Foreigner celebrates Janku, a Newari's tradition of reaching old age

Published On: April 9, 2018 07:17 AM NPT By: Upendra Lamichhane

BHAKTAPUR, April 8: The public has been observing foreigners celebrating many festivals including Holi, Gai Jatra and Bhai Tika. On Sunday, the locals of Bhaktapur got a rare chance to see a foreigner celebrating Janku, a Newari festival celebrated when a man or woman of the Newar community turns 77.

Peter Hess from Bremen of Germany had come to Bhaktapur with 22 of his relatives to celebrate the festival. On Sunday, he was fully dressed in traditional Newari attire, which included daura-suruwal, ista coat (sleeveless waist coat) and dhaka topi. 

His wife Emily also wore traditional chaubandi cholo and naugedi as the couple took part in the festival, much to the delight of the locals.

As per the Newari tradition, elderly people reaching 77 years of age are carried around the town in a chariot. As per the tradition, if the one performing Janku is a male, he can take his wife in the carriage as well, which is why Emily also participated. 

Newari children pulled their chariot as the elderly couple made a round of the municipality, which is the main part of the celebration. 

They both were smiling contagiously. While making the round, the followers played traditional musical instrument known as dhime baja. The sight drew attention of everyone as they relished the moment and cheered them up. 

“The tradition in our country dictates that we become sad when we grow old,” said Peter with a smile. “But here, growing old is a celebration! This makes growing old much joyous.”
An engineer by profession, Peter had arrived in Bhaktapur for the first time 34 years ago. He deeply enjoys the tradition and festivals of Bahktapur and revealed that he wanted to celebrate his own Janku since the past 15 years.

“I have been enchanted by the art, culture and tradition of Bhaktapur since my first visit. Since then, I have already travelled here over a hundred times,” he said. “At first, I used to visit Bhaktapur at least three times a year. But now I only come here once a year.”

Locals, old and young, also were delighted to see Peter celebrate his Janku. “We have been seeing foreigners celebrate various festivals. But this is the first time we saw them celebrate Janku,” said Muraj Didiya, a local. 

The local community had made arrangement for the celebration. “He expressed interest and we helped him in the process,” said Rameshwar Machasi. “While pulling his chariot, we felt like we were participating in our own relative's journey.”

Soni Haiju, an eighth grader, was seen pulling the chariot tirelessly. “Pulling Peter's chariot reminded me of my grandfather. I will be pulling his chariot as well,” he shared.

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