As the Covid pandemic has died down, probably for the first time in these two years, the locals of Kathmandu city will celebrate Paachahre without the threat of Covid looming over them.
Paachahre, one of the important festivals celebrated by the Newa community in the city, has many components that one can enjoy. The city will now see the streets buzzing with people, music and other celebratory activities for the Paachahre celebration as the city goes back to the “normal normal” (not the new normal).
Gathering with friends and family
In a year, the Newa community celebrates different festivals that are categorised into two major sections, chakha and nakha, depending on the nature of the festivals. In one half (chakha), they celebrate the festivals at home, eat season-friendly food and enjoy. While in the other half, they call their family, relatives, and friends to mark the day and celebrate with good food.
Paachahre is a nakha and they call others for the celebration. That is where it gets its name as “Paa” in Nepal Bhasa means to call people (family and friends). Because of the tradition of inviting friends (Paasa), this festival is also called Paasa Chahre.
Paachahre is a three-day festival with different components coming together. The Jyapu sub-community within the Newa community is famous for enjoying local homemade alcoholic beverages including tho and aila during the festival. Hence, the festival is also called aila-tho nakha.
On the morning of the first day of Paachahre (which is Wednesday, March 30 this year), the majority of people go to different temples of Ganesh, Bhairav and Ajima in the city. In the night, they worship Lord Shiva and their family deities, and eat celebrated meals available in the season.
“In the tantric culture or under its influence, Chahre [Krishna Chaturdashi or the 14th day of the waning moon] is believed to be the time of the month where evil and supernatural powers become stronger. That is why, culturally, many traditional worshipping events are performed to ward off evil on this day. Paachahre, in particular, is believed to be a stronger night for evil. Hence, if pujas are performed and completed, it is believed one is blessed with prosperity and good health,” shares Prem Hira Tuladhar, Nepal Bhasa professor at Padma Kanya Campus.
Worshipping the hidden Shiva
On the first day of Paachahre, women of the Newa community worship Luku Mahadya, a form of Lord Shiva that gets the name for being hidden. There are a few different stories on why the lord was hidden.
According to mythology, there was a demon who worshipped Lord Shiva with devotion. Pleased, Lord Shiva made an appearance and asked him for this wish, upon which the demon asked for the ability to turn everything he touches into ashes [hence, the demon was called Bhashmasur]. Lord Shiva gave him what he desired, but he insisted on trying the boon by touching Lord Shiva himself. After this, Lord Shiva ran away from him and stayed hidden near a damp, dark area.
There is also another story of Lord Shiva teaching Lord Bhimsen to sing. As the story goes, Lord Bhimsen was not good at singing. When he sang, Lord Shiva commented that he sounded like a donkey. After that, enraged Lord Bhimsen ran after Lord Shiva and, the latter stayed hidden to avoid the rage.
Another story suggests that Lord Shiva, who lived a life of a sage and adopted a vegetarian lifestyle, was asked by his wife, Goddess Parvati, who was non-vegetarian, to try meat and alcohol at least once. As it was a request of his wife, Lord Shiva could not deny it, but at the same time, he could not be seen eating meat. So, Lord Shiva went to a dark field [near Pigalasthan on Chahre] and ate meat with alcohol.
“It is not a norm to offer meat and alcohol to Lord Shiva. However, only this day, we worship Luku Mahadya and offer him meat, samay baji, alcoholic beverages (tho and aila), and spring onions. We also offer wobu (white flower of radish), lubu (yellow flower of mustard greens) and kunabu (koirala or mountain ebony). At home, we prepare a feast with the same too,” shares Tuladhar.
Different processions of Ajima
Another component of the Paachahre festival is the unity among different processions of different forms of Goddess Ajima around the city. It is said that there are eight forms of Ajimas or Ashtamatrikas in Kathmandu, that were installed and worshipped for protection and prosperity.
On the second day of Paachahre, at Tundikhel, three khats (a form of palanquin) with idols of Kanga Ajima from Yetkha, Lumri Ajima from Wotu and Lumri Ajima from Tebahal are brought together for a ceremonial event. They are believed to be sisters and this event at Ason is taken as their reunion.
The same ceremony is conducted at Ason, a day after Ghodejatra, where the festival is much more celebrated and attended by many. The three groups are donned in red, blue and yellow caps representing Yetkha, Wotu, and Tebahal respectively. The ceremony at Ason is held at the same auspicious time as the ceremony in Tundikhel.
This is locally known as Dya Lwakegu Jatra (a festival where the goddesses clash). “In the ceremony, the goddesses or khats do not really clash with each other; it is just a metaphor. For the event, the two palanquins of Lumri Ajima first reach Ason, after which Kanga Ajima arrives there and goes around the two palanquins three times. During that time, a person holding a torch for three respective goddesses exchange their torches,” informs Yagya Ratna Tuladhar, a former chairperson of Asan Sewa Samiti.
Annually, Asan Sewa Samiti manages and facilitates the crowd during the Paachahre festival at Ason. Meanwhile, Bhintuna Guthi has taken the responsibility to make and distribute chatamari [in packets] as a form of prasad.
Other processions include those of Takti (Nilbarahi) Ajima of Tankeshwor, Nyata Swetkali Ajima of Naradevi, Ugratara of Nhyaka Tol along Lord Ganesh of Kilagal and Tyangal.