Guthis Abroad: Catering to the Social Needs Amongst the Newar Diaspora

Shobhit Shakya

From macha janku or the rice feeding ceremony of infants to the funeral rites and other important events of their life, community cooperation is a very important part of Newar culture.  More than just cultural activities, often rituals in Newar lifestyle too have a social aspect. Socio-economic institution of the Newars – Guthis have deep-rooted connection with Newar culture. Rather than being just cultural legacies, Guthis are effective means for provision of social welfare amongst the Newar community and is the legacy of the Newar state of the past. The aspect of Guthis serving social purposes can be reflected by their namesake organizations that have formed amongst the Newar diaspora community around the world in places like Sikkim in India, where Newars had moved to much earlier, to places of recent movement like Europe and the US. Despite the features of these newly formed Guthis not being exactly same as the Guthis of the old, these newly formed organizations share similar purpose – the provision of social welfare and catering to cultural needs. In likeliness to how Jatras and other social events have been organized by Guthis in the past, newer organizations amongst the diaspora have been organizing events in similar ways regardless of political boundaries and legal frameworks. A case study is presented in this paper through data collected via desk research and semi-structured interviews with members of Newa Guthi New York and Pasa Pucha Guthi UK with the motive to explore these pseudo-Guthis that have been started amongst the diaspora Newar Community and the underlying aspects. Based on the initial findings, this article argues that Guthi institution and culture is the unique characteristic among the Newars that made this diverse group a cohesive and functioning society and the characteristics still perseveres beyond the national borders.

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