Nhu Daya Bhintuna! Nepal's Newars celebrate new year

Nhu Daya Bhintuna! Nepal's Newars celebrate new year

Kathmandu (AFP) - Banging drums, clanging bells and performing impromptu street dances, members of Nepal's ethnic Newar community rang in the new year Monday in colourful style in one of the highpoints of their Diwali celebrations.

While celebrations for the Hindu festival of lights in neigbhouring India revolve around firecrackers, Nepal's Hindu Newars mark the occasion -- known locally as Tihar -- with song and dance performances.

The Hindu goddess of wealth Lakshmi is particularly worshipped in Tihar, but Nepalis also pay homage to crows, dogs and cows during the festival.

The fourth day of Tihar, which fell on October 31 this year, also marks the start of the new year of the Newars, a culturally-rich ethnic community indigenous to the Kathmandu valley.

Crowds clapped and cheered "Nhu Daya Bhintuna" -- meaning happy new year -- to welcome their year 1137 as hundreds of people paraded along Kathmandu's temple-studded Basantapur Durbar Square.

"I really enjoy this gathering to celebrate our new years together. I try to come every year," said Nirab Shrestha, 45, who joined the celebrations with his family. "It helps us connect with our culture."

Newars welcome the new year with a unique ritual called "Mha Puja" in the evening, when they worship themselves, and wish for a year of prosperity and good luck.