The month of Dha and Nyakhin: Gunla

“Ghe Ne Ghen Ta … Ghen Ne Ghen Ta”

A typical musical vibes you will hear in the top of Swyambhunath temple during the month-long Gunla festival that occurs in Kathmandu Valley. It usually happens in the month of August and is an important holy month in Newari calendar. 

In Nepal Bhasa “Gun” means nine and “la” means month. So the festival is celebrated nine months after the beginning of Nepal Sambat. 

The festival is believed to be floursihed even before the establishment of Swyambhu Maha Chaitya. The tradition of Gunla Dharma was established by King Bikramdev for the people who have deep faith and trust towards Buddhism from Shrawan Sukla Pratipada to Bhadra Sukla Pratipada for the period of one month. 

As the old school of thought remains, “Gunla is the month of devoting yourself in the good path of doing dharma, let Kathmanduties embrace in the direction of doing good deeds and pray to the gods for the welfare of others and themselves.”

Whether you are old or young, teen or adult, if you had heard about this traditional world “Gunla”, you must have been on the top of Swyambhunath. Thousands of devotees climb up the heavenly stairs early in the morning and dedicate themselves to the god.

“Buddham Saranam Gachaami”

Gunla and Buddhism
Gunla and Buddhism

The mind remains peace, calm and joyful when you realize you are devoting your time to this holy and sacred month. The musical vibes, chanting, praying set a different atmosphere which itself is very amazing, seems like a paradise.

The important essence of this festival is playing the traditional instruments. Newari communities from different group inside the Kathmandu valley come to this culturally important place and plays the musical instrument within their community. This instrument is also played in Lalitpur and Bhaktapur along with major core cities of Nepal.

Some of the group from newer communities are Manandhar, Shakya, Tuladhar, Kansakar, Tamrakar, and Maharjan. The popular instrument played is called “DHA.” It looks like a big version of “MADAL” with playing sides in both ends played one side with a thick stick and one with own hand.

This instrument is orchestrated to play in their respective group starting with “DHYAH LHAYEGU” dedicated in the name of NASAH DHYAH – A god of music. It is accompanied by BHUSYAA, TAA, and CHUSYA adding melody to music.

The other entertaining and fascinating instrument is called “NYAKHIN” sounds TUMPA TUMPA TUMPA which is played solo and looks like small DHA. Both instruments are played alternate to each other. 

While driving more into this musical part of this joyful festival, it is believed that during ancient time, the music generated from these instruments used to sweep away all the hindrances, troubles and bad luck going in the valley. Doesn’t it sound great? But not now.

The problems in the country are so excessive that not even the divine instrument could wash away the impurities happening in this country.

It sums up as “Imagine in those centuries where music sweeps away all the fears…Now in this era where music plays along with massive tears.”

The “DHA” Baja is played in different styles of music. The format includes CHWHOH, PALIMAA, LAWANTAH, PRATAAL, JAATI. The “DHA” players know exactly what it means; a short version of music played alongside.

The long version is called “GWORA” which is played on special occasion.  The different forms of “GWORA” include BHAGWAN GWORA, SARWESH GWORA, NITYANATH GWORA, MACCHINDRANATH GWORA.

Dha Player During Gunla Festival

This GWORA played has its own cultural significance. It requires the skills, devotion and practice and competence to play like a real musician in front of the crowd. 

Badri Narayan Manandhar, one among the different culture preserving group, a music teacher from Thahity Manandhar Guthi is protecting this tradition from more than a decade.

He has been involved in teaching the music, motivating and inspiring the youths from different age group people ranging from children to youth.  

He is equally worried about the situation of this important culture and tradition which carries the historical essence since the technology advancement has changed the world with lots of traditions and beliefs in the disappearing stage. According to him, being the music teacher, Thahity Guthi have a trained list of young musicians who can confidently play this traditional instrument in different important festivals.

We all know that safeguarding culture is of a great importance. When youths are involved in it, it’s something precious. Continuing this tradition from one generation to another is also a major challenge.

Learning how to play and using those skills sets playing it in various occasion equally requires time, devotion and sense of responsibility towards saving the old culture which has been transferred for a long time.

It is also guided by the respective authorities of a particular community on how they are managing and enforcing the youth of the community people to save and continue our culture.

If these set of activities are not taken seriously, the day won’t be far when the old culture, tradition, norms, and values would be framed into pictures and limited only into stories.

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