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