Gorkha Times Exclusive:
Photo feature of a Little Gorkha sister applying Tika on her brother’s fore head during Bhai Tika in Mizoram:-
GT pics by: Ramesh Khati
Posted by Ramesh Khati on October 22, 2009
Gorkha Times Exclusive:
GT pics by: Ramesh Khati
Posted by Ramesh Khati on June 30, 2009
The cult of spirit possession and their customary community priests are still found in the Gorkha society. These community priests, who can posses supernatural powers, are supposed to perform all the customary rites from birth to death. They act as a priest as well as perform the role of medicine person to heal the patients and ward off intruder evil spirits from the body of a possessed person. Whenever necessary these community priests are also able to introduce, voluntarily, the spirits in their body. These community priests can be termed as Shaman as defined in various books and dictionaries. The folklore of the Gorkhas is full of legendary characters like Ban-Jhankri (jungle’s priest), Buriboju (old grandmother), Jungalee(God of jungle/nature), Shikari(hunter or God of jungle/Shiva) and Boksi/Boksa (witches) etc. that are considered teachers and inspirations of these community priests. Buriboju, Jungalee and Shikari are considered friendly souls who do not harm the human beings unless they are disturbed or not given due respects/offerings at the time of performing various rites. Boksi and Boksa are wicked souls who cast bad spells on people especially on children. They assume the shape of black cats and attack at night. Ban-Jhankri is believed to be the first Shaman who was taught the knowledge of mastering the spirits by god himself with a promise to teach and pass the technique to the human beings for their welfare. Since then, Ban-Jhankri has been teaching technique to selected persons. However, it does not mean that Shaman found in the Gorkha society fall under this category or all are disciples of the Ban-Jhankri. Actually there are varieties of Shamans with different powers and uses. Fedengba, Samba, Yema, Yeba, Poinbu, Ngiami, Bonbo, Pajiu, Khepre, Bijuwa, Garau, Mangpa etc. are some of the Shamans who are found in the Gorkha Society.
According to a myth, a Ban-Jhankri lives in a deep forest. He is short like a dwarf with long profuse hair jingling like tiny bells, covering almost his entire body. He likes clean and neat places and also chokho (pure/holy) persons to be his disciples. He selects young boys of any ethnic group who do not have any scratches or cut marks over their body and takes them to his cave house deep in the jungle. There he teaches them all the techniques; he offers them earthworms and the eggs of the ants to eat. After imparting his knowledge, he leaves them unharmed at the same place from where he had earlier lifted them. At the time of parting he presents Dhyangro ( A traditional drum used by Shamans), hairs , etc. to his disciples. While at confinement, Ban-Jhankri keeps the boys hidden from his wife, as it is believed that she devours human beings, if found. Such boys consequently become jhankris who can solemnize ceremonies to ward off evil spirits. However, in some cases the word jhankri is also used as common noun indicating a customary Shaman having supernatural powers.
The Fedenba, Samba, Yema, Yeba are the priests of the Limbus. The first one performs religious rites mostly linked to the various life- cycle ceremonies like birth, marriage and also can invoke tutelary or lineage diety. In such cases, the Fedengbas do not go to trance. Samba is the master of the Mundhum, the oral religious verse of the Limbus. He is the person who can voluntarily posses the soul of the dead, in the last rites, and with the help of Mundhum, makes the safe way to heaven for the dead. Yeba and Yema are the two male and female Shamans who can control the evil spirits. While Fedengba and Samba use a bronze thal (plate) as a drum at the time of performing rites, it is dhyangro(traditional drum used by Shamans) that is used by Yeba and Yema. However, in the most cases all the Shamans can be seen using thal as a drum. Yeba and Yema usually wear white frocks, headgear with feathers stuck to it, rudraksh ( a holy bead), cowrie (conch/shell), ghanti (bells) etc. While other Shamans hardly wear any specific dress unless it is necessary, except a turban like pheta or a traditional dhaka topi (traditional cap), which is necessary for all to wear while performing rites and ceremonies.
Rais use the services of Bijuwa, who wears similar dresses as described above to ward off evil spirit and to take the soul of a dead to heaven or safer place by performing chinta (séance/trance) at the time of last rites. Dewa Nakcho is their priest who invokes lineage deity. Mangpa and Nopa are other customary priests found in Rai community.
The religion that is followed by Gurungs is a blend of animism, Hinduism and Buddhism. Lately they started to follow Buddhism strictly. As such, animism and their traditional priests have little place in their society. Even little animism that is followed by them is also greatly influenced by Bon religion of Tibet. Their priest is known as Pajiu and Khepre or Ghyapring. Nowadays they use the services of Buddhist Lama to perform their rituals and life-cycle ceremonies. Like Gurungs, Tamangs too are Buddhist by religion hence their rituals and other ceremonies are also performed by a Lama. However, it is necessary to include a Bonbo in a ceremonial team along with other dignitaries. Sherpa too follow monastic religion. As such they too use the services of a Shaman, very rarely, in a ritual. Their female Shaman Doloma is not capable of voluntary possession as other Shamans.
Lepcha’s male Shaman is Boomthing and female one is Mun. They perform all the rituals from birth to death: Similarly Sunuwar too have two types of Shamans, one male called Poinbu and other female called Ngiami.
Besides these, there are other practicing Shamans found in all ethnic community. The Most common one is Dhami. Another type is Mata, which is relatively new concept but is spreading fast in the society. There are some basic differences between a Dhami and a Mata. The former is old, and customarily recognized male Shaman while the latter, either male or female, is very new to the society. Dhami performs anywhere anytime but Mata performs only in a specific place and at a specific time. However, the similarity is that the both Shamans can voluntarily possess their tutelary god or guru (teacher) and can ascertain the disease or misfortune befallen on a person. They are also capable to predict the future. Remedies are also available with them.
Even today, the above described Shamans have a very special place in the Gorkha society. Although with the advent of the modern technology and medical science, the concept of these Shamans is gradually vanishing. And some section of so called modern and developed society is branding it as superstitious, without doing any in-depth research. But it is an invaluable segment of the Gorkha traditions, full of unsolved mysteries.
Posted by Ramesh Khati on April 10, 2009
In the Newar community, there is a unique tradition of marrying their girl child to the bel fruit. One must be familiar with the term bel bibaha. The marriage between a virgin Newari girl and bel fruit is held before the girl attains puberty. This ensures that the girl acquires active and healthy reproductive powers.
Here the bel fruit is the bridegroom, representative of the eternal bachelor (Lord Kumar, son of Lord Shiva ). In this marriage ceremony, known as Ihi in Newari, the bel fruit must look rich and ripe and must not be damaged in any kind. If by chance the fruit turns out to be a damaged one, it is believed that the girl or the bride will be destined to
spend the rest of her life with an ugly looking unfaithful husband after her real marriage. However the most significant aspect of the ‘Bel Marriage’ is that once married to Lord Kumar, the woman will remain pure and chaste and even if her husband dies after the marriage she would not be considered a widow, the case in point being that she is already married to the Lord.
Posted by Ramesh Khati on April 8, 2009
Basically there are two kinds of marriage system found in the Gorkhali society- magi-bihe (arranged marriage) and chori-bihe (marriage by elopement).
Magi-bihe i.e. arranged marriage in Gorkhali community unlike in other communities is finalized by the girl’s family when the boy’s family puts forward the proposal of marriage.
Generally, a relative acts as the middleman (lami) in marriage negotiations until the transaction is completed. Mostly village exogamy is observed. The practice of comparing names by an astrologer, to see whether the proposed couple would make a good match, persists but it is done only in a perfunctory manner. Once the astrologer finds that the two people are good match, it is the job of the priests of the boy’s family to discover as auspicious date, based on the Lunar Calendar, and it remains for one to be chosen. Marriage is not done in all months of the year. In Chait (mid March to Mid April) and Katik (Mid October to Mid November) marriage is totally avoided. Once, the groom’s party fixes the date, the bride’s parents are informed on the prescribed date, the groom goes with friends. The number of people invited to take part in the procession varies according to the economic and social status of the groom’s father. The wedding party, the janti, consists of males and scarcely females also. The whole janti party is preceded by a musical band, and is received with great respect and enthusiasm by the bride’s people at her home. They are entertained with a feast before the actual wedding ceremony takes place.
There is one ceremonial rite to be completed preceding the final wedding rite. This is called “Swayamvara” literally meaning “Choosing one’s own husband” and the bride and groom exchange garlands of flower and gold engagement rings.,
The most important part of the entire wedding ceremony is kanyadan, when the parents of the bride make a gift of her to the groom.
Just before the Kanyadan (giving away of daughter) , the bride and groom are seated on a bed, which is provided by the girl’s parents as a gift to the new couple. While sitting there, the bride and groom hang their legs into a copper vessel or a silver vessel. The parents of the girl wash the feet of both bride and groom. Nearest relatives of the girl are expected to wash her feet.
The groom receives his bride as a gift and whatever dowry the parents are giving for the purpose of prestige and love is accepted at this time. The groom also hands over his presents mainly clothing and ornaments, to the bride.
When the Kanyadan and foot washing are completed, the bride is taken into her room dressed up by the clothes brought as present from the groom, and she is beautified with cosmetic and decorated with ornaments and tika which are also brought by the groom.
When she is thus dressed, she is carried outside the house into the courtyard where sacrificial fire is burning and all sorts of offerings of food for sacrifices and other articles for various rituals are in readiness. The bride and groom sit on one side of the quadrangle that is built for them to sit. They spend several hours in the courtyard performing rituals of various descriptions, sometimes going around quadrangle, sometimes worshipping and making offering to various deities like Ganesh, God of Fire, Sky, Earth, Wind and Water.
Another ritual is putting the Vermillion powder on the forehead of the bride’s hair by the groom. Vermillion in a woman’s forehead is a sign of marriage; she is theoretically required to re-apply it daily with powder mixed in with the original powder presented at the wedding for as long as her husband lives.
After completing all the rites, the bride is taken to her new home with dancing musical band. Once a new bride is taken home, she is more under the command of her mother in-law than of her husband.
The bride is taken back to her parent’s house after 16 days along with delicious food. This is known as Sindure sait. After returning from their family, the marriage ceremony comes to an end. But in the first year of marriage, they must go to the bride’s house in the month of Shravan (mid July) to observe a ritual known as “Saone Pani Chhalnu”.
The Newars also observe the Vedic rites and rituals except the bel bibah or ehi bibah within seven to eleven years. After marriage the bel (wood apple) is kept carefully. The bel being broken broken is supposed to be the death of her husband. If the girl dies, the bel is thrown into the river.
Other Kirati groups celebrate marriage according to their own tradition. But it should be noted that in all festivals and ceremonies of the Kirati group the rice beer is compulsory for them.