Yomari Punhi, is a Newari festival celebrated during the full moon day of Thinlã(second month of the lunar Nepal Era). Yomari Punhi marks the end of rice harvest, and is celebrated with a Newari delicacy called Yomari. People of Kathmandu celebrate this festival by offering Yomari to Annapurna, Goddess of Food Grains to thank her for the harvest they’ve had. At the evening, children visit one door to other, requesting Yomari.
Yomari literally translates into “Tasty Bread”. It is a confection of newly harvested rice flour dough shaped like fig, and filled with sesame seeds and brown cane sugar, which is steamed later. People believe that Yomari takes away the cold. Also it is said that the longer the Yomari’s tail is, the shorter the winter is. In some places, like Hari Siddhi and Thecho, sacred masked dances are performed. The News community also prepares Yomari in shape of different dieties (e.g. Laxmi, Kuber, Ganesh, etc.) They do this as a symbol of devotion to their dieties. Moreover, by offering Yomari, parents bless their children with good health and longevity. Many people prefer to sing a customary song:
योमरी च्वामु उकी दुने हाकु ।
Yomari chwamu uki duney haaku
[Yomari is sharp. Inside it, sesame seeds]
ब्युसा ल्यासे मब्युस बुढी कुटी ।
Byusa Lyasey Mabyusa Budi Kuti
[One who gives Yomari is young and pretty, else is old and ugly]
As the myth describes, this festival started from Paanchal Nagar, now known as Panauti. It is said that Suchandra and Krita, a married couple, experimented with the freshly harvested rice. They offered the dish to Kuber, God of Wealth who happened to pass by. Impressed by the dish, Kuber blessed the couple with wealth. Kuber also asserted that whoever made the delicacy in the form Gods and Goddesses to show their devotion would be bestowed upon by wealth. The entire village happened to like the bread, thus named, ‘Yomari’ (tasty bread).
Yomari Punhi is celebrated for four days straight. The first day is observed on the full moon day in the month of November/December. On the second day, Yomaris are made in shape of different Gods and Goddesses. The third day is celebrated storing Yoma in rice silo (bhakari). However, the Yomaris are not eaten on that very day, but on the fourth day. The Yomaris prepared are considered as a blessing as well as gift from Gods. This indicates the end of the festival.
Yomari is also often compared to the Earth. The two sides of Yomari indicate the North and South Pole. The different stuffings we use in Yomari also has different meanings. Stuffings of brown cane sugar and sesame seeds represent Mahamaya(almighty God) whereas meat stuffing represent Lord Ganesha. Similarly, Yomari with black lentil is regarded as Good Kumar. Moreover, there’s a tradition in Newari culture, where mothers make garlands of Yomari and put to 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12 year old kids on their birthday.
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