History of Newar People from the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal, says that, Woman is never widowed, can divorce man by placing Areca (Betel) Nut under his pillow.
Newar or Newah (/nɪˈwɑːr/) are community of primarily Indo-Aryan and Tibeto-Burman ethnicities following Hinduism and Buddhism with Nepal Bhasa as their common language.
Their rich history dates back to more than 5000 years and are mentioned in Chronology of Nepal Kings.
Genealogy of nepal kings is recorded in a chronicle called Gopalarajavamsavali.
During the region of 7th Kirati King Jitedasti, Gautama Buddha visited the Nepal Valley along with his disciples (19th century BCE).
This community had a unique tradition of getting girls married twice before she choses a man to live with.
After growing up, she can pick any man to live with and if she decides to leave him (there is no official divorce), she places Areca (Betel) nut under his pillow before he wakes up and leaves his place.
Man, when he wakes up, discovers the nut and understands that she left him for good.
He has no rights to follow her or question her decision. If they had children, woman can leave them with the man for him to raise them.
Woman had freedom to find another man of her choice and live with him.
This tradition existed for thousands of years, but now has changed.
For the first time, girls of pre-adolescent age are married to the bael fruit (wood apple), which is a symbol of the god Vishnu, ensuring that the girl becomes and remains fertile. It is believed that if the girl’s husband dies later in her life, she is not considered a widow because she is married to Vishnu, and so already has a husband that is believed to be still alive.
This is known as Ihi or Ehee or Bel Bibaha (Bael Marriage).
In this Ihee, girl is married to a golden statue of lord Vishnu known as Suvarna Kumar and Bel fruit is given as its witness.
As bael fruit (wood apple) has a peculiar quality of not getting rotten and remaining fresh for many days, it is sometimes considered as Dibya Purush (divine male) or incarnation of the god.
This ceremony lasts for two days. All the rituals of a Hindu marriage are performed in this ceremony.
As they are done here, these ceremonies are not necessary when the girl choses to marry a man after growing up.
A second marriage, known as the Bahra ceremony or Sun marriage, is done before a girl’s first menstruation, which starts with a seclusion in a dark room for twelve days.
It is called Bahra tayegu or bahra chuyegu, where in Nepal Bhasa bahra means a ‘cave‘ and teyegu or chuyegu mean ‘to put‘, thus Bahra tayegu is the ceremony where newari girls are put in a cave for 12 days. For the first 11 days the girl is kept in darkens away from sun light and any male contact. This is done to symbolize the purification of the girl before her marriage to the sun god on the 12th day.
Final day is marked with a bhwe (a traditional party) and celebrations.
This ceremony is conducted before the first menstruation and usually done at age of either 5, 7, 9, 11, and 13 years.
Bahra ceremony marks the turning of girl to a fertile woman. In newar community the girls are married thrice; first to the never decaying bael fruit, second to the eternal sun and finally to a man. Thus even in a case of untimely death of her husband the woman is never widowed preventing her from the tortures of the society.
The tradition of woman divorcing a man by leaving a betel nut under his pillow might have changed, but the concept that a Newar woman never becomes widow, still exists.
Brahma Vivaah and Gandharva Vivaah were followed by Newar people.
Compared to the regressive society of today, where only Man can divorce a woman in few communities, Newars were much more progressive and their women enjoyed equal or better status than their men.