Newars Marking Yomari Punhi, Kirats Observing Sakela Today

Kathmandu, Dec. 30: Indigenous Newari communities of Kathmandu and adjoining cities are celebrating Yomari Punhi, one of the popular festivals of the Newars on Wednesday, worshipping Goddess Annapurna and eating Yomari (a Newari dish).
Yomari Punhi is a Newari festival marking the end of rice harvest. It falls on the full moon day in November/December, in the second month of the lunar Nepal Era calendar.

Likewise, Kirat community has been observing the Sakela Udhauli festival on the same day.
The festival falls in November/December (full moon) every year during the winter season.
It is believed that eating of Yomari beats cold. This day is also the birthday of Guru Dattatraya.
Yomari is made by steaming a confection of rice-flour (from the new harvest) dough shaped like fig and filled with brown cane sugar (chaku) and sesame seeds.

Yamari is the main item in the menu during the post-harvest celebration of Yomari Punhi. The fig-shaped dough is not only filled with chaku, but also with Khuwa and minced meat.

On this day, people also worship Annapurna, the goddess of grains and food. Children in groups visit their neighborhood asking for Yomari and performing the customary song and dance in the evening.

Sacred masked dances are performed in the villages of Hari Siddhi and Thecho at the southern end of the Kathmandu Valley to mark the festival.

It is also believed that celebration of Yomari Punhi brings them wealth, health and prosperity.
Mostly Yomaris are prepared in the form of gods and goddesses like Kumar, Ganesh, Laxmi and Kuber to offer to goddess Annapurna.

Parents and elders bless children and give the kids Yomaris to eat. The children on the other hand perform the customary song and dance and ask for food and other gifts from the elders during the festival.
The festival is believed to have started from Panchal Nagar (Panauti).

Kirati communities of Kathmandu gather at Sano Hattiban and worship on the occasion of Udhauli. On the occasion, the community perform special dance called Sakela.

Rai, Limbu, Yakkha and Sunuwar of Bhojpur, Khotang, Dhankuta, Dharan, Biratnagar, Kathmandu and Lalitpur mark the festival.

The festival is popular also in Sikkim of India, Hong Kong, the UK, Australia and the United States.
The festival highlights the agricultural lifestyle of the Kirat community.

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