Yomari Punhi : Newar Community Festival

30th Dec, 2020 | Tourism Mail Crew

When the moon is at its fullest in December, ‘Yomari Punhi’ a special festival is celebrated by the Newari community. It has its own religious significance and characteristics. In Newari, ‘yo’ translates to ‘to like’ and ‘mari’ translates to ‘roti or flatbread’. Therefore, ‘Yomari’ roughly translates to ‘favourite bread’. In reality, it should be ‘Yavmari’, instead of ‘Yomari’. The Sanskrit word ‘Yav’ refers to Barley. As Barley is white. White means ‘Holy’. Barley is still considered important because it does not produce much grain like rice.Yomari is a steamed dumpling that consists of an external covering of rice flour and is filled with chaku (jaggery taffy) and sesame seeds or with khuwa (evaporated milk solids) and shredded coconut.

On this day families get together and make ‘Yomari’. People make various  shapes of yomari, including the shapes of gods and goddesses such as Laxmi, Ganesh, Kubera and Saraswati and place it in Bhakari, a large grain basket used for storing, as an offering to gods and goddesses thanking them for a good harvest. The Yomari Punhi festival is said to have started from Panchal Nagar (present day Panauti). Myth has it that Suchandra and Krita, a married couple, first experimented with fresh yield of rice from their field.

And what took shape came to be known as Yamari. The new delicacy was eventually distributed among the villagers. The myth further states that Kubera, the God of Wealth, who had come to the village disguised as a beggar was also given a Yomari by the couple. Following this Kubera ,who was happy with the couple’s generosity, disclosed his real identity and blessed the couple with wealth and prosperity. He also declared that whoever will prepare Yomari in the form of gods and goddesses on the full moon of December will be blessed with wealth and prosperity. Since then, it is believed that the Newari community started celebrating the wonderful festival ‘Yomari Punhi’. There are many stories that tell the tale about the starting of ‘Yomari Punhi’ and its meaning.

Today ‘Yomari Punhi’ is celebrated as a festival that reunites families to share their joys and have ‘Yomari’ the culinary delicacies that define Newari culture.