The patrilineage is known in Newari as phuki. In the following discourse on the relationships between the household and the patrilineage I shall use the Newari term. In Newari it denotes males who are agnatically related. The phuki normally encompasses several households which have sprung from a common agnatic source; in reference to the larger agnatic group, the terms baphuki or phukibaya may be used, whereas the term phukihwna is used for the very closest. However, this distinction is rarely used. Instead patrilineal kinsmen are in general referred to as members of a phuki, and the phuki is conceived of as the lineage to which the household belongs. Membership in a phuki is hereditary through the male line and, in the case of men, it cannot be acquired or changed, except if one is made an outcaste.[1] In such a case one can possibly join one of the lowest castes, provided one is accepted.[2] Women who marry into the household participate in rites of the spouse’s phuki, though in some instances they may be excluded from certain rites.[3] They are regarded as belonging to the husband’s phuki, but not as full members, as men constitute the core of the phuki. The women change phuki affiliation at marriage (see also chapter VI). The woman has ritual obligations both to her parental household and her conjugal household, though if widowed she loses her ritual prerogatives in rites of the deceased husband’s phuki.

The phuki is a distinct unit. It observes annual ceremonies with all members present. The phuki is also sometimes part of a larger group, kawo, which is much vaguer. All Newars are aware of their phuki, but the practices concerning the kawo seem to vary from caste to caste. Among the Uray, it is analogous to the Nepali-speaking castes’ kuldevatas, i.e., one has a common ancestor and shares an Agamdyo. The elders of the kawo may assemble during Gunla, the month sacred to Buddhists, but apart from this, there is no sign of corporateness. Furthermore, it seems as if the kawo is not always exogamous, as when seven generations have passed one may marry a person who is ultimately descended from the same founding household. In Sunakothi among the Jyapu I learned that sharing a Digudyo did not prevent marriage. However, it must be emphasized that there is a distinction between worshipping the same deity and belonging to the same phuki. The cult acts are performed by the phuki, and several phukis may share a Digudyo, though they perform the Digudyo worship separately. Marriage within the phuki would be regarded as incest. The phuki members generally interact, at least at the Digupuja and at life cycle rituals. There are, however, also other patrilateral kinship categories that seem to lack manifest functions. One of these is the above-mentioned kawo. Others correspond to maximal lineages (clans), and their members may share a name and/or a Digudyo. These are generally only latent groupings, as they tend to lack common interaction — although one may have a sense of kinship with other members of the same category. Indeed, they even seem insignificant in regard to marriage, as whom one may and may not marry is also determined by other criteria (the seven generation rule).

It was difficult to gather any information on the clans and the kawo or to obtain consistent answers.[4] Kawo also means family and is used to designate joint households and theoretically joint households. Among the Uray as many as one hundred households may be regarded as one kawo. I believe the difficulty in obtaining information stemmed from the clans’ lack of overt manifestation; although exceptions may be encountered, there seems to be little or no ritual interaction among the kawo members.[5] According to Fürer-Haimendorf the Newari “...clans are sometimes referred to by the Nepali term thar, but there seems to be no Newari word in current use for such agnatic maximal lineages, though some of these were described to me as consisting of a single phuki.”(1956:25) Practices with regard to the kin-categories that overarch the phuki seem to vary greatly between castes, and further research is needed on these questions.

The male phuki-members are ranked according to their seniority, and the eldest is the ritual head of the phuki. He is known as thakali and his wife as thakalinakin. The second eldest male is known as nokuli, the third as swokuli, the fourth as pekhuli, the fifth as nyakuli, and so forth.[6] The phuki is religiously expressed through the Digudyo (and/or the Agamdyo) cults. These are deities in whose cults only members of the phuki may participate, although among the Jyapu in Sunakothi well-liked affines may be invited to take part in the feasting, but not the main rituals. Sometimes the collective of the cult-members of a Digudyo is referred to as Digudyo guthi, Digu puja guthi, or Devali guthi. The Digudyo cults are analogous to the Kuldeva cult of the Parbatya castes.[7]


Social Control

In several studies on the Newars, emphasis has been placed on the great significance of phuki as a unit for exercising social control. Fürer-Haimendorf writes thus:

The digu puja guthi is the primary instrument for the exercise of social controls. Violations of caste-rules that result in pollution are above all the concern of the offender’s guthi-members, for a polluted person’s continued participation in the guthifeasts would directly affect the prestige and status of the entire guthi. Offences which render a man liable to expulsion from the guthi include acceptance of cooked food from members of lower and particularly of untouchable castes, marriage within the prohibited degrees of kinship, and marriage with a girl of untouchable caste. A man marrying a girl of lower but clean caste, may, however, remain a guthi-member as long as he does not eat rice cooked by his wife; neglect of this precaution results in expulsion from the digu puja guthi and loss of caste status. Expelled from his own digu puja guthi and hence from his own caste, a man may try to join a guthi of his wife’s caste, though not that of his wife’s father, because the members of a digu puja guthi, who normally stand to each other in a relationship of agnates, may not include affines.(1956:30)

In discussing social control and guthis, Nepali has written: “[t]he caste-Guthis and the Fukee-guthis are most effective as regards group control. The Dewali Guthi, the main Fukee Guthi, is the real means of upholding the norms of the society. This feature speaks for the well-knit functioning of the patrilineal solidarity within the frame-work of caste.”(Nepali: 1965:420)[8] Indeed, reading Nepali and Fürer-Haimendorf,[9] one is informed that Newari society is strictly governed by phuki groups and guthis. However, this does not accord fully with the reality of 1983. I believe there are two explanations for this discrepancy: i) that social change has been rather rapid (Fürer-Haimendorf conducted his field work in 1953 and Nepali in 1957); ii) that their main informants may have belonged to upper castes, whose society is more thoroughly regulated and cohesive than that of the lower castes’.[10]

Toffin has also noted the social control exercised by the phuki group which, having once made an important decision, tends to act “en bloc.”[11] However, in the same article he points to an inherent tension between the elderly and the young within Newari society, between the “thakali” and the “kwokali.” I will argue that this tension is a persistent trait in Newari society. There is, in other words, over the generations, a continuous oscillation between strict adherence to the decisions of the phuki’s elders and the independency of the households. Just as the household composition varies over time, so will the phuki. During certain periods the phuki may be large and cohesive encompassing four generations of agnates or more in its rites, whereas at other times the phuki may have broken down into extended families who do not co-operate ritually. Fürer-Haimendorf has made the same observation.[12] The depth of the phuki is thus highly variable.

During my field work in 1982 and 1983 I found that the phukis social control, as reported by Fürer-Haimendorf and Nepali, is becoming eroded. Apparently the climate of social and political reform and the pervasive ambitions to develop the country since the 1950’s have had profound impact on Newari society. Several factors have caused this change. Most important has been the spread of education and the subsequent ideology of intellectualism, the idea that competence is a capacity acquired through education, and not necessarily tied to age and seniority. Socially the result of wide-spread education is that the gulf between the young and literate and the elders and illiterate has been widened. Young literate men have difficulties understanding why they should abide by the decisions of elders who “cannot even read,” as one young man put it. Often the conservatism of the elderly is perceived by the young as an obstacle to development and general progress. Furthermore, ideals of individualism, as opposed to the regulated life governed by the elders in a joint family, have arisen, perhaps partly influenced by tourism.[13]

Yet another important factor is that the reckoning of seniority in some instances has been fraught with ambiguity. The problem has been how one should define seniority: by de facto age or by the ancestry of one’s particular segment. In the latter case, the segment that traces its descent from the eldest brother of a group of brothers will claim seniority regardless of the members’ de facto ages. This has occurred in some instances among the Buddhist castes in Kathmandu, with the result that a child could be regarded as senior to an old man, a fact which has increased the fissive tendencies. The inherent tension within the phuki creates a situation which may be described as a continuum on which there are two types of households at either extreme: i) those who interact intensively within the phuki group; and ii) those who have little or no contact with the phuki group.[14] The borderline between these types is not clear-cut, and a household may over the years, depending on its composition, oscillate from one position to the other. Nevertheless, the phuki generally has a say in important decisions concerning, for instance, marriage and initiation.[15]


Rituals of the Phuki

The phuki interacts in two types of rituals: i) annual rituals and ii) life cycle rituals. In the annual rites the phuki members assemble at least once a year to worship the lineage deity. At that time the agnates assemble, worship the lineage deity, and feast together. In the life cycle rituals the members of the phuki are expected to attend various feasts and take their assigned shares. In the annual feasts that mark off the phuki from the rest of the society by restricting participation to phuki members, one sits in order of seniority, though there are some variations. For example, when a priest officiates at the rites, he will sit at the head of the line regardless of his de facto age.


Annual Rites

The major annual rite of the phuki is dedicated to the phuki’s (patrilineal) deity. This rite is known as Digudyo puja and is held at varying times of the year by all castes. One generally observed rule is that the rites must be performed before Sithinakha, a feast which initiates the rice transplantation season.[16]

In Sunakothi the phukis have a great deal of commensality at Digudyo puja, which falls on the 12th of the bright half of the Nepali month Paush. The Digudyos are the ancestral Gods which are worshipped by the phuki, i.e., the Digudyos are worshipped in private cults which only encompass the members of the phuki. The Digudyo may be represented by a group of stones in a field or by a commonly venerated Goddess or God as, for instance, Harisidhi. In the former case it is worshipped, generally, only by a particular phuki; in the latter it may have many worshippers. Nevertheless, even in that case, the phuki worshipping it will perform the Digudyo puja (worship) separately, and participation will be limited to the members of respective phuki. In Sunakothi there are four Digu deities. These are unobtrusive sets of stones in the fields. However, among the people worshipping one such God there are no corporate events involving the whole group, which may technically be labelled a “clan.” The term used to designate these descent groups in Sunakothi, which is only sometimes applied is kawo.

Possibly, the villagers say, there were only four phukis with one separate Digudyo each in a distant past; the village would then have had something approximating a four-clan system. However, nowadays there are a great number of phuki groups in the village, and they keep multiplying as they are divided due to conflicts, or simply because they have grown so large that they have become unwieldy. However, the groups that worship these deities are not exogamous. Marriage is accepted within them, as long as it does not violate the rule that seven generations should have passed since the previous marriage before one may marry someone who worships the same Digudyo.

Toffin describes a similar system in the endogamous Jyapu village Pyangau, where there is some ritual interaction among the members of the respective clans. There are two Digudyo; one is venerated by the village’s Sivamargi clans (“gwohan ou gwo”) and one by the single Buddhamargi clan.[17] These are referred to as gwohan or gwo. However, “[l]e mot gowhan est particulier à Pyangaon.”(1978a:115) Can this possibly be a dialectical pronunciation of kawo?

The higher castes, the Uray and the upper Shrestha,[18] have a different type of Gods, Agamdyo, similar in character to the Digudyo. The difference is that their cults are even more secretive than the cults of the Digudyo. However, socially they are analogous, which has been pointed out by Toffin: “Agan dya et digu dya ont beaucoup de points communs. Ces deux divinités sont liées tout d’abord au même type d’unité sociale: dans les deux cas, c’est un group de paranté agnatique, dont tout les membres se reclament d’un ancêtre commun, qui est à la base du culte.”(Toffin 1978a:123) The main distinctions between the Digudyo and the Agamdyo, are that only the higher castes are said to have Agam dyo and that the cult acts of the Agam are kept absolutely secret, guhya.[19] However, according to Toffin the Jyapu also have Agam dyo.[20] Thus, the data on Agams is scant, and those presented here are mainly from the literature. Having an Agam does not exclude having a Digudyo. The Agam is particularly worshipped at the winter and summer solstices, which in Newari are known as Disi puja. At the Disi puja healthy foods are eaten.[21] Castes who have Agams may also have and worship Digudyos. These cults are also so secretive that I have not obtained any information on them. Among the higher Newar castes the clan God is sometimes referred to only as Agam dyo. Those who belong to the same Agam have a common deity which is kept in an agamchey, though there are also representations of it in the houses.[22] In the past these groups may have had much more interaction than in the present. Today, it seems that there is hardly any communal event, much less concerted action, involving all the members. Nevertheless, according to my informants, the group is important in defining the individual’s identity within the caste. The secretiveness surrounding the Agama cults is itself sociologically interesting, as it draws a sharp line between the initiated and the uninitiated. This has been elucidated by Allen who succinctly remarks:


A number of informants, both Hindu and Buddhist, stressed the importance of the distinction between guhya and bahira. Guhya refers to all that is inner or secret while bahira connotes things that are outer or open. The dichotomy is fundamental not only to all forms of Tantricism but to the very fabric of Newar social life. Group membership is commonly defined by ritual initiation and social boundaries are maintained by secrecy and closure.(1975:55)

At the Digudyo worship, as performed by the Jyapu in Sunakothi, the festivities commence eight days before the punhi (full moon), the 14th of Paush. From the 4th of the bright half of Paush, an interdiction against consumption of garlic is in force. The Digudyo worship takes place on the 12th, and the rituals are concluded the 14th with a feast known as labhu (garlic plate). Four days before the Digudyo is to be worshipped, beans are soaked in water in order to sprout. This is known as musyaphayegu. The day before the Digudyo puja the floors are remade with a solution of red clay and cow dung. In the evening choyala bhu is held within the households of the phuki. Then the members of the patrilineage sit in one line in order of seniority. In some phuki the choyala bhu is observed jointly, whereas in others it is held separately in each of the households that constitute the phuki. On the morning after the choyala bhu no boiled rice is eaten (it is not eaten at all this day), all household utensils are cleaned, and one prepares catamari, steamed rice breads. Then the phuki assembles at the site of the Digudyo which is in a field. The deity there has the form of a number of stones. Some households will also bring the images of various deities made of bronze or brass, that they keep in their houses. Each household brings puja items for the worship. In the offerings there will be catamari (rice breads), jaki (uncooked rice), vermilion (red and yellow), goja (cones of kneaded dough), beer, one duck egg, and one radish. The egg must be a duck egg. Hens’ eggs are taboo in this context, perhaps reflecting a more vital Buddhistic tradition of the past, as chicken and chicken eggs were traditionally not eaten by people who identified themselves as Buddhists (See Appendix I on khe). The thakali of the phuki officiates at the rites.

Persons who belong to the phuki, but have not previously participated in the worship of the Digudyo, are initiated into the cult on this occasion. Women who have married into the phuki bring elaborate pujas, which are sent from their parental households. The contents will be same as mentioned above, and the minimum bal (offering) is one duck egg. However, a wealthy father may send a goat which will enhance his daughter’s standing in her conjugal household.[23] The Thakali gives the deity the sacrifice on behalf of the daughter-in-law. Meanwhile the thakalinakin, his wife, scatters cokkabaji, dust of beaten rice, in three directions in order to appease any ghosts which may have come with the bride. The thakalinakin also sprinkles water around the deity, and she then circles the deity leading the daughter-in-law by the hand. Even if they live in different households, the bride is regarded as a daughter-in-law by the thakalinakin. A new-born infant will also be initiated in a similar fashion. A duck egg will be sacrificed by the thakali and then he, or she, will be carried around the deity by the father or a senior relative.

When the worship has been completed a feast is eaten jointly in the fields nearby. The feast will contain flattened rice, cooked meat, catamari, beans (those set to sprout previously), long beans, and pickles. One drinks thon and ayela with the food. If a goat has been sacrificed, si will be prepared and taken in the field. At the feast the phuki’s men sit in seniority order.

The following day kaula is held at 5-6 P.M. in the thakalis home. The contents of the feast will be the same as on the previous day, and the men will again sit in seniority order. Only phuki members participate in this feast. The next day labhu (lit., garlic plate) is held. This feast marks the end of the injunction against eating garlic, and it will contain flattened rice, cooked meat, takha, catamari, beans, pickles, radish, and garlic. This feast is not held jointly by all the phukis, but by each individual household. A part of the feast has to be given to the Jugi, who come to the village especially to collect their shares. These shares are thought to be transferred, via the Jugi, to one’s deceased ancestors.

The expenses for the joint Digudyo celebrations are shared. All the households that comprise the phuki bring foods, and these are pooled before they are redistributed. The contributions need not be absolutely equally large.

Toffin has also described and analyzed the rituals attached to the phuki groups’ worship of the Digudyo, and the subsequent taking of si. Here, he has particularly noted how the si expresses the relationships between the age categories in the phuki. For example, he notes how the head (symbolic for leadership) is consumed by the thakalis, the lineage heads, whereas the goat’s body is divided into 44 parts which are eaten by the other phuki members.[24] (See also chapter III.)

Nepali has given an account of Digudyo worship, in which the food items obviously mark the social positions and relationships between the participants. During this period no boiled rice (ja) is eaten:

Dewali worship begins with a feast known as Chhoyala Bhu.[25] It begins a day earlier in the house of the Thakali. Only the heads of families participate in this ceremonial feast. If any head of a family is unable to attend the feast, he may be represented by another male member of his family, preferably his younger brother. The management of this feast is not to be carried out by the Thakali ... but by the head of any family, upon which the responsibility has fallen by rotation. ... The participants in Chhoyala-Bhu take their seats in the strict order of age seniority. The seat at the head of the row is reserved for Digu Deya, the clan god which is also offered a share of the feast. The next seat is occupied by the head of the clan, Thakali; and next to him are his juniors. ... After Chhoyala-Bhu, everyone is prohibited from eating boiled rice till the day of Shraddha-Khunu [Shraddha day]. ... [The following day t]he member of all the participating families, including small children assemble at the house of the Thakali. The Digu Deya is then placed in an earthen vessel and worshipped by the Thakali. ... After [various] ... preliminaries the procession [to the stones representing the digu deya] starts. ... At the Digu-Kheya, the Loo[n] Digu representing the Dewali deity at the site is washed. Over it a little rice is placed and subsequently a dried fish called Java chatu-pi-Nya and some flowers. The fish is the most essential item in the Dewali worship. ...The worship of Dewali is preceded by worship of the Sun, Guheshwari, Jogini, Bhairava and Ganesh. Ganesh, Bhairava and Jogini are as usual represented, respectively, by the Sukunda [ceremonial lamp], Anti [a pot containing rice beer] and Khaye Kuri [pot containing liquor]. ... The most important part of the worship is the sacrifice of a goat to Digu. In Newari it is known as Digu Syaye-gu[26] ... The four limps of the animal are pulled behind the back of the person [who kills it] .... Then he thrusts the knife and slowly draws it across the neck of the goat till half-way, when he stops and allows the stream of blood to gush forth over the deities. Afterwards the neck is completely severed and placed on the ground with its snout facing the deities. A little rice along with a burning wick is placed on it. The belly of the goat is ripped open just below its hind legs. Its intestines are pulled out, cut off, inflated and put around the deities to serve as a garland. ... Just after the sacrifice of the goat, the Bhau-Macha-Du-kaye-gu ritual follows. This means introducing the daughters-in-law of the family to the Digu deities. All daughters-in-law who were married after the preceding Dewali worship have to be admitted into the clan group on this day. Unless this done, none of them would become a full member of her husbands family. ... After the introduction of the daughters-in-law ... the joint offering of rice to Digu deities is performed. The daughters-in-law thus admitted, have then to present the Nisala to the deities as well as to the chief elders of the group. Nisala is a big earthen pot containing Bajee [flattened rice], sweetmeat and two betel nuts. The vessel is first offered to the deities, then to the priest, to the Thakali, and finally to the other elders of the group, the Thakali naki and Nokuli Naki. When the presentation of Nisala is over, the priest draws a teeka mark on the forehead of each of the newly-admitted daughters-in-law. This is the only time when a man other than the husband draws a teeka on a Newar woman. ... The next stage of the ceremony is Samaya,[27] a ceremonial breakfast. The menu is the same as in all the other ceremonial feasts. Even a new-born babe has to be given a full and equal share. Such shares are taken home by the guests. The ceremonial feast is followed by the Sika-Bhu ritual. ... The head [of the goat] is first cooked and its various parts are distributed in the following order: Priest - Snout, Thakali - Right eye, Nokuli - Left eye, Sokuli - Right ear, Pekuli - Left ear, Nyakuli - Right side of the lower jaw, Khakuli - Left side of lower jaw, Nhekuli - Tongue.[28] They eat their respective shares on the spot, with profuse consumption of liquor and tho[n]. This ritual-eating is tabooed from being seen by others. ... After sunset, the party returns home with the Dewali deity in a procession, headed by torch bearers. At intervals, the party stops to rest and each halt the deities are worshipped. This is known as Leesa-Tayegu, during which the dried fish, mentioned earlier, is distributed. It has to be swallowed, not chewed. The party stops at the Pikha-Lukhee, located in front of the house of the Thakalli. With the performance of Di-chhaye-gu and Lasa-Kusa rituals, the deities are conducted into the house.(Nepali 1965:389-395)

The rites are concluded with Sraddha (which includes food offerings) to the ancestors, whereafter one may again eat boiled rice.[29]

Unfortunately, Nepali does not mention to which caste the above account refers. However, the wealth of detail is an indication that he has actually participated. The account contains some interesting data on food. The daily boiled rice (ja) is not eaten, which by its very absence, demarcates the worship period from the daily rounds of life. It is noteworthy how lineage unity and solidarity is expressed first by a feast restricted to the household heads in participation, by the sacrifice which is later shared, by the elders taking si in a communal feast restricted in participation, and by the introduction of daughters-in-law to the deities. The exclusion of others and the marking of the phuki’s unity are so explicit that the “ritual eating is tabooed from being seen by others.” Furthermore, the samebaji is eaten by all the members of the phuki, “even a new-born babe has to be given an full and equal share.” And the feasting is also extended to the dead, who are offered rice (or barley) in the Shraddha which concludes the rites. Moreover, it is noteworthy that the deities are brought back into the house by the Laskas (“Lasa-Kusa”) ritual. This ritual is also performed when a new bride is taken into the house for the first time. The practice suggests that the deity is somehow analogous to a bride, or that the bride is analogous to a deity.


Life Cycle Rituals

The phuki also participate in life cycle rituals. At these the leading parts in the rituals may be taken by the phuki’s thakali and thakalinakin, rather than by the elders of the initiand’s household, unless there has been a dispute within the phuki, in which case the close social and ritual relationships of the phuki’s members may have ceased. Indeed, among the Jyapu, the phuki’s thakali and thakalinakin have important ritual functions at these rites. For instance, the thakali participates in the Kyetapuja, and the thakalinakin officiates by filling the female lead part at the Baratayegu (seclusion before the first menstruation of female children). The phuki-members (agnatic kinsmen) who live in separate households also observe death pollution for twelve days as the bereaved household, though they need not formally mourn for a full year.[30]

Seniority order in the seating is invariably observed at certain festive meals in connection with life cycle rituals, particularly those following a demise. At the feast the Gubhaju priest will sit first, then one will sit according to the seniority order within the phuki: the thakali, the eldest man of the phuki will sit next to the priest, etc. But in other life cycle rituals the seating order in parts of some rites may depend on the ritual significance of the involved persons, e.g., at the Nichaybhu among the Uray, the groom and the bride will sit next to the priest.

The Newars observe a number of samskaras (life cycle rites) which initiate the individual into a new status: Macabu benke renders a new-born child pure after the pollution caused by the birth; Ja nakégu is the first rice feeding; Ihi is the girls first (ritual) marriage; Bara is the girls’ seclusion before the first menstruation; Kyetapuja is the boys’ initiation into manhood; marriage, Vivahan, initiates one into full adulthood; Jya janko is the first step towards leaving society by deification in old age; and finally, Pyan (or Sraddha) constitutes the last rites, whereafter the deceased is commemorated at annual rites.[31] (See also chapters IV and V.) The phuki play an important role in some of these rites. Among the Uray the phuki may come to visit at the Macabu benke “to see the new-born‘s face,” and offer coins, and at the Ja nakegu, the infant is fed rice by the thakali of the household or the phuki. At the girls’ Bara ceremonies the thakalinakin may officiate, playing a leading role at the rituals in which the girl is brought out of seclusion. The thakali of the phuki may also attend at the Kyetapuja , though the most crucial role is filled by the sajipaju, the eldest maternal uncle. In regard to the Kyeta puja, I was informed that among the Jyapu, the phuki are essential, whereas among the Uray their presence is not regarded as indispensable. At marriages among the Vajracharya, Bare, and Uray, the phuki’s participation is again crucial. If they do not participate in the Ja bhoye, the sharing of boiled rice with the bride, it implies that she is not accepted into the caste, which may have consequences for the household’s standing at large and for the off-spring of the union in question. In such a case the latter may have difficulties in contracting “good” marriages.

Among the Vajracharya and the Bare the participation of the phuki in the marital rites is regarded as necessary, particularly in a rite known as Gwe ka bhoy (lit., take betel feast). I will here quote Greenwold:


A short time before her marriage a young Bare friend wrote the following: When the marriage feast ends the ceremony of gwe ka bhoy occurs. This is a special feast to which all the husband’s relatives (phuki) must be invited. If the groom’s family does not give this feast, their paternal relatives will never come to assist in major rituals where their attendance is required. The most important of these are childbirth, Barechhuyigu,[32] and death. These are significant events in the human life cycle, and people cannot carry out our wonderful social customs without the help of others. In gwe ka bhoy the new bride offers betel nut to all her husband’s paternal relatives. By accepting the offering they say “She has become one of us”. Because she becomes a member of a new family, this family of her husband will now help her own parents and brothers in carrying out their rituals.(Greenwold 1974:141)

Similarly, among the Uray, Jyapu, and the Shrestha betel nuts are distributed by a new bride to her husband’s phuki. Indeed, I believe this applies to most Newar castes.

Among the Uray the first thing which is done when the bride has been taken into the house and upstairs, is the celebration of the Goye bhoye; lit., betel feast. In this “feast” the bride gives betel nuts to her in-laws. First, she will give betel nuts to the members of the groom’s family, then to his phuki. Before the Goye bhoye the household will not accept her “into their society”: i.e., it marks her entry and acceptance into the household and the phuki of which it is a part. At the Goye bhoye, the bride will be at the centre, while the others come to take goye from her. This is followed by a feast. Here the Gubhaju sits first, preceded by only a lucudulu, an oil lamp with an image of Ganesh. Then the couple sit, the groom first, next to the Gubhaju. They are followed by the phuki’s men who sit in seniority order. The order of seniority is strictly observed among the ten first, after the priest and the couple. They will be the ten eldest of the phuki.[33] All family members must attend this feast. Those who cannot are later given their shares: their plates are set and filled with food. Later they are given to them.

Once the bride is in the groom’s household, the second day is devoted to admitting the bride into “the society” of the groom’s household, i.e., the family and phuki. The rituals performed this day are only attended by the concerned relatives and the Gubhaju. The rituals are many, and they emphasize, among other things, the phuki’s exclusiveness. First the bride is taken to the phuki’s secret deity, the Agamdyo. To introduce the bride to the kin-group’s Agamdyo is known as Agam deke yenke. Secondly, the bride will ritually take cipa from her mother-in-law and the groom by drinking beer and spirits which have first been made cipa by them (See chapter V.). The rite is known as Nichaybhu: lit., pure mix feast. The term’s sense has been explained to me as “to admit into the same society.”

After the Nichaybhu rite has been performed a rice meal is eaten by everyone present. Then, the phuki members will sit in one line, and the bride will be part of the line. This feast is known as Ja bhoye, i.e., rice feast. Only the phukis are allowed to sit in the line; married daughters of the household are excluded, as they are regarded as belonging to their husband’s lineages (phukis). However, the women who have married into the phuki and unmarried daughters are allowed to join the line. The Gubhaju, too, joins the line, and, according to my informants, he sits to the ritual right and also eats boiled rice. During the rituals that precede the Ja bhoye the groom serves gwara mari (bread). At the end of the Ja bhoye he serves pacinta mari (bread) to those who sit in the line; married daughters are not served pacinta mari. When the Ja bhoye has been concluded, the bride bows down to her elders and to the married daughters of the household, too, provided they are older than she. Even though these women were not allowed to join the line, the bride bows down to them. The remains, or rather the left-overs, from the plates are thrown to the Kalaga.

The third day that the bride is in the groom’s household is known as Wanjala Pakanaye puja.[34] On this day several rituals are performed, and in two of them, the San pyakegu and the Wanjala wanegu, the participation of the phuki is regarded as essential. The San pyakegu ritual takes place upstairs, and the seating arrangement is the same as at the Nichaybhu; i.e., the Gubhaju sits first, followed by the groom, the bride, and the phuki members. The groom combs and anoints the bride with the ritual items which have been provided by her household and delivered along with the nan mari kosi (See also chapter VI). Now, the groom will comb the bride’s hair and tie it up into five buns. This is known as Nyaga sanpo hinkegu, lit., five hair bundles make. Afterwards the groom anoints the bride with sinha (vermilion) and holds up the mirror in front of her, so she may see herself. Then the bride, her hair still tied in buns, is taken to the local Ganesh to worship. This is known as Gane deke yenke, lit., Ganesh show. Upon her return her hair is rearranged by the samelu or any other women.[35] Later one goes to Wanjala. The Uray go to Bijayshwari, which is situated on the east of Swayamboonath on the left bank of the Vishnumati. Only a few go to the Wanjala. The Gubhaju, the young couple being married, the thakali of the phuki, and a few others will be there. The party worships the Goddess, led by the Gubhaju. The culmination of the rites is when the groom applies sinha to the partition of the bride’s hair, a rite which is known as Sicha chayeke.

Participation of the phuki members in the marriage rites and their partaking of the ritually significant foods are regarded as essential. If one of them cannot attend for some valid reason, the share that person should have had will be saved and given to him (or her) later. The goye and the ja are the most significant items, though all the contents of the plate of the Ja bhoye will be saved for the person who could not attend. If the phuki do not come to attend and take part, or decline to accept their assigned shares, it signifies that they do not accept eating boiled rice together with the bride, and it has serious implications. The bride has failed to meet their standards in terms of purity of caste and acceptability into the phuki’s innermost circle. When this occurs, the relationships within the phuki may collapse altogether or change, and become distant and estranged. One may refuse, for example, to eat boiled rice with any member of the “erring” household.

The phukis’ participation is also significant in the last rites following a demise and particularly at the Latya, the ceremonies performed on the 45th day after the death. The following account refers to the Uray caste. However, the Latya rites of other castes are very similar. On the morning of the Latya the Nau (barber) comes or one may choose to go to him. The shaving of the hair on the head may also be done by a “Nepali” barber.[36] Only the man who is to perform the Pyan needs to have his head shaved and his nails cut, though it is not uncommon for his brothers also to have their heads shaved and their nails cut.

The Pyan is performed indoors, upstairs. The Pyan is performed by the eldest son if the deceased was a man, and by the youngest son if the deceased was a woman. The Pyan is regarded as a feeding of the deceased and is repeated annually on the day of the demise for as long as it is remembered by the descendants. Before the Pyan commences, ari is served. Ari consists of a large chunk of boiled buffalo meat and a piece of bread served with two pegs[37] of ayela, which all present partake of. The puja is conducted in the Tantric way, (tantrik widhi), lit., by the “Tantric method.” The Pyan is performed between other rituals (lit., ‘pujas’). The rituals are highly secret. Only the family priest, phukis, and people who belong to the same kawo group, i.e., people who worship the same Agamdyo, and married daughters attend. Afterwards the rice of the “pinda” is thrown at the Lokeshwar in the street. Then the pujas continue. When the pujas are completed, kaula bhu is distributed; i.e., baji, choyala, tarkari, ayela, and mari are served. This is followed by a rice meal attended by phukis, daughters, and their children. The line is led by the Gubhaju priest. In the feast ja (i.e, boiled rice) is served with black pulse soup (mayeke), which is regarded as a necessary item. One will also serve three kinds of meat: 1) palu la (half ginger, half meat); 2) dayekala (cooked meat); and 3) bulu la (also pronounced “bulla,” a soup-like drink consisting of meat mixed and curried with the residue of rice after beer brewing). Ayela is drunk with the food. Dhau (curd) and sisapusa (fruits) are also served, although some of the mourners may perhaps not eat the dhau, which is taboo for persons who are mourning their fathers. When the meal has been completed, a rite called Kalawaye is performed. In this rite the polluted remains of the feast are offered to the deity Kala, who resides in pits at crossroads. The remains of the meal and the sal leaves it has been served on are collected from the bottom of the line upwards. This is done by the youngest man, who sat at the bottom of the line. When he comes to the priest, the Gubhaju worships the cipa (polluted substance), and then the man who collected it goes out with it to the Kalaga. A long ita, a kind of wick inside of which there is a stick, is placed on top of the pile. Going to the Kalaga (pit of Kala) he must not look backwards nor speak to anyone under any circumstances. One man will go ahead of him carrying a pot of water and saying “bi nhan bi,” to warn people so they will make way. The water carried in the pots is used to clean the pot the cipa was brought in and to clean the hands of the man who carried it. Later other people will eat. In the first batch whose plates are treated as described above, only the priest, the main mourners, phukis, and other members of the household eat.

I have also encountered the Kalawaye rite among the Jyapu of Sunakothi, although there it is performed at the Ghasu rite, the twelfth day after a death. However, no one has been able to explain the precise significance of the rite, although one may establish that it involves reversal of two values: i) the cipa, the pollution of the meal, is worshipped and not, which is normally the case, avoided; and ii) the cipa is given to Kala, who is said to be a form of Siva that resides at crossroads. Normally, one does not offer polluted foods to deities.



An analysis of the ritual use of foods in the annual observance of the cults of the Digudyo and the Agamdyo shows that participation in these rites and consumption of the ritual foods mark an extreme degree of closeness and exclusiveness in social terms. Only agnates and their wives are allowed to participate in certain rituals and feasts. In a Durkheimian sense, one may argue that the Digudyo cult and the Agamdyo cult represent worship of one’s own lineage, one’s own social unit.

The participation of phukis is also important in life cycle rituals. Particularly, when a new bride is accepted into the phuki, the acceptance of the betel nuts she distributes and the sharing of a meal including boiled rice mark the crossing of the boundary between her agnatic and affinal kinsmen. At the last rites, one again eats boiled rice together, which is in sharp contrast to most other Newari feasts in which one generally eats flattened, not boiled rice. Furthermore, this expression of community is extended to one’s ancestors, who are also fed rice through the Pyan.

Moreover, it is noteworthy how the rites emphasize the ideal unity and the hierarchical order within the phuki; for example, the eldest sits at the most honoured place. Significantly, this occurs at the phuki’s most private rites, at the annual worship of its exclusive deity and at the death of any of its members.

The significance of the ritual food as a marker of agnatic solidarity and unity is also emphasized in that everyone has to partake of the ritual food in certain crucial rites. If the food were marginal to the rites, this would not be necessary.


[1] One may become an outcaste for several reasons. No accurate statistics are available. However, referring to middle level and high castes, common reasons cited are transgressions of the caste endogamy rules by the women and sexual relations with lamaju caste members. A woman of high caste who has a liaison with a low caste man will be excluded from the caste and obliged to live with her lover and his kin. Then she will not be allowed back into her natal family’s kitchen, or at least she will not be allowed to prepare boiled rice there, although she may keep some contacts. However, here there is a great deal of variation. Personal relationships between the concerned are important, and so is the hierarchical distance to the caste she has married into. If it is very great, the likelihood that she will become a total outcaste is great. I have encountered several cases where girls have been asked to leave or have eloped. Afterwards they are intentionally forgotten; indeed, one tries to not even speak about them and acts as if they had never existed. But if the hierarchical distance is small, the marriage may be quite acceptable: e.g., Vajryacharya girls are sometimes married to Bare boys with the orthodox rites.


[2] According to Fürer-Haimendorf (1956:34) a high caste man who lives with “a Butcher or Sweeper girl will be expelled from his caste, and in order to avoid living in a social vacuum, he may seek admittance to his wife’s community, which he can gain by feasting her caste fellows.”


[3] Personal communication, Siddhartha Tuladhar.


[4] According to Nepali (1965:161), many of the Pancthaira Shrestha clans are named after foods. Some of these are Sya-baji (a kind of flattened rice), Choyala (roasted meat), Pai(n)-baji (another kind of flattened rice), Bhuti (another kind of meat preparation), Haku Masya (a variety of paddy), Dhau (curd), Wa (pulse bread), and Mhukha (mushroom). I believe Nepali has misunderstood two terms: black paddy is known as hakuwa, and I believe Haku Masya refers to Haku musya, black soy beans. Bhuti is not a meat preparation but the large white beans that are served in most better feasts. Such names serve as family names, and are rarely used outside the caste. Interestingly, these food items which have lent their names to the Panctharia clans would, assembled, constitute a rather impressive feast.


[5] Locke describes how certain kawo control the social life in some bahals in Patan through committees with representatives from different kawo.(Locke 1980:57)


[6] The eight eldest are, according to Nepali, known as chhutee and by tradition constitute the formal heads of the phuki (Nepali 1965:390). Numerically, they would thus constitute an analogue to the Astha Matrika, the eight mother Goddesses.


[7] Bista (1972) has dealt extensively with the Kuldeva cults, particularly with reference the Ksastri caste of the Kathmandu valley.


[8] Interestingly, both Fürer-Haimendorf and Nepali refer to the phuki as Digupuja guthi. The use of the term guthi implies that the group may hold land (though a guthi need not hold land), i.e., that there may be land used to maintain the guthi’s cult. In Sunakothi, the Jyapu never referred to the Digudyo and its cult as a guthi. However, usage may be different among other Newars. In Kathmandu and Patan there are Agamdyos whose cults seemingly are supported by guthi lands (See, for instance, Locke 1980:55). But I am uncertain as to how widespread such holdings are. This is a question where further research is needed.


[9] Fürer-Haimendorf 1956:30, Nepali 1965:420.


[10] An indication of this is found in the acknowledgements made by both Nepali and Fürer-Haimendorf. Nepali (1965:xi) gives thanks to five Shresthas, one Manandhar, and two I cannot place with certainty, though I guess one is Brahman (Agarwal) and the other painter (Chitradhar). Fürer-Haimendorf (1956:16) acknowledges the assistance of one Malla, one Manandhar, and one Vajracharya.


[11] Toffin 1978:118.


[12] Fürer-Haimendorf 1956:29.


[13] Although difficult to measure, the influence of tourism cannot be ignored. The valley is small, and there were 655 733 tourist arrivals in Nepal from 1971 to 1978, the period for which I have been able to obtain statistics (Statistical Pocket Book: Nepal 1982, p. 200.). These statistics cover all tourist arrivals to the Kingdom, and Indian tourists have been excluded. There are no statistics available on visits to the valley, but my guess is that 95% or more visit the valley. Furthermore, His Majesty’s Government has given high priority to the tourist industry, which has resulted in a large proportion of the valley’s enterprises being dependent on tourism for their livelihood. The traditional craftsmens’ best market outlets are now largely the sale to tourists and export to foreign countries.


[14] However, I believe there is considerable variance between different castes concerning the social control the phuki may exercise. So far no systematic research has been conducted in this field. But it seems likely that the phuki is more significant as a unit exercising social control among Hindu, than among Buddhist Newars. The basis for this hypothesis is that the Hindu Newars have few other organs for social control. Although the upper Shrestha may have some kind of councils tied to the members of an Agama cult, they do not have bahals (as Vajracharya, Bare and sometimes Uray do) or sahs (as the Manandhars do). Thus, in some instances, the phuki elders may be superseded by the eldest of the bahal or sah.(See also chapter VIII).


[15] A hypothesis, which seems supportable, is that those who interact little with their kinsmen in the phuki are households led by men who have received a modern education or where severe conflicts have torn the phuki apart.


[16] Even the Nagas (serpent Gods) who dwell in tanks, ponds, and wells are said to have Digudyos. Hence, wells and public taps are cleaned on Sithinakha when the Nagas are thought to be away to worship their Digudyo.(Andersson 1977:69-70)


[17] Toffin 1978:121.


[18] According to the Kathmandu Newars, this is generally assumed to be one way to separate the Shrestha who are of aristocratic or semi-aristocratic origin from those who have assumed the surname Shrestha in the ambition to move upwards in the caste hierarchy. However, Toffin states that the Jyapu of Pyangau also have an “agan dya.”(1978a:23-25)


[19] During my field work I did not try to penetrate these cults, as it is regarded as inappropriate, and even unacceptable, to make inquiries.


[20] Toffin 1978a:119.


[21] Locke 1980:173. I have tried to obtain information on precisely which foods are regarded as healthy. However, all I have been able to ascertain is that the food eaten at the Disi puja is standard Newari feast food, that the ghasa is important, and that the contents will vary with the season, i.e., according to availability in the market.


[22] “The family shrine is usually situated one the top floor. This will be a simple, small, undecorated, dark room, the agama of the family.”(Macdonald and Stahl 1979:116)


[23] According to Fürer-Haimendorf (1956:30), referring to the Saymi (Manandhar) caste, “[a] newly married woman gains admission to her husband’s digu puja guthi by paying an entrance fee consisting of one goat, one pot of curd and one silver coin.”


[24] Toffin 1976:336-338.


[25] Nepali does not seem to have understood the frequency of the choyala bhu in the Newari calendar, in which most important festivals begin with a choyala bhu, but states that the “Chhoyala Bhu [is a] feast at the beginning of the Dewali worship in which Chhoyala is served.”(1965:429)


[26] I believe that Nepali has misunderstood this phrase. His rendering implies that the (“digu”) deity is killed. Syayegu means to kill. The pronunciation of “digu” is quite close to “dugu,” which stands for goat. Thus it is likely the act he is referring to is dugusyayegu: i.e., to kill the goat.


[27] Throughout his work Nepali refers to same baji as “samai.”


[28] The order of the si is at variance with that in Sunakothi.


[29] Nepali 1965:396.


[30] The length of the mourning period varies with the distance to the deceased. Thus, a close agnate living in the same household is mourned for a full year. Spouses are also mourned for a full year. A distant relative may be mourned one day or four days, whereas a closer relative may be mourned for 12 days or 45. The length of the mourning period is left to the households’ discretion, except in the household of the deceased. Affines do not mourn, though married daughters and their children do so for four days, and their husbands join the funeral procession. The mourning behaviour varies from shaving the head and donning white dress for a full year, to merely abstaining from salt and boiled rice half a day. Mourning persons are regarded as polluted, especially the first twelve days after the demise.


[31] Janakégu is sometimes also referred to as Macajanko: lit., child passage rite. Janakégu means to cause to eat boiled rice. Bara (in Barategu) is said to be from Sanskrit and to mean hinder. Kyetapuja refers to the kyeta, a minimal piece of cloth covering the genitals, that the boys don during the rites.


[32] Barechuigu means literally to cast a Bare, to make a Bare. It is practiced by the Vajracharya and the Bare castes and represents the boy’s entrance into the caste. Thus it corresponds to the Kyetapuja practiced by the Shrestha, the Jyapu, the Uray, and other castes. The Barechuigu involves a one day monkshood for the initiand, who dons a monk’s gown.


[33] If one resides in a traditional bahal, the ten eldest of the bahal may take the place of the phuki.


[34] Five rituals are performed this day: 1) San pyakegu, 2) Wanjala, 3) Pakanaye puja, 4) Khwa swa wanegu, and 5) Duchayekegu.


[35] The samelu is a girl who has come with the bride from her parental household. Among the Uray a Jyapuni will be sent; the Jyapus will send the bride’s best girl friends (unmarried). The samelu look after the bride and report back to the bride’s parental household on the progress of the marriage proceedings, etc.


[36] The Newars sometimes refer to non-Newars as “Nepali people.” The term “Nepali” is occasionally used in this sense for all Nepalese who speak Nepali and are not Newars.


[37] Normally two pegs of ayela are served, though at marriages three pegs will be served.