Girls' Pre-Puberty Rites among the Newars of Kathmandu Valley


  • Michael Allen


IN   THIS CHAPTER I describe two unusual rites performed by the Newars of   Kathmandu Valley; an elaborate two-day ceremony in which a large group of   pre-pubertal girls are given in marriage to a non-mortal spouse and the   seclusion of girls in small groups in a dark room for eleven days shortly   prior to menarche. The first rite falls into that general, though un-common,   class of mock-marriages of which the tali-tying ceremony of the Nayars of   Kerala is the best known in the ethnographic literature; the second, which   may be described provisionally as a mock-menstruation rite, is, so far as I   am aware, unique to the Newars and Nayars. The problem that I am concerned   with can be stated simply: Why do these peoples have such rites and why do   they differ from the more common ritual treatment of Hindu girls prior to the   establishment of conjugal relations? I shall first give a brief outline of   the principal similarities and differences between the orthodox ritual   complex and the Newar/Nayar version. I shall then describe and analyse the   Newar rites. In the final section I return to the comparative problem and put   forward a number of explanatory hypotheses.