Saturday, February 9, 2013
In Nepalese hinduism, The ceremony that marks the first day of the barah ceremony, begins with a puja to help find an auspicious time for the barah to formally begin. During barah, female relatives as well as friends visit the young girl inside the barah room (euphemistically called the gufa, or cave). And although in older days, perhaps because there was no television, the idea was that the young girl would not see any member of the opposite sex for the entire duration of the ritual. Today, however, the confusion caused by whether or not watching a member of the opposite sex on television should be considered as breaking the rule, is for the family to decide. And as obsessed as most young girls at that age are with the ‘idiot box’ it is no surprise then that most families allow having a television to keep the girl company. On the second to the last day of the ritual, there is a special occasion where cotton dolls, or khyak in Newari, sort of a Nepali version of a voodoo doll, are made and are placed with pebbles. It is believed that these khyaks come to life inside the room on the last night and play with the pebbles! Since the 12th day of the ceremony requires the girl to fast until she views the sun god, the last meal of the ceremony is fed to the girl in the wee hours of the final night.
On the final day of barah, and similar to the bel-vivaha, the girl is dressed up in red and gold colors with jewelry. This may be the appeal for little girls who enjoy this tradition enormously, while being married off traditionally and in all seriousness to the sun. The idea behind such absurd sounding marriages is actually quietly romantic. By marrying a little girl to a bel fruit and then to the sun, Newar traditions ensures that even in the unfortunate death of the girl’s husband in life later on, because of her prior marriages, the girl will not be deemed a widow, a title that was looked upon with great disdain and intolerance by older societies. These traditions may therefore have been designed by the Newars to save their little girls from scornful treatment by the community. From what I have heard, most Newar girls do not complain, even today.