ihi Suman Shrestha Tulanhe, Lp, 2033, magha 11 gate_x

Family portrait of the Shresthas of Tulanhe, Mahapal, Lalitpur on the occasion of their daughters’ ihi, 1976. (Reproduced with kind permission of the Shrestha family.)

How do girl children, young women, how do mothers and grandmothers remember the ritual events of childhood, – of their own childhood or that of the girl children they themselves accompanied through those events? In this section of the project the investigators enter in conversations with the female protagonists of three key occasions for celebration in the childhood of a Newar girl child, ihi (“marriage”), bārhā (“seclusion”), and ṛṣīnī (“the female sage”). The team will record and analyze modes of remembering that are bound to be age- and gender-specific, and allow for a the individual reshaping of the ritual by forms of narrative, recollection, and affective stance in a personal testimony.

The Bhaktapur Kumari on an informal occasion (Reproduced with the kind permission of Padmavati Bajracharya.)

How does a Living Goddess learn maths? What are her teacher’s teaching strategies? How does she reconcile her busy ritual schedule with homework and play? And how is the volatile Nepalese political landscape shaping the childhood of this time-honoured and embattled Newar Buddhist institution? This section explores the juridical, personal, historical, liturgical, educational, and ideological conversations within Newar society that surround the political role and everyday life of the changing group of girl children that absolve the mostly onerous term of being one of the many local Kumārīs of the Kathmandu Valley.
Snehi chori

Cover page of the novel Snehī chorī, transl. into Nepali by Motīkājī Śākya, Kathmandu: 1990. (Photo: C. Emmrich).

The Burmese novelist-monk Rawe Htun writes a story about a Nepalese, Buddhist Newar girl child’s trip from Kathmandu to Mawlamyine that becomes an inspirational text in Burma, is, reverting the trajectory of its protagonist, taken to Nepal and translated into Newar (Yaḥmha Mhyāy) by Nyanapurnik, later into Nepali (Snehī chorī) by the protagonist’s own brother Moti Kaji Shakya, and continues its success story as a fixed item on the reading lists of young Nepalese Buddhist women. This project section attempts a literary analysis of the Newar and Nepali renderings of the text, explores what happens, what is lost, regained, and invented in translation, and discusses the impact the versions have had on young women and their mentors, be they students, activists, or monastics. The project will produce a commented critical translation of the Nepali version that takes into account the Newar and the Burmese variant.