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Why Kathmandu Samyak festival in twelve years interval?

By Chandra Shakya, 9841534364

It is needless here to keep describing at length the importance of Samyak festival. It is one the
most important and spectacular events that have showcased for all of us perhaps the finest
development stage of Newar Buddhist tradition. We should feel proud that we have been able to
maintain such tradition for centuries. Such event provides us a precious media to evaluate what
we were and what we are.

Development history of Buddhism as practiced among householders has remained a matter of


great interest especially in Western World. Since Kathmandu Valley has been a place of
attraction for several dharma practitioners since long past due to its natural beauty as well as
strategic location. Besides, the episode of the origin of Swoyambhu has also remained another
important reason for famous dharma practitioners and philosophers to visit the Valley. Many
renowned Buddhist Gurus from India and China had visited this Valley and left their legacy.
That is why within Newar Buddhism (since Newars who are the ancient dwellers of Kathmandu
Valley practice this dharma) we find several modes of dharma practices. It is basically a
Mahayana mode of Buddhism designed for householders. But, later, there was much influence
from those dharma Gurus who propounded Vajrayana practices. In many instances, Hindu
religious practices were also assimilated within all these practices. In short, Newar Buddhism has
come through long way in pursuit of practicing the Buddha propounded path for the ultimate
peace, prosperity and happiness of mankind and all sentient beings.

In context of understanding Samyak Festival, we need to understand at least two aspects viz. the
concept of sangha and the importance of giving in Buddha dharma.

Concept of Sangha

In order that the householders are guided by Gurus in their efforts to understand and practice
dharma, they are formed into groups (sangha). Formulation of various Sangha resulted in the
development of several family monasteries which are later termed as Bahal and Bahil. Such
family monasteries are being categorized based on their degree of involvement or achievement in
following or propagating Buddha dharma. Also, individuals or groups are categorized based on
their assigned roles or their degrees of involvement in the Sangha or in the observance of Buddha
dharma precepts.

Importance of "giving" in Buddha dharma

Among the prominent six paramitas of Buddhism, the first and foremost is the daana (giving)
which is the most importance virtue that a householder devotee is expected to practice and which
is most doable as well.

Holding Samyak Festival means honoring or felicitating those sanghas who had done remarkable
deeds of dharma propagation in past year(s). In that process, various Statues are offered pujas as
precisely as they should be. Above all, prayers are done for overall peace, harmony, progress,

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prosperity of the country as well as overall welfare and happiness of mankind and all the sentient
beings.

From an occasion like Samyak Festival, we should be learning various aspects of such dharma
practices which would also mean understanding the presence of different Statues, different pujas,
mantras, prevalent rituals, etc. Besides all this, we get an occasion to feast our eyes over the
enticing arts and decoration that come with the making and display of the statues. But, the
greatest of all, on such occasion, our minds are greatly solaced to see that prayers are offered for
peace and progress of our country and for the ability of mankind and all sentient being to follow
the path of renunciation and enlightenment as shown by the Buddha. Withholding such an event
is a matter of accumulating great virtue for all of us.

All the three cities of Kathmandu Valley celebrate Samyak festival but at different time intervals.
In Kathmandu, it is observed once in twelve years. While in Lalitpur, it is done so once in five
year and in Bhaktapur, every year. The history tells us that Samyak festival was celebrated once
in a year during the initial period (understandably, the Kathmandu Valley was not under three
differing ruling regimes at that time). Time intervals were changed during the course of history.
With the split of regimes in the Kathmandu Valley, time intervals were again seen to be different
in different cities. It was during the rule of Prithvi Narayan Shah that Samyak festival in
Kathmandu was made to celebrate once in a twelve years interval.

Based on the underlying objective of holding such event, it is logical that it ought to be an annual
event. Some years, it might not have taken place due to reasons like unavailability of resources,
or some unfavorable social or political situations.

After a review of all above aspects, would it not be proper to question whether observing
Kathmandu Samyak Festival in twelve years is still ok with us in present context? Twelve year
time gap would mean eroding the importance of this event in general public. The persons who
are directly involved in this process might have difficulty in maintaining the continuity due to
long gap. Now that we see how important this event means to us and our country, should not we
think about holding this event rather with shorter time interval, say a three years interval? Are
not we better in terms of resources now, if the case of unavailability of funds or resources was
the reason in those times for widening the time interval? For some, such suggestion may come as
a surprise or even an absurd preposition. “How can one think of changing what was practiced for
so long?”, “It is easy said than done”, “you don’t know how much difficult and hectic job this
celebrating Samyak festival is”. These could be some of possible questions. It is precisely for
that reason we have tried to review the meaning and importance of Samyak festival here. If most
of us think, this is a right thing, then let us do it. If not, no problem. After all, this is just a review
of what we have been doing. The voice of people is the voice of God.

However, let us think this way, “we are not here to do what is easy and what is ritual, we are here
to do what is right and what is important”. We should be ready to amend what is being done in
the past if the people (and the Government for that matter) see the logic in that. Of course, the
bottom line is that the general public must approve it. There are definite advantages of such new
schedule. It would provide a great encouragement to all those who are directly involved in this
process. It would provide great boost to maintain continuity in terms of preserving the needed

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culture and other various logistic requirements. Of course, the Government has to provide certain
additional resource which is understandable. But, in return, the Government would be highly
praised for such effort to preserve the culture of the nation. The nation would be greatly
benefited in terms of attracting foreign visitors as result of organizing such event. (how great it
would be if we have Samyak Festival during the coming Visit Nepal Year). More importantly, it
would be a much welcome gesture from all those people around the World who have direct or
indirect involvement, interest or concern in the Newar Buddhism of Nepal. Above all, this would
be an act of accumulating good karma for all of us (if you believe so).