Bel Bibaha – Securing a Woman’s Future
The traditional customs and practices of the Newar community that live in Nepal are often interesting to learn about. Most of their practices and beliefs are things that can never really be fully understood by questioning westerners, but still, it is worthwhile taking at least a brief look at these various customs.
One practice that is still quite common in the Newar community is that of Bel Bibaha. Also known as ‘Ihi’ or ‘Ehee’, as it is said in Newari, this is the unique tradition of marrying a girl child to the bel fruit. In this ceremony, the bel fruit is the bridegroom and is representative of the son of Lord Shiva, Lord Kumar, who is seen as the eternal bachelor. The ceremony takes place before the girl even reaches puberty and it is said to help her gain active and healthy reproductive powers as she matures. Thus, if you are able to visit Nepal and see a young, pre-adolescent child all dressed up and made up with makeup, she is likely participating in her Bel Bibaha ceremony.
It is interesting to note the sort of impact that the ceremony is said to have in the lives of the young girls who participate in it. If, during the ceremony, the bel fruit is damaged in any way, it is said that the girl or bride will end up with an unattractive, unfaithful husband when she is really married. That is why every effort is made to ensure that the fruit is as healthy and ripe as possible. The Bel Bibaha ceremony in Nepal also serves as a sort of protection, for, if the girl’s husband should die, it is believed that there is no need for her to be considered a widow since she is already married to Lord Kumar who is still alive.
Whether you believe that the Bel Bibaha ceremony is strange or a classic example of traditional aging rituals and rites, is up to you. One thing is for sure – this ceremony is unlikely to disappear from Newari culture for some time yet, as its value is seen as being priceless to the women and young girls of the community.