Mha Puja or the worshiping of one’s own body is one of the most celebrated day of Tihar by the Newar community after Bhai Tika and Laxmi Puja. Mha puja symbolizes the care for ones own body by performing various ritual prior to worshiping one’s own body. The rituals are normally, worshiping lord ganesh , giving offering of egg and alcohol to lord ganesh. Before giving the offering , Lord ganesh is worshiped by pouring flowers over the embodiment of Lord ganesh that resides in the statues engraved in various forms. After the worship of Lord ganesh. Eggs, Fried fish, and alcohol is given as offering to the Lord Ganesh. After the worshiping of the gods , one of the family member performs the process of pouring flowers mixed with other fruits to make the body cleansed of the ill omens that may fall upon the person. Every member is given Eggs, Fried Fish and a bit of alcohol in a small glass as an offering similar to the Gods.
What happens before the Mha puja Ceremony:
Before the ceremony takes place, the floor is swept and then a bit of water is poured over the area to make it pure. After the water has been poured the floor is lathered with red soil mixed with water, which makes the ritual area cleaner and more pure. After the red soil has been lathered over the floor, Mandalas are made.
The mandala is a sandpainting made with powdered limestone. The Mha Puja mandala is drawn in the shape of an eight-petalled lotus inside a circle marked with water. It can be drawn freehand or by using a stencil or mould. At the center of the mandala, a small circle is drawn with mustard oil. This is surrounded by concentric rings marked with red rice, black lentil, black soybean, unhusked rice and puffed rice as per family tradition.The items used to adorn the mandala symbolize good fortune, long life and freedom from perils. The mandala has been interpreted as a micro cosmic and macro cosmic representation of the self. The ingredients used to construct the Mha Puja mandala may differ as per caste group and family tradition, but the philosophy behind the ceremony is the same.(Via:Wikipedia)
The number of mandalas depend upon the number of family members in a family with addition to two extra mandalas one in each ending of the ritual area that signify the mandalas for the messengers of death. The mandalas have incense sticks burning on either side of them, coupled with various offerings of fruits and other dry foods.
In the center of the mandala , a small oil spot is put and a small flower that is used to make the garland during Bhai Tika is also put. After the mandalas have been made , there are other items that also go with the completion of the mandalas are various fruits, namely: apples, Bananas, Pears, Peaches, etc. The fruits are kept in a tray alongside other various dry fruits and other packed food items. The Mha puja normally happens a day before the auspicious Bhai tika. All the while it always happens a day after the Laxmi Puja. Though this year a few disputes did arise with Bhai tika and Mha puja being in the same date even though it has never happened or should never have happened. Though the dispute was cleared after majority of the Newars of the country decided to do the Bhai Tika accordingly to the Newari customs and traditions which is to have the Bhai tika done after the day of the Mha Puja.
On the same day of Mha Puja the Newari New Year is also celebrated, as per the Newari calendar or Nepal Sambat to be precise.
A small History of the Nepal Sambat and the Newari calendar:
The Nepal Sambat epoch corresponds to 879 AD, which commemorates the payment of all the debts of the Nepalese people by a merchant named Sankhadhar Sakhwa in popular legend. According to the legend, an astrologer from Bhaktapur predicted that the sand at the confluence Bhacha Khushi and Bishnumati River in Kathmandu would transform into gold at a certain moment, so the king sent a team of workers to Kathmandu to collect sand from the spot at the special hour. A local merchant named Sankhadhar Sakhwa saw them resting with their baskets of sand at a traveler’s shelter at Maru near Durbar Square before returning to Bhaktapur. Believing that the sand to be unusual if the workers were gathering it, he convinced them to give it to him instead. The next day, Sakhwa discovered his sand had turned to gold, while the king of Bhaktapur was left with a pile of ordinary sand which his porters had dug up after the auspicious hour had passed. Sankhadhar used the gold to repay the debts of the Nepalese people.
The Nepal Sambat movement achieved its first success on 18 November 1999 when the government declared the founder of the calendar, a trader of Kathmandu named Sankhadhar Sakhwa (संखधर साख्वा), a national hero. On 26 October 2003, the Department of Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp depicting his portrait. A statue of Sankhadhar was erected in Tansen, Palpa in western Nepal on 28 January 2012. On 25 October 2011, the government decided to bring Nepal Sambat into use as the country’s national calendar following prolonged lobbying by cultural and social organizations, most prominently by Nepal Bhasa Manka Khala, and formed a taskforce to make recommendations on its implementation. All major newspapers now print Nepal Sambat along with other dates on their mastheads. New Year’s Day celebrations have also spread from the Kathmandu Valley to other towns in Nepal as well as abroad. ( Via: Wikipedia)
It was because of the Nepal Sambat calendar Nepal was considered as one of the unique countries in the world. The Bikram Sambat calendar follows the calendar similar to other Asian countries like that of India. So, having the Nepal Sambat as a calendar and the language Newari not being derived from the sanskrit language or bhasa added to the more uniqueness to the country.