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Festivals in Nara

Nara celebrates festivals since thousand years ago. Several of these are dignified court dances, though some of the water and fire rituals are more lively affairs. The Shuni-e or Omizutori ceremony made in Nara Todai-ji is the ceremony of water and fire, the tradition says that spring arrives to Nara, with the end of this waited festival. Shuni-e ceremony starts from March 1st to 14th (it's in February in the lunar calendar). This ceremony has been practiced every year for more than 1200 years at the Todaiji temple, Nara.

Ceremony of Fire
Nara Festival - Ceremony of Fire
This is known as o-taimatsu, in this ceremony, ten priests bring ten big torches to Nigatsu-do hall balcony to see the first watch of the night. Visit the Nigatsudo hall among 6pm-7pm to observe this ceremony. But on the day 12th, 11 priests bring 11 torches to the balcony instead of 10 priests. This ritual is known as dattan, and the priests, with huge torches in their hands, pass through the balcony.

They represent Hashiri No Gyoho (ritual of circumambulation), singing, as they stir bars and swords to reject evil spirits. Their enormous shadows can be seen on the wall behind a veil. When priests are announced, they run, waving their torches. You will see oscillating-light downpours and the very hot torches's sparks. It's known that the sparks have a magic power against the evil, thus people try to catch them. You shouldn't escape therefrom because you will obtain good luck. They believe that if a boy wears a dattan hat, where it was used for the Dattan ritual, this boy will grow up healthy and he will have a happy future. They believe that if a boy or a little girl wears a dattan hat, where it was used for the Dattan ritual, this kid will grow up healthy and he will have a happy future. On March 15th, several women come early in the morning to require the priests to place their dattan hats on their children's heads.

Ceremony of Water
Nara Festival - Ceremony of Water
The 0-mizu-tori (the water drawing ceremony) is the most popular ritual of shuni-e. It is practiced around of the two o'clock in the morning of the 13th of March. This ceremony consists in: priests directed by torchlight, scoop up perfumed water from the Wakasa Well situated below Nigatsudo. It is known that this water can be a solution for the aging process. Once a year, this water is drawn from the well to be given to the people and presented to the eleven-faced Kannon-image at Nigatsudo hall. The sacred water is poured into two pots. One pot contains water from the previous year. The other one is filled with water from the past rituals from 1,200 years!

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