Procession and Pilgrimage in Newar Religion


  • Michael Allen


MOST   VISITORS to Kathmandu valley are immediately impressed by the immense   proliferation of physical manifestations of the sacred or divine. As well as   the countless temples and shrines dedicated to almost every known deity of   both the Hindu and Buddhist pantheons, not to mention numerous others of   purely local significance, there is an almost infinite number of sacred   places and objects scattered throughout the valley: some man-made structures,   such as caityas, stupas, lingas, wells, statues and cremation grounds, others   natural features, such as trees, stones, caves, rivers or hill-tops. Religion   is, as it were, visibly made manifest wherever one turns. But what is perhaps   even more striking is that this proliferation of sacra is matched by an   equally visible emphasis on highly-organized human physical activity as the   primary mode of religious worship. To an exceptional degree the Newars spend   a great deal of their time, energy and resources making offerings at temples   and shrines, performing sacrifices and other elaborate rituals, attending   numerous and popular festivals and fairs, and participating in processions   and pilgrimages. These two features of Newar religion, that is to say the   objectification of the divine and the proliferation of rituals of the   physically active or 'doing' kind, are but two sides of the same coin.   Because the divine is scattered around the landscape in a great variety of   physical forms, so too is there a corresponding development of ritual   procedures designed to bring worshipper and deity into productive contact.