The word “Mata” means ‘Light’ and “ya” means Festival but also means to ‘a sacred journey’.
The preparation for Mataya begins on the first day of Gunla (a holy month for Newar Buddhists). After midnight on this day, hundreds of people with ‘Nava Bajan’ (Traditional Newari musical ensemble) gather and follow the exact path that they are to follow on the day of Mataya. They don’t finish the whole route on a single go, but they have the ritual to gather every night for a few nights and mark the shrines and courtyard with vermilion, husked rice as they pass. This event is called ‘Bogiwonegu’.
On the grand day of Mataya Festival, thousands of devotees play traditional instruments while taking part in a parade during the festival of light to pray for the departed soul of their loved one.
Devotees pray to all the Buddhist shrines in the city, offering rice grains, flowers, and lighting candles. Men and women walk in a line of thousands between these musician groups and do puja at the votive shrines (chaityas) carrying lighted candles and torches.
It is believed that King Gunakamadeva,(the grandson of King Balarchana Deva was the first king who instituted the tradition of Mataya Festival together with Sringabheri Jatra.
This is the festival commemorating the victory of Gautam Buddha over the Maras.
According to Lalitavistara Sutra (The book that tells the story of Gautama Buddha), When Gautam Buddha was performing austere practice to become Buddha, The Maras disguised themselves as demons and damsels in order to disturb his meditation. Lord Buddha vanquishes the Mara in the full moon day in the month of Shrawan. Second day Maras worshipped him out of respect and devotion. Since the light of wisdom dawns on him and he reaches the enlightenment.
The day of Mataya is known as the day when Gautam Buddha overcame his temptations or afflictions and attained Buddhahood.
We can observe, how Newari community has conceived their own form of Buddhism in the integration of Hinduism and Buddhism and involved the Kumari – Living Goddess of Nepal in the Buddhist Festival together.
Edited By Jeevan Thapa