Mha Puja: Worshipping Yourself

  • Sun-Jul-2019

Mha Puja: Worshipping Yourself

The array of culture and its celebration in Nepal is really surprising and unique. Our culture is craved since generation started hundreds of years ago. They represent our beliefs, our values, and the nation as a whole. However, our culture isn’t rooted in religion only. With more than 100 different ethnic groups, Nepal harbors way more distinctive practices and custom known to the lesser group of people. 

We fast for the well-being of our family, we worship Dogs for their friendship and loyalty, we worship our brother for their support and protection; our culture knows how to value every relation, from gods to animals, from human to nature.

And, amid all the celebrations, Mha Puja is a very interesting and intriguing festival in Nepal. Celebrated by the specific group of Nepali community, Mha Puja has become an important part of Nepal’s ancient culture.

About Mha Puja

Mha Puja is an annual ritual performed by the Newar community of Nepal on New Year’s Day of Nepal Sambat. It falls on the fourth day of the Tihar, one of the greatest festival in Nepal.

Mha Puja translates as “worship of the self,” Mha meaning self and Puja meaning worship

Adhering to the belief of God is omnipotent and exists everywhere, inside the every living creatures, including humans as well, Mha Puja celebrates one’s essence and is believed to cleanse and empower the soul. It is a highly revered and widely celebrated ritual amongst Newars.

Mha Puja celebrates the auspicious beginning of New Year and calls for prosperity and longevity for the participant. It is a unique celebration of culture as most of the festivals and ceremonies are dedicated to Gods and for the peace and prosperity of the family.

The worship is an avid part of the Newari culture and is celebrated in abroad as well, where Nepalese have settled.

How is Mha Puja celebrated?

For the celebration of Mha Puja, on the night of Govardhan Puja, all the family members gather around in one place.

Mandala is the center of this ritual, which is drawn in a row on the floor for each family member. At the end of the row, two extra mandalas are drawn for two messengers of death. 

Mandala is the sandpainting of a scared circular diagram worshipped by making offerings of ritual good, colored paste, sacred thread, incense, lighted wicks, and flowers. Not only the peoples but mandalas are also drawn for essential household items like a water pitcher, winnowing tray and broom.

After the mandala is drawn and all the preparation are made, family members come together and sit cross-legged in front of one’s mandala. Then the lady of household walks down the row putting a bad of colored pasted on each of their foreheads.

She also presents each member with an extra-long burning wick, which is placed next to the mandala. Sacred threads and a basket of fruits, including citron symbolizing long life and good fortune are also given to them.

Now, begins the second phase of Mha Puja, referred to as Sagan Biyegu. A woman member of the family walks down the row of participants holding a clay pot containing Dhau (yogurt) from which everybody takes a dab and puts it on one’s temple.

In turn, the participants are presented with a set an auspicious ritual food consisting of boiled egg, smoked fish, and rice wine. However, rice wine is poured in a little bowl and is refilled three times, until when the bowl must be held in hand and not set down. 

As mandala is the main part of Mha Puja, worshipping is the principal ritual. The mandala represents the whole universe, and the lightening of wick and incense stick means the participant should spread brightness and fragrance in the world. 

What are the necessary elements during Mha Puja?

Mha Puja is an ages-old ritual been celebrating for generations, and the rule is quite firm. Certain rules must be followed during Mha Puja, and below are some elements which are required in the ritual.


Mandala is a sandpainting made with powdered limestone drawn in the shape of an eight-petalled lotus inside a circle marked with water. A small circle is drawn at the center of the mandala with mustard oil and is surrounded by concentric rings marked with red rice, black soybean, black lentil, unhusked rice and puffed rice as per family tradition.

The number of mandalas depends on the number of family members plus three extra; one at the top of the row for House-god and two at the end for Yamaraj and Jamara, the messenger of death.

The making of the mandala and the items used in it symbolizes good fortune, long life and freedom from perils. Although the construction may differ as per caste group and family tradition, the philosophy and essence are the same.

Itaa (lights)

Itaa translates as “lights” in Newari language. They are hand-woven cotton strands soaked in oil and are about two and a half feet long. Participants accept it by chanting mantras in Sanskrit. Itaa is lighted at every four ends and kept in each mandala.

Itaa signifies the role of the participant in spreading light and keeping evil away.

Sagan Biyegu

Sagan Biyegu is a ceremony involving the ritualized presentation of auspicious food to a person for good fortune and as a sign of respect. Generally, the food items served during Sagan Biyegu in Mha Puja includes boiled egg, smoked fish, rice wine, met and lentil cake representing Tantric concepts.

All the five food items represent the five Tantric elements; fire or “agni tatwa” is symbolized by wine, earth or “prithvi tatwa” by meat, ether or “akash tatwa” by lentil cake, air or “wayu tatwa” by egg and water or “jal tatwa” by fish. All these five elements are the part of life, in a way that fire provides warmth and fire in living beings and when a being dies, the body becomes earth, the body contains water, breathes air and exists in ether or space.


Flowers are one of the important parts of any rituals, festivals, or ceremonies in Nepal. In Mha puja as well, flowers play the important part as they are sewn together into a beautiful garland for each of the participants. 

Also, jajanka, a many round white cotton thread of about two feet diameters tied with a small piece of red cloth is worn symbolizing the integration of beginning with the end.

Fruits and Nuts

Mha puja offers a variety of fruits, nuts, and sweets symbolizing a wish for fruitful and resourceful life. Some of the offered fruits and nuts are walnuts, chestnut, sugarcane, and tashi fruit. Also, sweets in different shaped are offered in Mha puja.

It is believed that Yamaraj and Jamaraj, the messenger of death are observing the puja, and they can be kept away with the physical and spiritual energy gained through various offerings in Mha puja. The two messengers of death cannot harm the person who has performed Mha puja until the shell of walnut rots, which is near to impossible.


Nakin is a person who gives the shower of a mixture of paddy, flower, pieces of fruits, vermilion power, ankhen (hand-milled rice) and taye in kule (container) to worshippers head.

When Nakin drags tuphi (broom) from House-God’s mandala to Yamraja and Jamaraj mandala, Mha Puja is marked complete.


When Mha puja is completed, all the family members partake in a feast. On each participants mandala, a bronze plate containing auspicious food item is placeed destroying the design to signify worldly impermanence.

The main menu of the feast consists set of eight items representing the Astha Matrika, the eight grandmother goddesses who are worshipped as protectors.

Mha Puja 2019

This year in 2019, Mha Puja is being celebrated on October 28 (Kartik 11, 2069 as per Nepali Calender) on Monday marking the New Year of Nepal Sambat during the fourth day of Tihar, Goverdhan Puja. Mha Puja is celebrated in the evening time.

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