Kathmandu does not play any musical instrument for 7 monsoon weeks. Why?
There was a Manandhar family from Thahiti, Kathmandu who held a traditional âBhajubir Sirpaâ traditional musical instrument competition every year at their own expense. Musicians took part in the competition by playing instruments like dhime, ta and khin among others.
About 20 years ago, they organized an edition of the program in July. Personal invitations were sent to notable musicians and teachers in the community. Many have even expressed their commitment to participate.
But, one person strongly disagreed.
He said that according to cultural norms, the deity of instrumental music, Natyeshwar Bhagavan, is resting during this time, and that they are not allowed to play Sithi Nakha instruments in Gathemangal. Following his objection, the competition was postponed after Gathemangal. And subsequently word spread in the community that the instrument should not be played at this time.
Currently, the tradition of not playing the instrument is not as strict as it was in the past. However, traditional music teachers and some artists still did not favor the practice of musical instruments (baajan) at this time. Others rest during the rainy season for safety reasons.
And not many people know about the culture that they are not supposed to play instruments for about seven weeks from Sithi Nakha. Local musicians and cultural experts say there are several reasons for this.
An array of arguments
The Khin is one of the traditional instruments of Kathmandu which is very complex in nature and can only be played by a veteran player. Instrumentalist Triratna Manandhar said: âEven if one is a pro in any instrument, the khin is not played during this period. It is often only played by instrumentalists and musicians who have been practicing music for a long time. And, they follow it strictly because they are familiar with cultural norms.
According to Indra Maharjan, traditional music teacher from Kilagal Tole, the culture suggests that only the flute and dholak are played during this period. Khau or khari are prohibited in this season because the rain has an impact on its air. Manandhar and Maharjan both say that this culture is also a nod to the importance of agriculture in the community.
Instrumentalist Maharjan explains that there were two reasons people stopped playing at this point. First of all, it is the agricultural season. The rainy season begins in Kathmandu from Sithi Nakha and the agricultural season begins. This culture, he says, may have been developed to draw the attention of the people of Kathmandu, who still appreciate festivals and musical instruments, to agriculture.
Another reason is the safety of the instrument, say Manandhar and Maharjan. As it always rains in this season, the instrument can get wet and damaged.
Musicians consider Naasa Dya (Natyeshwar) as their main teacher. It is believed that because his blessings fill them with the art of instrumental music, the god should be made happy.
According to tradition, on the day of Sithi Nakha, musicians play the tune ‘Dyo Lhyau’ in honor of the deity. Then the musical instruments are played. But, since Natyeshwar also rests from Sithi Nakha in Gathemangal, there is a religious belief that one should not play or touch the baajan during this time. During this time, the jatras (festivals) are not celebrated.
Impact on other rituals
Other rituals that must be performed around this time also seem to be influenced by agriculture. At this time, there are no celebrations or festivals in the Kathmandu Valley. Apart from daily rituals, no religious work or cultural festival is performed until Sithi Nakha.
One of the obligatory acts is the tradition of performing funeral rites. About 25 years ago today, if a person died in a house between Sithi Nakha and Gathemangal, it is customary for the chest of the deceased to be covered with a traditional cloth and a traditional umbrella used during agriculture. , or Sinaa jya kusaa, says Tina Manandhar, Associate Professor in the Central Department of Nepalese History, Culture and Archeology at Tribhuvan University.
Previously, this set was mandatory at funerals during this time. Customs confirm that agriculture was the main basis of cultivation then, says Manandhar.
Slightly different culture in Lalitpur
Indra Maharjan says that the people of Lalitpur did not play any instrument at this time either. In Lalitpur, if the situation was normal, it would have been time for Rath Yatra of Rato Machhindranath. Sometimes the festival only lasts at the end of June while other times it can go all the way to Dashain (October), depending on the right planar positions.
In addition, the Rato Machhindranath festival does not follow the same ritual as other communities and festivals. The playing time of the instruments is determined by the duration of Rato Machhindranath’s rath yatra. If the stars are not aligned correctly, the idol of Rato Machhindranath will not reach Bungmati even before the Nepalese month of Shrawan (mid August).
Thus, if the idol is taken to Bungamati before Gathemangal, the baajan will be stopped as suggested by the ritual discussed above. Otherwise, it is customary to play instruments, only for the festival, says Chandra Maharjan, president of Jyapu Samaj.