Sagan (ceremony)

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Sukunda oil lamp made of silver
Serving rice wine during Sagan, note egg and smoked fish in left hand

Sagan (Devanagari: सगं) is a Nepalese ceremony which involves ritualized presentation of auspicious food to a person to invoke good fortune and show respect. It is a highly revered ceremony in Newar society of the Kathmandu Valley. The food items served are boiled egg, smoked fish, meat, lentil cake and rice wine which represent Tantric concepts.[1]

The Sagan is presented during life-cycle events like birthdays, weddings and old-age rites. It is also presented at the Mha Puja ceremony on New Year's Day of Nepal Era. Travellers are given the Sagan before departing on a long journey and upon return from a trip. People who have achieved a special feat or survived a life-threatening accident receive it. The ceremony is also held to honor somebody. The Sagan ritual is performed by both Hindu and Buddhist Newars.

Ceremony[edit]

As per the general practice, the person receiving the Sagan sits cross-legged on the floor, and a Sukunda oil lamp is placed on a large leaf in front and to the right. The eldest woman in the house brings a tray containing flowers, rice and red paste and worships Lord Ganesh, the god of good fortune, on the Sukunda. She then puts a dab of red paste on the forehead of the honoree and others in the room. The participants also take a dab of yogurt from a bowl and put it on the temple.

The main ritual is performed next. The lady of the house presents a boiled egg and smoked fish which the participants accept with both hands. A woman helper follows pouring rice wine from a jar into little bowls. After everyone has been served, she walks down the line again pouring wine three times into each bowl. She serves wine a third time after which the participants can set down the bowls.

The procedure and materials may vary as per family tradition and geography. Laddu (sweet balls) or Lāgwah (meat balls) may be presented in place of boiled eggs. Seating may be arranged on the floor or on chairs.

Significance[edit]

The Sagan ceremony and the materials used are based on Tantric tradition. The five food items presented as Sagan represent the five Tantric concepts -- light (symbolized by wine), earth (meat), water (fish), air (lentil cake) and sky (egg). Beings are warm which is provided by light, and when a being dies, the body becomes the earth. Similarly, the body contains water, breath and empty space which are the sea, air and sky.[2][3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Vaidya, Tulasī Rāma; Mānandhara, Triratna; Joshi, Shankar Lal (1993). Social History of Nepal. Anmol Publications. p. 161. ISBN 9788170417996. 
  2. ^ Juju, Baldev; Shrestha, Surendra Man (1985). Nepa ya Tantric Dyah wa Tantric Puja [Nepal's Tantric Deity and Tantric Worship] (in Nepal Bhasa). Kathmandu: Baldev Juju and Surendra Man Shrestha. p. 19. 
  3. ^ Löwdin, Per (1985). Food ritual and society among the Newars. Uppsala University. p. 109. ISBN 9789150605938.