Newari Social and Cultural Connections to the Weather and Climate

Newari Social and Cultural Connections to the Weather and Climate

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Newari Social and Cultural Connections to the Weather and Climate

The Newari people incorporate different aspects of the weather and climate of Kathmandu Valley into their daily lives. One of the most prevalent ways the weather and climate affects their lives is through religious practices and beliefs. The Newari people, who practice Buddhism and Hinduism, are very religious and traditional people, and not a month goes by that there isn't some special festival that is being celebrated by them. Three of these important festivals revolve around the role climate and weather play in the lives of the people. Gunla Dharma, which is celebrated during a month from the middle of August to the middle of September, is a holy Buddhist month. During Gunla Dharma, the people are required to visit a number of monasteries, shrines and other prayer courtyards. This festival takes place during the monsoon season, which would generally be a hindrance to the people, but they are mandated to make these pilgrimages no matter what the weather is and how hard it might be raining. Gathan Mugah is another festival that takes place in August, and is based off of Nepal's monsoon season. Since the farmers are very busy working the fields and tending crops during the rainy season, they often donÕt have the time to clean their homes or even bathe. During Gathan Mugah, which is known as the festival of cleaning, everyone in Kathmandu Valley cleans out their homes from corner to corner, fumigates the houses by burning incense to get rid of insects, does their laundry, bathes, and throws out the old toys of children. The most important festival of the year is also one that deals mainly with the weather and climate of Kathmandu Valley. Yanya Punhi is the festival of Indra, who is the god of rain and heaven. He is worshipped for bearing good weather on Kathmandu Valley and, subsequently, providing a good crop for the people. Each of these festivals is attributed to the weather of Nepal, and is extremely important to the culture of the Newari people.

The Newari peopleÕs adaptation to the weather and climate of Nepal is also obvious in their food and clothing choices.

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The people get their water in the form of ponds and groundwater taps, collected from the rains that occur during the monsoon season. There is a problem with the production of food in Kathmandu Valley, because only a small percentage of the land is actually able to be farmed. Furthermore, the people donÕt have an efficient way to farm it because there is only a small part of the land is even irrigated, so thereÕs no way to ensure that there will be enough of a crop, or that it will be good. This is why it is essential that the Newari people pray to the rain god Indra, because the likelihood that they will have a good harvest is based solely on the weather. The crops that they do grow and eat are very sturdy, stable foods like rice, potatoes, wheat and corn, which are appropriate foods for all of the different types of weather, like heavy rains and snow, experienced by the Newari people. The clothing of the Newari people is made from materials that are also durable and able to withstand the trying rain and winter storms that are typical of the area. Clothes are made from the skins of the animals that live in the area, who have skin and fur thick and warm enough to survive the weather themselves. SheepÕs wool is used to make rainproof blankets, coats and aprons, and shoes are created from yak skins. The materials used to make clothing are braided and woven in order to be more fortified against the winds and the cold.

Shelters in Kathmandu Valley are one aspect of Newari life that is not able to endure the weather and climate of Kathmandu Valley. This area of Nepal is extremely susceptible to earthquakes, as it lies on the Indian tectonic plate, and because the Newari people are generally poor, they do not have the resources to hire professionals to build their houses, and cannot even afford building materials of a good quality. There is no city infrastructure in place, and uncontrolled building takes place in the core are of the valley. Whenever an earthquake strikes the area, the Newari people suffer many casualties as a result of their destroyed homes. There have been at least 11,000 deaths incurred by earthquake-related destruction in the past century alone. Homes are built in two styles: traditional and modern. Traditional homes are three to four stories high. They are made from sun-dried bricks and blocks of mud, and are built on shallow foundations made out of stone. They are symmetrical, and built close to each other, in an attempt to create a city block, and the proximity of homes causes a ÒhammeringÓ effect whenever an earthquake hits. Modern homes are built two to four stories high, are made from reinforced concrete, and have irregular plans, which weaken them against the force of an earthquake. Both types of homes are very slender, due to the lack of materials used in order to save money, and this makes them fragile. Both types are also made from very heavy materials, like masonry and concrete, which are easily knocked down from the weak foundations in an earthquake, and can therefore cause a lot of damage to both people and other buildings. The soil that the foundations are built upon is alluvial, and therefore prone to liquefaction, so that it is easily able to be washed away whenever there is an earthquake, and even when there is a severe monsoon.

The people of Kathmandu Valley have adapted to the varied weather and climate of the area and integrated it into the many different facets of their day to day routines. They have been able to understand and work with the weather by making it more accessible through religious customs, and have taken advantage of the different resources the climate of the area provides them with, such as crops and animals, in order to better protect themselves against the sometimes harsh weather patterns through strong clothes and hearty foods. However, their lack of ability to create more durable homes could lead to the ultimate destruction of their town and people by the very weather that they praise the gods for in their daily prayers.

Works Cited:

ÒNewa: Culture and Festivals.Ó 11/30/2007.

Shakya, Naresh M. "Temples and Buildings Standing Over Kathmandu Valley Are Vulnerable to Earthquakes." Heritage and Tourism Department, Kathmandu Metropolitan City.
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