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Mha Puja is an annual ceremony of the Newar people of Nepal. Translating from Newari as “worship of the self”, Mha Puja is seen as a celebration of the spirit within, bringing peace, prosperity, health, and happiness to the participants.
Mha Puja takes place on New Year's Day of Nepal Sambat, the national lunar calendar of Nepal. It is also the fourth day of Swanti, a five-day long festival celebrated throughout Nepal involving the worship of the four animals associated with Yama, a deity of death and the underworld in Hindu and Buddhist mythology. Swanti is celebrated all throughout Nepal, but Mha Puja is specific to the Newar people and is typically celebrated at home with family.
The process of the ceremony may change from place to place, or from family to family, but the fundamentals remain the same. A row of mandalas is drawn on the ground, one for each member of the family, and more for the household god and the two messengers of death. Family members sit cross legged in front of their own mandala and the matriarch of the family walks down the line applying the tika, a dab of coloured paste, to each person’s forehead. Lighted wicks known as Itaa are placed next to the mandala, and offerings are made of sacred threads, fruits, and garlands of flowers.
The Sagan ceremony is the next element of Mha Puja, in which auspicious foods are ritualistically presented. Egg, meat, fish, wine, and lentil cakes are served, representing the Tantric elements of air, earth, water, fire, and ether.
At the end of the Mha Puja ceremony the mandalas are destroyed and swept away, signifying worldly impermanence, and the family partake of a feast.
Mha Puja takes place on Newari New Year according to Nepal Sambat, the national lunar calendar of Nepal, and has no fixed date. In the Gregorian calendar it falls between October and November.