Maka! What do you think it means?
If you are a Newari or have Newari friends, you probably think that this means Monkey in Newari. Well, you are technically right but it depends on context. If you did not know Maka is a Newari Surname as well. This is not the only weird caste as there is even a surname called Lakhey.
Are you surprised yet? If not, don’t worry because we have a lot more of this surprising information for you here. But before we begin, we have to answer this question first, who are Newars?
Who are Newar?
The short answer is – they are the native inhabitants of Kathmandu Valley. They were here since before Nepal even existed. Well technically speaking Nepal existed for a long time back, even before its conquest. The only difference is that before the conquest, Nepal was just Kathmandu Valley. It was not even called Nepal back then but Nepa:
Now as for their origins, their earliest history can be traced back to the period when Puranas were still being written. According to the Swayambhu Purana, Manjushri cleaved the hill of Chovar and drained the lake creating the Valley, then made Dharmakara its king before continuing on her journey.
While this may sound like nonsense and pure myths for us, it shows that they have existed long enough to be involved in the myths. Now the earliest non-myth-sounding History can be traced back to the Gopala dynasty.
This is the origin of the Newari people. Now we all know that Newari Caste and Newari People are an interesting bunch of people. We love to make fun of their Ta and Ta and love their Jatras. So how about we cover some interesting facts about Newari People and Their Surname now?
Facts about Newars and Newari Surnames
We all enjoy listening to the Newari language, we all love their Jatras and we all get confused by their surname. Let’s be honest, there is some surprising sounding Newari surname in there that seem totally out of context. Take the Maka we mentioned earlier for example.
Unless you are of that surname or have come across a person of that caste, you would not even think that it was a surname. The same is with Bhuju. These sound more like nicknames rather than castes. Now to make it simpler, we have divided these facts into three parts, Language, Culture, and Caste Surnames.
For the records, it is technically called Nepa: Bhae, not Newari Bhasa but since most people don’t really understand, “Newari” is used more than this. This language originated from Sino-Tibetan but along the way got influenced by Indo-Aryan Languages such as Maithili and Devanagari.
So eventually, the language system evolved to be more like the Indo-Aryan and less like Sino-Tibetan. Now they’re quite a few Newari Scripts but among these, you are probably familiar with only Ranjhana. Do you know that font that needs a calligraphy pen to just write and looks awesome? Yea that one.
But the most intriguing one is Brahmi. Why? It is because it literally looks like Viking writings. Here are some pictures for your reference.
It looks nowhere near to the Newari Language we know today. In all honesty, this somewhat looks like spells from a fantasy game.
Also, phonetics! they use lots and lots of phonetics and due to this, missing or mistaking the use of even the smallest of dot can change the whole meaning. Then there are kuttakshar – the half letters that make perfect sense in terms of speaking but are a pain to remember and write.
But did you know that the official Writing Script or Lipi of Nepal is Ranjhana?
Now that was language, as for the cultures, we all know how Newari Love Jatras. If we are to count every Jatra and Festivals, there is one almost every month. Form simples ones like Kwati during Maghe Sankranti to Ceremonies that Negates Sati Pratha and even their own Valentines Day, they have it all.
Now for those who don’t know about Gufa or Barah as it is traditionally called. You see, back in the days, women in Nepal had to burn themselves alive when their husbands died and this was known as Sati Pratha. We know, it was cruel and grim. However, in Barah, a young girl is married to the Lord Sun. Since Lord Sun is immortal for us, the girl doesn’t have to do the ritual of Sati as her first husband is still alive – the lord Sun.
Now along with this, they have their own Valentine’s day as well. Guess when? It is during Yomari Purnima. Yomari Literally Translates to Bread of Love.
These Traditions are universal, regardless of which Newari caste you belong to. If you want to know more about these festivals there is a link at the end of this article, do check them out as this is a whole topic in itself.
Newari Castes and Newari Surnames
Not so Fun Fact, not all Newari surnames are the same not treated the same way. This is a classic example of a good intention and system degrading over time. You have probably heard of the term Pode or Gubhaju/Guwaju, right? Well, welcome to the Newari Caste division.
The intention was to divide the surnames according to the jobs they do. This was a good intention and the system worked for a few hundred years but after a while caste discrimination began to appear and that caused a lot of issues both for marriage and for people as a whole.
This is how the Newari caste system was formed and to some extent still functions to this day. Also, one thing to be noted is that although they all follow the same traditions, subtle variations do occur depending on the surnames, mainly because of the resources available for their group during that time.
List of 94 Intriguing Newari Surnames
|Deo Brahman||Hindu Priests||Rajopadhyaya|
|Shrestha (Chhathariya)||Royal family, Nobles, and Courtiers||Joshi, Malla, Pradhananga, Pradhan, Rajbhandari, Amatya, Vaidya, Maskey, Kayastha, Rajvanshi, Patrabansh, Mathema, Lakhey, Hada, Karmacharya, Guruvacharya|
|Shrestha (Panchthariya)||Administrators, Traders, and Merchants||Shrestha, Mulmi, Madhikarmi (Halwai), Bhaju, Kakchapati, Nyachhyon, Nagarkoti, Sivacharya, Mulmi, Madhikarmi (Halwai), Bhaju, Kakchapati, Nyachhyon, Nagarkoti, Sivacharya, etc.|
|Gubhaju||Buddhist Priests||Vajracharya, and Bare – Shakya, Bhikshu, Gurju|
|Uray, Udaas||Traders, Merchants, and Craftsmen||Tuladhar, Bania, Sikarmi (Sthapit), Awa, Tamrakar, Kansakar, Sikhrakar, Sindurakar, Rajkarnikar, Halwai, SIlakar|
|Jyapu||Farmers||Maharjan, Dangol, Singh, Suwal, Desar, Rajbahak, Kumhal, Prajapati, Kumah, Awale, Awal, Shilpakar, Ka:mi, Pahari|
|Sayami||Oil Pressers||Manandhar, Sayami|
|Bha||Funeral duties||Karanjit, Bha|
|Gathu||Gardeners||Banmala, Mali, Malakar|
|Jugi||Musicians and Tailors||Darshandhari, Kusle, Kapali|
|Naye||Butchers and Musicians||Khadgi, Shahi|
|Kulu||Drum-makers and Cobblers||Kulu|
|Pode||Fishermen, Sweepers||Pode, Deola, Pujari, Nepali|
In the End
Newari culture and Newari Caste are some of the well-Known cultures and traditions in Nepal. Although the total population is relatively low, they are well known for their art, tradition, and culture. Newari Surnames were divided as per their work because of the huge number of people in each category. Among them, few are rarely heard, whereas a lot of these are still thriving to this day.
Before we go we have to let you know that Surnames and Castes is just a system of identification and should not affect how we treat each other as humans. They are the thing that united us during their early days so it should not be the one to divide us now.
So, did you find this interesting? What was your favorite part? Let us know in the comments below along with your feedback as well if you have any. As always thank you for sticking till the end.