Customs

The amazing diversity that is seen in the Nepali society also means there is much diversity in the customs and beliefs of each different ethnic group. The major division is along religious lines where the two major players are Hinduism and Buddhism. Then there are Jains, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and ethnic groups that follow their own unique religious beliefs and customs. Even among the Hindus and Buddhists there are groups like the Newars who besides following religious customs, have unique rituals such as the Bel Biwa where a young girl is symbolically married to a Bel fruit. Newars are divided into two religious groups: Hindus and Buddhists.

Among all the customs and rituals, the rules of marriage are particularly interesting. In traditional families, marriages are arranged by consenting parents after the boy or girl comes of age. Child marriage and polygamy still exist in Nepal although abolished by law. Each ethnic group has a different set of rituals for the wedding ceremony while many in general follow the Hindu customs. For many it is customary to elope before being officially accepted by the parents and among some it is even normal to wait for the girl to get pregnant before the official ceremony. Nepali customs are as diverse as the people themselves.

The marriageable age has been legally set at 18 for women and 21 for men, but such laws are not strictly adhered to. Even today, most marriages are arranged by parents, but love marriages are becoming common especially among the educated people.   In the villages, child marriages are still practiced and in Kathmandu especially among the Newar community, two siblings getting married off simultaneously is also common. Weddings are elaborate often lasting days. Ceremonies include bringing the bride to the groom’s house in a procession accompanied by music played by a brass band. Originally, the band consisted of an ensemble playing ‘Panche Baja’ comprised of Nepali folk instruments. But more and more Nepalis are opting for the brass band which is deafeningly loud.

The pasni (rice-feeding) ceremony is one of the important occasions for a child. In the presence of family and priest, the seven month-old child is dressed in finery and fed rice presented on a coin by all members of the family. He is shown several objects on a tray: a heap of earth, paddy (unhusked rice), bricks, toys, rings, a pen and ink-pot, and a book. It is said his parents can tell the child s future profession from the object he first picks up.