Before I go on to talk about the diversity among the Newars, let me say a few words about the general diversity in Nepal itself. As we know, researchers and other scholars have been writing about Nepal’s geographic/topographic diversity and mostly about rural-urban diversity but very little about diverse ethnic groups or languages. Although there were anthropologists who studied and wrote about a few ethnic groups among more than 120 ethnic groups existing in Nepal, researching on ethnic diversity and doing comparative studies are fairly new phenomena in Nepal. Politically speaking, aside from boasting about more than 120 ethnic groups and languages existing in Nepal during speeches in foreign lands, very little is being done to promote and preserve the various cultures and languages in the country. Also, in the past most Nepalese and Newar demographers in particular, did not include “ethnicity” variable in their data analyses, except for one or two individuals – one such geographer/demographer was (Late) Dr. Harka Gurung. This prompted me to include “ethnicity” variable in each of my study, which gave me an opportunity to introduce the Newars and discuss about their lifestyle, status, and their socio-cultural practices, among other things. In one of my published articles titled “The Main Determinants of Infant Mortality in Nepal,” published in Social Science & Medicine in 2001, I took this opportunity to talk about theGhoti-Chauthi, Kwāti-Wāsa:, massage to the baby and the newly mother, breastfeeding, the priority given to and care for a pregnant woman by her family and relatives, and the nurturing custom of the Newars of postpartum care for the baby and mother.
I remember one incidence. When I wanted to do a research about women among various Nepalese castes/ethnic groups, I was unable to find comparative study except for a famous anthropological study “People of Nepal” by Dor Bahadur Bista and one or two other studies. Most often I found scholars and researchers in Nepal and around the world generalizing women from all ethnic backgrounds as “Nepalese women.” When I read those literature, the discussions, the cultural practices, lifestyle, status, autonomy, and so on did not conform to those of Newar women neither of other hill ethnic women nor of Muslim women. That fact inspired me to do a research on women’s autonomy and their fertility by various ethnic backgrounds. That study eventually became a chapter of my PhD thesis (University of Alberta) and later on a chapter of my published book “Demographic and Epidemiological Transitions in Nepal: Developmental Implications” in 2012. I remember another incidence: I had read an article where the author talked about Nepalese babies’ potty training – the author said “potty training for babies and toddlers is not practiced in Nepal.” That generalized statement does not apply to Newars. In most caste groups among the Newars, babies are potty trained when they are merely four or five months old, even before they start sitting or crawling. My mother potty trained my son when he was just four months old.
Newah Organization of America July 14th, 2015