Report from Niraj Dangol, Master Programme in Indigenous Studies, University of Tromsø
Financial support to the project:
“Impact of Modernization on Traditional Social Organizations: A study of the Sana Guthi System among the Newar Communities of Nepal”
The study was conducted in the historical valley of Kathmandu including two main study areas Kirtipur and Lalitpur, two ancient cities where the Newar peoples were the original inhabitants. Among the 59 distinct indigenous groups existing in Nepal, Newar Society is regarded as the strongest one in terms of its cultural values, norms and tradition.
The study is all about the traditional social organization “Guthi” ; an integral part of Newar Society; which has become a traditional cultural practice. Guthi is believed to be formed with the motives of maintaining social structure, conducting the religious festivals and rituals, worshipping of the clan deity, maintaining the holy places, temples and monasteries, initiating on preserving the traditional dresses, dances and music, and also with the motive of providing service to the society.
This study tends to identify whether such traditional social organization is vulnerable to the changes brought by modernization or not. It tends to identify the modernization factors affecting in this smooth functioning and how these factors are making impacts.
The approach to this study was solely qualitative. Thus the data and information were collected through various means like in-depth interviews, participant observations, group discussions and secondary sources as well. People actively working for the Guthi were the targeted interviewees and 35 interviews were collected including 16 from one study area and 19 from the other. Interviews were taken on the basis of the topic guide developed prior to leaving for the field and all the interviews were recorded using a video recorder. Regarding the observations, some of the Guthi rituals were observed closely which includes the most important ritual of Newar Funeral System. Newar people are basically the followers of Hinduism and Buddhism, so the dead body is burnt with special ritual in which Guthi has an active and important role to play. Another ritual observed was of the annual worshipping of the Hindu God “Lord Bishnu” conducted by Guthi. Importantly, the Guthi rituals are conducted round the year, thus, it was not possible for the observation of all the rituals conducted by the Guthi, but of course these were covered by asking about them to the active members of Guthi on in-depth interview schedules. The rituals observed were recorded and pictures were also taken but due to the ethical considerations, the pictures of death rituals were not taken.
Besides those primary data, some secondary sources were also used which include literatures written by both national and international scholars, national and international journals published.
The financial support provided by the Sami Center was a great relief for me. Being a self financed student it was virtually impossible for me to conduct this study with my own expenses as the study area was situated thousands of miles away from here. So I want to thank Sami Centre for providing this opportunity.
Another important fact is that, I myself belong to that community and before this fieldwork, I was experiencing and seeing all those rituals and cultural practices of the Newar Society, but was never observing them so close and never had such curiosity to know the importance of it within the society. So, I deeply appreciate Sami Centre for providing me the platform to understand my Society and Culture closely.