groups is formalised only when the sons of a family have moved away from their father’s home or only after the father’s death (Toffin 2008: chapter 6). Issues relating to death are therefore central to the formation of social bonds: full membership to the village community depends explicitly on one’s membership to a specific local funeral group.

29Each si guthi and sanāḥ guthi funeral group has a specific ceremonial house, guthi che, where it conducts its ritual activities. Members gather there during the ‘festival of the locality’ and pay homage to the deity presiding over their death group. This dreadful deity, called Sidyaḥ, is said to be a form of Bhairava, the angry form of Śiva. He demands buffalo sacrifices. His representation (mostly aniconic) is exposed for four days in a special hut built inside the guthi house. Women and small children are not allowed to touch this deity. The feast takes place in an atmosphere marked by religiosity, gravity, even if old quarrels between members occasionally erupt due to the large quantity of alcohol and rice beer that guests drink. On this occasion, the head of the sacrificed animal is also divided and eaten by the eight seniormost male members. Outsiders cannot attend these banquets and are not permitted to watch the proceedings.

30Emphasis is eloquently laid on the connection between the patron god and local funeral guthi groups. In the upper part of Theco village for instance, each of the four local funeral groups fulfils separate duties for goddess Bāl Kumārī who ensures the well-being of this part of the community. The first group offers cooked rice to the goddess every month on the eve of the full moon. The second offers her rice beer on every full-moon day. The third presents her with rice, vermillion paste, incense and flowers on the first day of the lunar month. And the last group is responsible for the cult of Bhairava which is practised in the upper part of the village. The tasks of watching over the temple, guarding the statues and cleaning the roofs are carried out on a rotational basis by members according to an age-grade division. It is estimated that every male inhabitant of the village will have to undertake this fourth duty at least once in his lifetime.

31What is more, the funeral groups of each village take part in the festival of the patron deities. In Khokana, for instance, the festival of the main deity of the village, Śikālī, who is celebrated from the third to the seventh day of the bright fortnight of Āśvin (September–October), includes the preparation of nine earthenware jars of rice beer by the local sanāḥ guthis. Each of the three funeral societies of this Jyāpu village prepare three of these jars a few days before the celebration. These pots are sacred; some of them are decorated with a painted head of Bhairava. The beer, prepared from fermented ‘black rice’, is said to contain special powers, śakti. Every member of the association has to drink a little of it. Si guthi and sanāḥ guthi are therefore much more than funeral associations. They have multifarious functions that embrace many areas of socio-religious life (Toffin 2008: 203–206).

32Death-related issues are therefore at the heart of the community’s socio-religious life. Jyāpu villagers live in a world that is dedicated to ancestors and populated by the spirits of departed relatives. As guthi funeral units are linked to the celebration of the main territorial deity, the social relations forged around the soil appear to be intimately related to the celebration of mortuary rites. Funerals, ritual protection of the locality and its prosperity are closely associated: communion with ancestors merges with the worship of land-protecting deities. In sum, death and life are not separate; they are interrelated in the mindscape and in rituals. These features remind us of the social organisation and beliefs of some Indian tribes (ie Sora studied by Vitebsky 1993), but in the Jyāpu case, there are no shamans. They make up a substantial part of Newār vernacular peasant religion. When considering South Asia as a whole, it should be noted that ancestral cults are more closely linked to territorial bonds and to the protection of the locality in the indigenous tribal universe than in the Hindu world.

Conclusion: Indianisation and Vernacularisation

33The religious world of Jyāpu farmers that I have presented in the previous sections, namely the dancing deity Nāsaḥdyaḥ, the skābhvāy meat-sharing ceremony, and the si guthi funeral organisations, is entirely imbued with secrecy, hidden sacred paraphernalia, powerful deities ruling over humans, meat and alcohol consumption, identification with deities, religiously sanctified social groups and sacral affinity among food-sharing meat eaters. These features are intermingled with Hindu and Buddhist features, especially Tantrism. They all constitute the basic ingredients of Jyāpu religion.

  • 6 Admittedly, such unresolved opinions are expressed by a number of Newār and Nepalese castes/ethnic (...)

34Local Jyāpu farmers’ discourses stress the sacredness of these rites and the supernatural aura that surrounds them. This is expressed in more direct terms than those used by high-status priests, who very often describe the ceremony and, at the same time, give their interpretation according to various sacred texts. The various Jyāpu discourses I collected during my fieldwork reveal reverence towards supernatural entities, sometimes mixed in with an avowed inability to understand their actions. Villagers often confess: ‘How can we understand the “play” (līlā, a Sanskrit word) of the gods! Sometimes they accept our offerings; at other times, they do not pay attention and refuse them’. In Jyāpu views, religious phenomena cannot be explained by ordinary human intelligence. They belong to another world.6 From a liturgical viewpoint, ceremonies are staged according to a fixed order: any disturbances can spoil their effectiveness. Ritual experts, acāḥju, are needed to perform rituals, but these priests do not come from the ‘higher’ Brahmanical or Buddhist world. They are chosen from among the Jyāpu community and have received a Tantric initiation, dekhā/dīkṣā, from higher-status priests. From time to time, at fixed moments, they utter secret mantras. More often than not, rituals are accomplished with no Newari/Sanskrit written texts.

35How are we to understand this vernacular religion? And how is it to be articulated with the Newār caste structure and former Buddhist bāhāḥ monastic compounds? It is impossible to oppose a village religion to an urban religion. Jyāpus are known to have lived for a long time in villages as well as in cities. And castes are to be found in both types of settlement, even though there are much more diverse castes in cities. My suggestion is that Jyāpu guthi religion leads us towards autochthonous aspects of Newār cultural heritage and can be analysed as a hybrid form combining indigenousness and Hindu/Buddhist features.

36Of course, Jyāpu religion encompasses other performances and beliefs such as: la phvanegu rain-making ceremonies, kaytā pūjā male initiation, phūphā yāygu healing by blowing magical spells, the construction of a stūpa monument in the neighbourhood, and so on. Yet the aforementioned guthi elements are prominent features: when considering them, we are faced with a vernacular religion far removed from the orthodox Hindu Sanskritic world and some distance away from monastic Indian Mahāyāna Buddhism. The Jyāpu religious heritage is situated somewhere else: it is connected just as much to canonical Hinduism and Buddhism as to the world of Indian tribes and Nepalese janajāti ethnic groups. As I explained earlier, these elements also exist among other Newār castes. However, they are more evident among Jyāpu farmers. This substrate has been downplayed over past decades, often because Hinduism and Buddhism were (are) regarded as more prestigious than these indigenous features. Yet, this genuine cultural heritage should not be forgotten.

  • 7 Lienhard (1978) brilliantly described this combined influence of Hinduism and Buddhism in the Kath (...)
  • 8 Concerning the importance of sthavira (elders) and mahāshtavira (abbots) in ancient Buddhist monas (...)

37In short, Newār culture can be defined as the outcome of two different but complementary processes: in the first place, a process of Indianisation (caste system, Hindu pantheon, religion and legal concepts, as well as Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna Buddhist textual tradition), which has been at work since the Licchavi period (fifth–ninth centuries AD).7 The Nepal Valley (ie Kathmandu Valley), Nepāl maṇḍala as it is referred to in texts, has often been described as a conservatory of the Indian Mahāyāna religion of the early medieval period, before Muslim invasions of the subcontinent. This antiquarian prospect explains the continued interest in this part of the world (Lienhard 1978) on the part of famous Indologists, starting with the French scholar Sylvain Lévi, from the end of the nineteenth till the twentieth century. By and large, Buddhism has deeply influenced Newār vernacular society and religion, perhaps at an unexpected level. For instance, age hierarchy and seniority are central to all Asian societies, but their particular importance in present Newār culture (the presence of thakāli seniormost persons is necessary on all important socio-religious occasions) and their sacralised (divine) status during rituals, may have come from old Buddhist rules.8 In this regard, the persistence of old monastic Buddhist regulations in bāhāḥs today is also remarkable (Gellner 1992).

38A second process – which I propose to call vernacularisation, a synonym of ‘indigenisation’ – has arisen over the years. This process can be defined as the particularisation of this Indian heritage in consonance with the local cultural substrate. In venturing to propose an image, I would compare it with a mould which gives its shape to the earth or to the metal that is poured into it. The series of rites of passage marking old-age anniversaries of senior men and their wives are vibrant examples of this acculturation within Newār vernacular culture (Toffin 2021). Traces of these ceremonies can be found in India (von Rospatt 2014); however, their transformation into major spectacular rites, according to local vernacular customs, is a typical Newār phenomenon. In sum, Hindu and Mahāyāna/Vajrayāna borrowings are evident and well documented in Jyāpu farmer culture and society. However, these features have been absorbed to a lesser extent than among upper castes and have been recast by a proto-Newār cultural heritage – a legacy that cannot be totally reduced to the vague concept of popular religion. In other terms, they have been Newarised. This gradual absorption over the centuries sheds light on the typical culture that Newār people or their ancestors have developed.

39Therefore, a study of this Indianisation and of its local adaptation within the Kathmandu Valley is needed if we are to reflect on the brilliant Newār culture and on the various processes of acculturation that have been at stake in this Himalayan region. It is impossible to understand this civilisation without stressing its Indian background. Newār cultural heritage clearly belongs to South Asia. Yet tracing influences to classical and Sanskritic India is not enough. An additional level of analysis needs to be introduced. The questions that need to be asked are: why have Newārs or pre-Newārs adopted such and such an element, and how have they incorporated them into their own genuine culture? In this way, the strictly diffusionist ‘how’ method may be supplemented, at least partially, by a more comprehensive ‘why’ perspective seeking out the construction of the civilisation concerned. It is clear in this respect that the growing importance of Hinduism and Buddhism through the ages has not erased the Newārs’ old cultural heritage. Original sociocultural items, such as sīkābhvāy division of the head of the sacrificial animal or old age rites of passage (Toffin 2021), derive from this syncretism. Even divine masked dances in the Kathmandu Valley differ in some respects from Indian religious theatre. Newār civilisation is primarily a merging of cultures. It is still being transformed today by modernising forces.

40The three socio-religious themes I have investigated in this paper from an ethnographic viewpoint were probably shaped by this double movement of Indianisation and vernacularisation (the term Newarisation can be used instead). The Indian influence is omnipresent, starting with the term guṭhi/guthi which, as noted above, derives from the Sanskrit word goṣṭhi (a group of people, a corporate body, an association) and has been in existence in the Kathmandu Valley since the Licchavi period. In the Nepali language, this word designates both the land whose income is earmarked for religious purposes and the staff assigned for its administration. Newār people have adopted the term. Yet, as I have shown, they have attributed a very different meaning to it.

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Bibliography

Århem, K and Sprenger, G (eds). 2016. Animism in Southeast Asia. With an End Comment by Tim Ingold. London: Routledge.

Bareau, A. 1966. Les religions de l’Inde. III. Bouddhisme, Jaïnisme, Religions archaïques. Paris: Payot.

Bühnemann, G. In press, ‘Hanumān in Newar (Buddhist) Vihāras of the Kathmandu Valley’. Journal of Hindu Studies.

Carrin-Bouez, M. 1986. La Fleur et l'os. Symbolisme et rituel chez les Santal. Paris: Editions de l’EHESS.

Durkheim, E. 1912. Les formes élémentaires de la vie religieuse: le système totémique en Australie. Paris: PUF.

Gellner, D N. 1992. Monk, Householder, and Tantric Priest: Newar Buddhism and its Hierarchy of Ritual. Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press.

Kölver, B (ed). 1992. Aspects of Nepalese Traditions, Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag.

Lewis, T 1984. The Tuladhars of Kathmandu: A Study of Buddhist Tradition in a Newar Merchant Community. PhD dissertation, Columbia University.

Lienhard, S. 1978. ‘Problèmes du syncrétisme religieux au Népal’. Bulletin de l’École française d’Extrême-Orient 65 (1): 239–270.

Von Rospatt, A. 2014. ‘Negotiating the Passage beyond a Full Span of Life: Old Age Rituals among the Newars’. South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies 37(1):104–129.

Toffin, G. 1976. ‘Le si kâ bheây, festin de la tête chez les Newar’. Kailash IV(4): 329–338 (with an abstract in Nepali, pp329–3331, by Prayag Raj Sharma).

Toffin, G. 1994. ‘The Farmers in the City. The Social and Territorial Organization of the Maharjan of Kathmandu’. Anthropos 89: 433–459.

Toffin, G. 2005. From Kin to Caste. The Role of guthis in Newar Society and Culture. Lalitpur: Social Science Baha (Third Mahesh Chandra Regmi Lecture).

Toffin, G. 2007. Newar Society. City, Village and Periphery. Lalitpur: Social Science Baha/Himal Books [2nd edition, revised and enlarged with an Afterword, 2008].

Toffin, G. 2014. Living Masks of the Newars. The Itinerant masked dances of the Kathmandu Valley. Paris: Lettre du Toit du Monde, No.13 (October).

Toffin, G. 2019. ‘A Religious Drama in Nepal. The White Kālī Goddess Tantric Temple of Kathmandu and its Divine Gaṇa Pyākhã Dance’. Studies in Nepali History and Society 24(2): 281–321. 

Toffin, G. 2021. ‘The Indigenous Background of Newar Religion’. In Brill’s Encyclopedia of the Religions of the Indigenous People of South Asia, edited by M Carrin, M Boivin, P Hockings, R Rousseleau, T Subba, H Lambs-Tyche, G Toffin. Brill: Leiden.

Vitebsky, P. 1993. Dialogues with the Dead: The Discussion on Mortality among the Sora of Eastern India. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wegner, G. 1992. ‘Invocations of Nāsaḥdyaḥ’. In Aspects of Nepalese Traditions, edited by Bernhard Kölver, pp125–134. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag.

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Notes

1 A short version of this paper was presented as a keynote lecture at the 10th Global Newāḥ Conference, 30–31 December 2020.

2 In Newari, nāsaḥ means ‘charm, delight’. The cult of this god of music is widespread among Newārs.

3 It is likely that the number 32 conveys some ethical values, as it corresponds in Indian thought to the idea of completeness. This topographical pattern was probably superimposed on the Kathmandu Jyāpu community’s spatial structure in the eighteenth century or at the beginning of the nineteenth century. It has persisted to the present day, even if it no longer corresponds to what is actually observed in the field.

4 Hanumān, the monkey-god, is also sometimes represented by triangular openings in the wall, for instance in Buddhist bhls (vihras) of Kathmandu and Patan. Remember in this respect that Hanumān is the son of the wind-god Vāyu. Cf Bühnemann, in press.

5 In the 1970s, the population of each of these Jyāpu villages, especially those of Lalitpur district in the south of the Kathmandu Valley, oscillated between 550 and 3,500 inhabitants.

6 Admittedly, such unresolved opinions are expressed by a number of Newār and Nepalese castes/ethnic groups, not only by Jyāpus.

7 Lienhard (1978) brilliantly described this combined influence of Hinduism and Buddhism in the Kathmandu Valley in terms of syncretism. The mutual accommodation of these two ‘high religions’ within the small Himalayan valley of Kathmandu is a major characteristic of Newār civilisation. The tiny Newār kingdoms of the Malla period, especially during the fifteenth-eighteenth centuries (the classical Newār period), were basically Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms. However, this Indologist, who has greatly contributed to knowledge about Newār culture, did not consider the syncretism of these higher forms of religion with the proper cultural heritage of the Newārs – what he called ‘popular religion’ (1978: 249).

8 Concerning the importance of sthavira (elders) and mahāshtavira (abbots) in ancient Buddhist monasticism, see for instance Bareau (1966: 136–138).

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List of illustrations

Title Fig 1. Painted curtain used during religious theatrical performances by the Balāmi (a Newār caste) community in Pharping, a locality situated on the western edge of the Kathmandu Valley.
Caption Nṛtināth (Śiva as ‘Lord of the Dance’)/ Nāsaḥdyaḥ is represented flanked by Śinghiṇī and Vyāghriṇī.
Credits Photo: G Toffin, 2010.
URL http://preo.u-bourgogne.fr/ebhr/docannexe/image/172/img-1.JPG
File image/jpeg, 2.0M
Title Fig 2. Nāsaḥdyaḥ/Padmanṛtyeśvara, the god of dance and music, of Guji Bahal (ex-Buddhist monastery), Patan (Lalitpur).
Credits Photo: G Toffin, 2015.
URL http://preo.u-bourgogne.fr/ebhr/docannexe/image/172/img-2.jpg
File image/jpeg, 1.7M
Title Fig 3. Jyāpu Musicians, members of the Jala pyākhã guthi (Harisiddhi), the guthi organisation in charge of the Jala religious dance in Harisiddhi Jyāpu village, Lalitpur district.
Caption This guthi organisation includes 29 members.
Credits Photo: G Toffin, 2010.
URL http://preo.u-bourgogne.fr/ebhr/docannexe/image/172/img-3.JPG
File image/jpeg, 1.5M
Title Fig 4. Religious masked dance in Harisiddhi/Jala village during Holī Punhī, full moon of Phālgun, February–March.
Caption The performance, called Jala pyākhã, is enacted by the Jyāpus of this village. It is staged twice a year and includes about forty mythological characters. Here in the photograph is Rāmacandra (Rāma). The performance is divided into nineteen parts (bhg) and is chiefly inspired by the Rmyaa epics, though it also includes Shivaite and indigenous features. Jala pyākhã is said to be one of the older religious dances of the Kathmandu Valley. According to tradition, it was introduced in Nepal from Ujjain (Madhya Pradesh, India) by king Vikramaditya/Vikramapati. It was later largely revived by King Amaramalla in the sixteenth century and Pratapmalla in the seventieth century. It seems that in ancient times dialogues took place between the characters, but over time these conversations died out. However, today chants still accompany the dance.
URL http://preo.u-bourgogne.fr/ebhr/docannexe/image/172/img-4.JPG
File image/jpeg, 1.5M
Title Fig 5. The head of a sacrificed black goat is offered to a deity (here a funeral guthi deity), Panauti.
Credits Photo: P Shrestha, 2020.
URL http://preo.u-bourgogne.fr/ebhr/docannexe/image/172/img-5.JPG
File image/jpeg, 1.7M
Title Fig 6. Division of the head of the goat into eight parts for the sīkābhvāy banquet, Panauti.
Credits Photo: P Shrestha, 2020.
URL http://preo.u-bourgogne.fr/ebhr/docannexe/image/172/img-6.JPG
File image/jpeg, 1.7M
Title Fig 7. The only street in Pyangaon/Svangu village (Lalitpur district), with two rows of terraced houses on both sides.
Caption Traditionally, this village was mono-caste and its inhabitants belong to Gāmo, a sub-group of Jyāpus. The house of a Newār barber (Nau caste) is situated just outside the old boundaries of the village.
Credits Photo: G Toffin, 2010.
URL http://preo.u-bourgogne.fr/ebhr/docannexe/image/172/img-7.JPG
File image/jpeg, 1.6M
Title Fig 8. Aerial photography of Khokana/Khvakna Jyāpu village, Lalitpur district, 1967.
Credits Photo: Peace Corps volunteer service.
URL http://preo.u-bourgogne.fr/ebhr/docannexe/image/172/img-8.jpg
File image/jpeg, 156k
Title Fig 9. Jyāpu farmer carrying the head of a sacrificed buffalo on his back during the main festival, de jātrā, of Khokana village, Lalitpur District, celebrated in honour of the local goddess Śikālī (Rudrāyaṇī) in October 2012.
Caption The festival is organised by the three main guthis of the locality.
Credits Photo: G Toffin, 2012.
URL http://preo.u-bourgogne.fr/ebhr/docannexe/image/172/img-9.JPG
File image/jpeg, 1.6M
Title Fig 10. Ityphallic Unmatta Bhairava deity with outstretched arms (Panauti, Indreśvar Mahādev compound).
Caption He is represented standing between Jay and Vijaya companions/gatekeepers and Aṣṭa Mātṛkā goddesses. Unmatta Bhairava is one of the main protective deities in Panauti. He is carried in a palanquin during the main local festival, de jātrā, in May/June, Jyā Punhī.
Credits Photo: P Shrestha, 2019.
URL http://preo.u-bourgogne.fr/ebhr/docannexe/image/172/img-10.jpg
File image/jpeg, 1.2M
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References

Electronic reference

Gérard Toffin, « The Religious World of guthis: Three facets of Newār civilization, Nepal », European Bulletin of Himalayan Research [Online], 56 | 2021, Online since 10 September 2021, connection on 27 October 2021. URL : http://preo.u-bourgogne.fr/ebhr/index.php?id=172

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About the author

Gérard Toffin

Centre national de la recherche scientifique

Gérard Toffin, anthropologist and emeritus senior researcher at the Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS), is a renowned expert on the societies and cultures of Nepal, and more specifically on Newār and Tāmāng ethnic groups. He has been undertaking anthropological research in this Himalayan country since the early 1970s. He has published a dozen books, including Société et religion chez les Néwar du Népal (CNRS, 1984). He is currently engaged in a research programme on Newār traditional theatre and dance.

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Copyright

Licence Creative Commons
Les contenus de la revue European Bulletin of Himalayan Research sont mis à disposition selon les termes de la Licence Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International.

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