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Sithi Nakha

Issue 24, June 16, 2013

Siddhi B. Ranjitkar

On the sixth day of bright fortnight of Jyestha (May-June) in the Nepalese calendar, the Nevah community makes offerings to Lord Kumar that dwells at the entrance to every house of the community elsewhere in Nepal. Some of them that have missed performing worship to ‘Kuldevta’ perform it on this day, as it is the last day for performing the worship. On this day, members of the Nevah community clean all water sources such as wells, stone-water spouts, ponds and springs, as this day is the driest day of the year and the water level goes down to the minimum. Sithi dyo has his temple at Jaisideval, Kathmandu. On this day, people celebrate the festival of Goddess Candesvori in Bhaktapur.

This day is the anniversary of Lord Kumar also called Sithi dyo. So, the Nevah community calls it Sithi Nakha literally meaning the festival of Lord Sithi dyo in another word Kumar. To celebrate the birthday of Lord Kumar or Sithi dyo, the Nevahs cook six different pancakes from various beans and offer the pancakes to Sithi dyo. Then, the family members feast on such pancakes. They invite the married sisters and daughters to this feast.

Sithi dyo is another son of Lord Shiva and his consort Parvati. Lord Shiva and Parvati have town sons: Kumar and Ganesh. Kumar is a smart, slim and beautiful deity. He has a peacock for a ride. Ganesh is an elephant-headed and has a large belly, as he loves to eat sweet balls. He has a small mouse for a ride.

When they came of age, Lord Shiva and Parvati wanted to bestow on one of them a boon of the first offering. So Lord Shiva called them over to Kailash and said, “You guys have come of age; so, we want to grant one of you a boon of first offering on one condition that you make a round trip to Mount Sumeru; so, make a trip to Mount Sumeru and come first for the boon.”

Kumar in other words Sithi dyo having a peacock for a ride immediately took off and flew off to Mount Sumeru whereas Ganesh with a large belly and having a mouse for a ride was helpless to make such a trip.

Being unable to make a trip to Mount Sumeru, Lord Ganesh has been very upset. His steed smart mouse has been watching Lord Ganesh for some time. Then, his patience has ran out of the limit and opens the mouth and asks, “Why have been so upset, my lord?” Thinking the humble mouse cannot help him to solve his problem, Lord Ganesh has kept quiet for some time but the mouse has insisted the lord on telling him the reason for being so upset.

Unable to bear the insistence of the steed on telling the truth about being upset, Lord Ganesh gives in and tells the mouse, “Listen my dear, our parents have decided to bestow a boon on anyone of us whoever comes first after making a trip to Mount Sumeru. You know how far is the Mount Sumeru. My brother Kumar has already on the way to Mount Sumeru but I am still here thinking what to do.”

Then the mouse cuts short the narration of Lord Ganesh and says, “My lord, you don’t need to worry about such a trifle matter. Please go to the parents and request them to stand together and then go around them three times and prostrate at their feet and tell them ‘you are my Mount Sumeru and my parents, too; now, bestow on me the boon that you have promised to give.’”

Following the advice of the intelligent mouse, Lord Ganesh successfully tricked his parents: Lord Shiva and Parvati to grant him the boon of first offering. As advised by the mouse, Ganesh requested the parents to stand together before him; then he made three rounds of the parents and then prostrated at their feet saying, “You are the Mount Sumeru and parents for me.” The parents without thinking twice bestowed upon Ganesh the boon of first offering. Since then, the Nevah community had adopted the tradition of first making offerings to Lord Ganesh before making offerings to any other deity, as none of the deities accepts the offerings made without making offerings first to Lord Ganesh.

After a long arduous journey to Mount Sumeru and back, Kumar found that his parents had already granted the boon of a first offering to his brother Ganesh even though he had not stepped out of his house not to mention making a round trip to Mount Sumeru. So, Kumar disgusted by the unfair dealing of his parents with him protested it.

Lord Shiva and his consort Parvati said to Kumar, “We have already bestowed on Ganesh the boon of receiving first offering. We cannot change it even if we want. However, we can make you eligible for having the first offering but not the full size offering that Ganesh receives but about a half of it.” Thus, Lord Kumar or Sithi dyo becomes eligible to receive a first offering but only a half of regular offering made to Lord Ganesh.

So, Nevah people have set up Lord Kumar in the form of an eight-petal lotus carved in stone. This stone is set at the main entrance to every Nevah house. For making any offering to any other deity, the Nevah people make two main trays of offerings: one for Lord Ganesh and another for any deity, and a small portion of offering on a single large leaf for Lord Kumar sitting at the entrance. A person going to make offering to Lord Ganesh usually a woman holds the tray of offering to Lord Ganesh on her left hand and the leaf with a half offering to Lord Kumar on her right hand. She drops it at the eight-petal-stone-lotus Kumar at the entrance on the way to making the first offering to Lord Ganesh.

This eight-petal-stone lotus set at the main entrance to every Nevah house is called ‘pikha lakhu.’ Pikha means outside; lakhu means step in over. So, ‘pikha lakhu’ is the deity outside where everybody steps in. Lord Kumar popularly known as ‘pikha lakhu’ sits at the entrance to every house.

Thus, Lord Kumar is known as Sithi dyo and ‘pikha lakhu’, too. On the sixth day of the bright fortnight of Jyestha (May-June), every Nevah household smears the eight-petal-stone ‘pikha lakhu’ with the mixture of fresh cow dung and red clay to make it clean and conspicuous. Then, nobody steps on it. One of the household members makes an offering to the deity. So, anybody can see the items of offerings to it at the entrance to every house of the Nevah community on this day.

Lord Kumar has rarely a temple to dwell. However, the Nevah community has built a simple temple to Lord Kumar popularly known as Sithi dyo at the Jaisideval neighborhood in Kathmandu. The temple houses Sithi dyo. The face of Sithi dyo is red. On the sixth day of the bright fortnight of Jyestha (May-June), the Nevah community celebrates the festival of Sithi dyo.

Four days before the festival of Sithi Nakha, the attendants to the deity bring the red-face idol of Sithi dyo and place it on a stone platform built outside the temple, strip the garments and ornaments off the idol and give an annual ritual holy bath to the idol on the platform especially built for this purpose at Jaisideval.

First, one of the attendants cleans the idol with holy water brought in a copper jar from the confluence of two rivers such as Bagmati flowing from the east and Vishnumati from the north at the area called ‘Teku’. A confluence of any two rivers is the holy place and the water at such a confluence is holy, it is used to clean even a deity. Then, she pours cow milk on the idol, then yogurt, ghya (homemade butter), honey, and sugar syrup. These five items together is called ‘panca mitra’ means five items of elixir. Some other attendants collect all these five items flowing out of the idol of Lord Kumar and then distribute it as the blessing of the deity.

Some minor repairs and repainting of the idol are done after the annual ritual bathing. A Namekul in short a Neku comes from Lalitpur to paint the red face of Sithi dyo. Neku is the name given to Vajracharya that paints the idols of deities.

Then, the attendant decorates the idol dressing it in his finery with ornaments, and places it at the public hangout place called ‘Phalca’ for public offerings.

Local people and some people from other villages also come to make offerings to Sithi dyo. The main items of offerings are six different pancakes made out of six different beans and pancakes made out of rice flour in addition to the items of the regular offerings.

Then, on the seventh day, attendants bring fully decorated Sithi dyo to the public place for receiving the public offerings. In the evening, devotees carry Sithi dyo on a portable shrine on shoulder poles and take him to Goddess Taleju at the palace square for the annual audience with the Goddess. Living Goddess Kumari presides over this event at the palace square called ‘Layaku.’

People from the village called Balambu: a few kilometers south of Kathmandu come with a musical band. The musical band leads the deity to Taleju and back to home at Jaisideval. People from Balambu believe that Sithi dyo belongs to them. As the deity has come from their village, they come to honor the deity once a year with a musical band on this day.

Unlike any other attendants to deities, an attendant to Sithi dyo or Lord Kumar is a woman.

Another belief is that although Lord Kumar is the son of Lord Shiva but he was born of Ganga, as he was left on the bank of Ganga River at birth. Six Rishi (holy men) spouses together called ‘Krttikas’ found him. Baby Kumar was so beautiful, every one of the Rishi women wanted to suckle him. So, he developed another five more heads. Thus, Lord Kumar becomes a six-headed deity. He is also known as Karttikeya deriving the name from ‘Krttikas’.

Lord Kumar is also known as the Comander-in-Chief of the Divine Army, and also the Divine Warrior. He killed the demon called Taraksura and defeated his army according to the holy scripts called ‘puranas’

In Bhaktapur, on the day of Sithi Nakha, the Nevah community at the neighborhood called Caskhel celebrates the festival of Goddess Candesvori. From the early morning devotees come to the three-tiered temple to Goddess Candesvori and make offerings to the goddess. In the evening, devotees carry the goddess on a portable shrine for her outings at the neighborhood.

On this day, the Nevah community cleans water wells. They believe that the rulers of water sources Nagas means serpents leave the water sources for other destinations, as the water level goes down almost to the bottom because of the driest period of the year and the monsoon rains have not come, yet. So, the Nevah community takes the chance of the absence of Nagas to clean all sorts of the water sources on this day.

On this day, the Nevah community keeps busy with cooking six different pancakes out of different bean pastes and celebrates the festival of pancakes and enjoys eating them the whole day with their married sisters and daughters invited specially to this feast.

This is the last day for performing an annul offering to the guardian deity called ‘Kuldevta’ in other words ‘Dugu dyo’ for anybody missing the annual offering in the traditionally given period.  The annual offering to ‘Kuldevta’ starts off on the third day called ‘acche tritiya’ of the bright fortnight of Vaisaka (April-May) and ends on the sixth day of Jyestha (May-June) in the Nepalese calendar. This period of making an annual offering to ‘Kuldevta’ is a little more than a month. Thereafter, any family missing this day for making offerings to ‘Kuldevta’ needs to wait for another year to hold a ‘Kuldevta’ puja means offering to Kuldevta.

The Nevah community holds an annual offering to the guardian deity ‘Kuldevta’ for the blessing from the deity for the protection against evil spirits and misfortunes for a year. In addition, the annual offering to ‘Kuldevta’ is made mandatory to maintain the family discipline. Any newborn children and any woman married to the family need to perform the offering of entering him or her to a family clan. None of them will be the member of the family clan until such an offering is made to ‘Kuldevta.’ So, the Nevah community tries not to miss the annual offering to the guardian deity called ‘Kuldevta.’ Every community has its own guardian deity. Each community keeps it secrete. So, the deity is kept in the abstract triangular form of about two inches cut into a flagstone or in a metallic sheet.

Thus, the Sithi Nakha is an important day for the Nevah community that revels this day as the day of Sithi dyo, Goddess Candesvori, making an offering to ‘Kuldevta’, and cleaning water sources particularly the water wells.

June 12, 2011.

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