Sithi Nakha: The traditional water day of Nepal's Newar community

Sithi Nakha: The traditional water day of Nepal's Newar community
Image source: ANI

Bhaktapur, Nepal: Newa; also called Newars are the natives of Kathmandu Valley on Thursday, are celebrating the annual festival of Sithi Nakha to mark the beginning of the monsoon season by cleaning water sources such as ponds, wells, and stone spouts.

One of the important festivals in the Newar community in Nepal is observed on the sixth day of the bright fortnight of Jestha (May/June). According to Hindu mythology, it is said that the day is dedicated to Lord Kumar Kartikeya, the first son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.

The act of cleaning the water sources, community ponds, wells and water spouts on the day of Sithi Nakha has special significance in the Newar. It is celebrated at the onset of the rainy season.

People believe that the rulers of water Nagas (Snake) leave the wells for other destinations, as the water reduces because of the driest period of the year.

People also prepare traditional pancakes such as Bara and Chatamari as a tribute to their ancestral god.

"Sithi Nakha: is one of the important festivals of the Newar community. On this day, all the households cook Bara (a Newari dish made of lentils) and Chatamari (a Newari dish made of rice flour). Also, this day is observed as Kumar Khasti- the birthday of Kumar (Kartikeya)," said Krishna Jyatha, a resident of Bhaktapur told ANI.

As per the folklore, the food items are not just for taste. Two delicacies consumed on this day are high in carbohydrates, protein, and iron. As the monsoon approaches, bodies are exposed to different types of bacteria and these types of food increase the immunity of one's body.

Apart from it the religious side of the 'Sithi Nakha' festival also highlights the importance of water source conservation and the need for clean water. It is customary to worship around wells, boreholes, and ponds and clean up before worship.

It is believed that the water resource should be closed for a few days after cleaning in Sithi Nakha to stabilize the water level.

The cleaning is done by entering inside the dug wells, ponds, and boreholes, and by doing so, the underneath wastes like mud, silt, and sediment come up to the surface of the water.

Before the monsoon, Kathmandu valley becomes increasingly dry and the water level falls to the lowest level so it is the best time to clean water resources.

'Nagas', the serpent deities who are believed to be the rulers of water resources are also worshipped on this day. As a part of the festival, the Newar community works together to clean public water resources. On this day, the farmers avoid working in the fields. Also, it is said that whoever takes bathes on this day and worships Lord Kartikeya, won't fall sick during the monsoon.

Another tradition is that all construction should be completed by the Sithi Nakha Day lest a calamity befalls the project-usually coming in the form of monsoon rains which quickly undermine unfinished mud-brick buildings.

Sithi Nakha also marks the end of the one-month Dewali period, when Newars of related ancestry gather for great feasts and complicated rituals to honour their family gods and goddesses.

This day is chosen for the cleaning of water bodies because the serpent deities themselves are away performing their ancestral Dewali worship. Thus the wells can be cleaned with lime without disturbing the Snake Gods.