Sithi Nakha, Traditional way of Celebrating Environment Day

School children cleaning a water sprout during the Sithi Nakha Festival © Oxford Practical English School

Rituals and traditional practices lay the basis for people to gather together to worship, sing, feast, dance, or create music. In Nepal’s Kathmandu Valley, the Newar community holds a festival known as Sithi Nakha, which is chiefly about how people positively relate to customary water sources. Sithi Nakha is celebrated either in the month of May or June, depending on the lunar calendar, by cleaning ponds, wells, water sprouts—any water source that was historically important to the Nepali people. It should also be noted that the celebration of Sithi Nakha falls on a time before the beginning of the monsoon rain, when water is scarce, so it is the ideal time to clean the sources of water.

In the old days before the pipeline system was introduced, traditional water sources were the only option for drinking water in the valley. As a symbol of piety, people built stone sprouts and wells; the belief that providing water to the thirsty is an act of nobility. The construction of water facilities is favorably viewed since people consider such will bear merits for seven generations in the family as well as merits after life. Due to these reasons, there are numerous water structures within the Kathmandu Valley and beyond, where the same thought had a perceptible influence. Other than cleaning water sources, people participating in the celebration also partake in a special dish—pancake made up of various lentils.

This year the festival was celebrated on 19 June 2018. In addition to community members cleaning water sources, some schools also organized educational cleaning programs in the water sprouts. Sithi Nakha has been a valuable reminder of the importance of water and environment, the need to take care of the planet for now and the future.