Gathering of the Gurjus

Festival Issue 126 Apr, 2012
Text by Utsav Shakya / Photo: ECS Media

Once a year, the gurjus of Kathmandu District gather to celebrate their age-old traditions and sense of community during the Dey Acharya Puja.

It’s not every day that Kathmandu Valley residents get to witness a coming together of the Bajracharyas – a sub-caste of the valley Newars who have historically been the practicing high priests at all Newar ceremonies and festivals. On Friday, 16th of March 2012, hundreds of Bajracharyas gathered in the premises of Tebahal, in front of the popular Sankata Temple to observe a ritual that has been in practice for close to seven centuries, from the time of the Malla dynasty.

The Acharya Puja brings all Bajracharya families of Kathmandu District together to witness a dana (alms giving) ceremony. In attendance this year, were people representing more than 3000 Bajracharya men who after their Bratabandha (coming of age ceremony imitating the birth of the Buddha) have technically become legible to take up the role of priests. The ceremony is organized jointly by Manisingh Mahavihar, Shrikhandamul Mahavihar, Henakar Mahavihar and Suratshri Mahavihar with the participation of 18 Mahavihars of Kathmandu.

The primary objective of this massive get together is to acknowledge the role of this age-old guthi (social organization) which used to be and still is for the most part an important socio-cultural governing body for people of the caste and to discuss important issues relevant to their community. The puja started with a secret tantric puja attended by the senior most gurjus (priests) followed by a dana ceremony. Attendees received alms in the form of food items (rice, sweets, beaten rice), money and even items of clothing.

Present this year, as they have been for most of the last 600 years were representatives from the Chya Guthi, who made and distributed butter tea (milk tea mixed with ghee, salt and khuwa) for all attendees. Photos on display depicted images of social work done during since last year by people associated with the guthi such as laying down the foundation stone of a Vihara in Lumbini besides donation drives.

Bustling with activity amidst a large courtyard increasingly filled with shops selling electronics equipment, the event stands out as a beacon of hope for those working to preserve and give longevity to such historical practices amidst fast moving lifestyle of the very people in attendance.