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5 Strange Traditions and Cultures of Nepal

Nepal is a land of diversity. This diversity brings us the various cultures, traditions, and customs that Nepalese people follow over the country. Here are 5 strange customs that are followed in Nepal:

Gufa/Bahra: An early teenage girl marrying the sun, a raging fire might sound astonishing but the tradition is actually done in Nepal. This tradition is followed by Newari people where the girls aging 10-14 have to stay in a dark room for 12 days before their menstruation. This tradition is also known as ‘Surya Darshan’ as the girl gets married to the sun on the 12th day. The main purpose of this ritual is for the protection of girls as it is believed that the sun will protect the girl from bad people around and the evils. Gufa is one of the most important rituals in Newari culture as it reflects the maturity of the girl.

Gai Jatra: Going by its name, it might seem to be a festival of cows but this actually is a festival where one person from each house that has suffered a loss that year takes part in a parade where they dress up in crazy costumes and drag a colorful cow behind them. Some people even dress up as cow themselves. On this particular day, people can make fun of any and every social norms and value and even can make jokes on powerful people belonging to the political field. This tradition started when a prince from the Malla Era, son of King Pratap Malla. Due to this event, his wife, the queen fell in a lot of grief and remained sad most of the time. Since the king loved his wife dearly, he could not bear the situation his wife was in. To show his wife that death was inevitable, he ordered people who have suffered a loss to come out on street and do a parade to remind the queen that she wasn’t the only person to lose a loved one.

Jhuma Pratha: This ritual is followed in the western and far-western Himalayan regions of Nepal. In this pratha, the second daughter of the family is offered to a gumba. This tradition is followed by Buddhists. The girl can get an education in the gumba but she has to devote her entire life to the gumba. The girl cannot get married in her entire life even if she is in love with someone. There is no clear history of how and when this tradition started. Even though the pratha is disappearing there are still some people who follow it.

Bel Bibaha: Similar to the gufa tradition, this tradition also belongs to Newari culture. A Newari girl gets married three times in her life: with bel (wood apple), the sun and a boy. Commonly known as ‘lha’, in this ceremony, pre-adolescent girls are married to the wood apple fruit. The wood apple fruit is specific as it symbolizes Lord Kumar, son of Lord Shiva. This ritual is performed to signify that the girl remains fertile for the rest of her life. Typically, anyone who performs this marriage is never considered widow; as even though her real husband dies, she still remains married to Lord Kumar.

Sky Burial: This unique tradition is observed in the Himalayan region of Nepal, especially the Upper Mustang and Dolpa. In this tradition, when a person dies, his dead body is left in specific sky burial designated site so that the body can be eaten by scavenger birds and animals. This ritual is performed because, in Tibetan tradition, it is not important to burn or preserve the corpse as it is just an empty vessel. Sky burial is also a reasonable choice as the soil in those areas lacks the required nutrients; the dead body provides necessary nutrients for the soil to be fertile.

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