Gufa : A tale of forbidden sun and a Girl

Marriage is a sacred tradition not only in Nepal but all around the globe; maybe even beyond but we don’t know that part yet. But going through that takes a lot of growing up. And even after it a lot of endurance and patience is required. To give a girl this endurance, they go through a 12 days enclosure of a sort called Gupha or Bahra, which is a tradition observed by the people of the Newar community originating from the Kathmandu valley of Nepal. It’s a coming of age ritual for Newar girls where they are married to the Sun god. This is however the second marriage for the newar girls as they are already married to a bael fruit as a part of a rite that’s observe earlier in their life but that’s a different article of its own.

Now the marriage to the Sun god comes at the ending of this 12-days ritual. On the first day the girl is bathed and made to wear Chokho(pure) clothes after which she is made to pray to a whole lot of gods like Ganesh, the Kul Devta(Main God) of the family and many more. They are then given the sagun which basically consist of an egg, a fried fish and a bara after getting the tika. After the sagun is given the girl is put in a closed room where even sunlight is not permitted to enter. The only ones permitted into the room during the 12 days are other girls and women who might be visiting or family member. Besides from sunlight the girl mustn’t come in contact with any males or mirrors.

For the first 4 days of this, the girl isn’t allowed to consume salt or meat. But, if she’s not able to do so on the 4th day she’s re-purified with baths and another set of clean clothes.
Some of the things done during this phase include applying a paste called Ko: which is made up of oat flour, on the girls’ face every day.
There’s also a doll-ish figure made up of cotton called the Khyacha, which is a deity of a sort put there for protection purposes. The doll is given Prasad or offering every day.

Now there are many more random facts about what goes on inside the Gupha during the 12 days phase and trust me there are a lot of variation depending on who you are and what part of the culture you follow so, let’s just go directly to day 12. On this day the girl is let out from her enclosed space with her face covered dressed up in red and gold. This happens before sunrise as on the break of the sunrise the girl is to worship the sun and an arga or a sankha, the latter two with cow milk. and gets married to the sun god with the first thing her seeing after exiting the gupha is the sun. After the worshipping is done the ghumpto or blinds that is covering the girl’s face is lifted and well, everyone is allowed to see her again.

The following event is a celebration for the success of the ritual and a large gathering of loved ones and all that is held on the day. The event is usually a lapte bhoj which is a traditional newari style gathering of a sort where the guests are seated on Sukul, and served the newari traditional cuisines on leaf plates.

But on a darker note, because of course, in the situation that the girl couldn’t endure it and well, passes away during any time of this 12 days period, the tradition is to bury her body under the lowest lying ladder in the house where is was kept for the Gufa. There’s even a movie based on this premise called Barashi, which really doesn’t come into recommendation if you’re a girl who’s been invited to stay over at a friend’s place while she’s doing this Gufa thing, unless of course you’re into that sort of thing.

By: Bpeace Shrestha