Mundhum means the power of great strength and the Kirat people take it to be a true, holy and a powerful scripture. The Mundhum is divided into two parts. The first is called the Thungsap Mundhum and the second is called the Peysap Mundhum. The Thungsap Mundhum is the original one and came from the very words of mouth till the art of writing was introduced and was referred to as the oral Mundhum in books. It was an epic recited in songs by the learned Sambas or poets. The Kirat priests in the beginning were called the Sambas where,
Sam means song and,
Ba means the one who (male) knows the Song or Sam.
The Peysap Mundhum is a written book about religion. It is divided into four parts. They are the Soksok Mundhum, Yehang Mundhum, Sapji Mundhum and Sap Mundhum. The Soksok Mundhum contains the stories of creation of the universe, the beginning of mankind, the cause and effect of the sins, the creation of evil spirits, such as the evil spirits of Envy, Jealousy and Anger and the cause and effect of death in childhood.The Yehang Mundhum contains the story of the first leader of mankind who made laws for the sake of improvement of human beings from the stage of animal life to the enlightened life and ways to control them by giving philosophy on spiritualism. In this book, the leader has made rules for marriage, arbitration, purification and religion. The story of destruction of human beings by deluge and the cause of existence of many languages among the Kirat people, the social customs of seasonal worship to the worship of God, the rules of purification on child birth and death are mentioned in the Lepmuhang Mundhum.
As the Kirat people in the beginning were rationalistic idolaters, they neither had temples, altars nor images, conceiving that none of these was necessary, but that the God resided in light and fire. Hence, they worshipped spirits whom they believe to be the residents of fire and the sun. So according to Sapji Mundhum, the spirits are of two classes: the Good Spirit and the Bad Spirit.
The Good Spirit
Both the classes of spirit are powerful and invisible, yet they believe that the first class or Good spirit is the creator of the second class or Bad spirit. The first class spirit is the Good spirit, which is believed to be the Supreme and the most powerful spirit of knowledge and wisdom and whom the Mundhum addresses by the name of Ningwaphuma. It means the mine of knowledge and wisdom. When the spirit comes down to earth to help mankind, people regard him as their grand mother and call her Yuma Sammang. Now the God Ningwaphuma loved human beings so much that he sent other good spirits to help them in their daily work. He sent Heem Sammang, a good spirit to look after the prosperity of the house of mankind; Thoklung Sammang to look after the health of mankind; Nehangma Sammang to give good energy and ambition to mankind; Theba Sammang to guide mankind at the time of war; Pung Sammang to look after the good production of the field; Khambhuling Sammang to guide the first class priest who does not kill and offer blood at the time worship and Okwanama Sammang to guide the second class priest who sacrifices birds and animals for the recovery of the sick person. Every time the priest or priestess recites Mundhum, the word,
Sammang means the spirit of God.
The Bad Spirit
But Tambhung Sammang being the head of evil spirits causes a lot of trouble to mankind through the other subordinate evil spirits. All sorts of diseases are the results of the mischief of the evil spirits. They always dwell in bad and dirty places and trouble mankind. The spirits both good and bad are actually invisible, yet the Kirat people personify them and treat them as if they are living beings and try their best to pacify them by prayers and sacrificial offerings. The Kirat priests never use medicine for the treatment of sick people unless they are directed by the Good spirit God in their dreams for its use. If the evil spirit does not get satisfaction from the humble prayers and sacrifices, the priests burn chillies rags and other dirty things in order to drive them away from their presence.
When a priest prepares an altar with a view to destroy such evil spirits, then no member of the house where such performance takes place, should work in the field for eight days. Neither should any member of the family go on journey within that period. The priest prepares a place of such function in a secular place and never allows anybody to go there. If anybody happens to go there by mistake, he is punished with double the amount spent in the performance of the function. If they do not do so, they believe that a worst type of epidemic will occur in the village. As the priest recites the Mundhum,he attracts such evil spirits in the place prepared for their welcome as gods and when they assemble, the priests uses such power over them that all of them are destroyed then and there only.
According to the Mundhum, the Kirat people believe that a sinful person never goes to heaven after death where their forefathers have already gone and where they enjoy happiness. The Mundhum describes that the place where the human soul has to go after death is very bright with thousands of sun's rays and the place is very blissful and it is the place where only the God can stay. So, if a pious man dies, his soul is considered to be worthy of the life of heaven and worthy of enjoying a supernatural life as the other gods there.
But a sinful soul is not allowed in heaven. The sinful work of a man causes him to meet his unnatural death through various ways of suicide such as falling from the tree trunk or into a lake to meeting death by flood or landslide or by being stabbed or at child birth if she be a woman or by accident or murder. When they meet their such accidental deaths, their ghosts also live in the same spot and become mischievous evil ghosts and trouble the living person. Yet, the Kirat priests who know the spiritualism can control them. The evil ghost of a man is called,
Sogha and that of a woman is called,
Sugut in Kirat language. The evil spirit which entangles mankind to evil work is called,
Epley and the other evil spirit which makess a man fail in fulfilling his promise is called,
Songdo. The evil spirit of envy, jealousy and anger is called,
The Inspiring Spirit
Besides the Mundhum of Good and Evil spirits, the Kirat people believe in oracles. They believe in the inspiration of God's spirit in human body. When a person is inspired by the good spirit of God, he or she will be senseless for a while and when the sense returns, he or she will begin to speak oracles. He or she prophecies the good or bad results of a sickness or of projects of any man or woman who consults him/her. He or she recites all the Mundhums of the past days in his/her oracles. These oracles encourage people to do good work for the benefit of the others. They give good advice to people who believe it and direct them how to proceed to good path. They instruct people to use medicine for the recovery of sicknesses. They do not advise blood sacrifice; on the contrary, they instruct them to be pure in spirit, body and in their work. When the God's spirit goes away from his or her body, he or she will fall asleep for a while, but cannot remember what they had said before. This culture can be compared with the Delphi oracles of the Greeks or Yavans in ancient Greece, where the priestess after chewing the sacred bay and drinking water from the sacred spring took her seat on the tripod and uttered oracles
The Tantric Feat in Kirat Mundhum
There is also another kind of Mundhum called the Phungwa Changma and Phungwa Lemma. In such Mundhum, an expert priestess sings or recites the whole story of the creation of flower, its uses and compares such inanimate objects to human life in such a way that she particularizes the mentality of a certain man to that of the stage of that particular flower. She then diverts the stage of that flower from freshness to a withered condition. While she is doing this act of diverting, the particular man who is compared to that particular flower becomes slack and loses consciousness. Then finally when the priestess refreshes the flower, the man comes back to his senses and becomes fresh again. The priestess, who knows such occultism, can also practise such magic to command a tree to drop down its leaves on the ground and again to put them back on the tree. This culture of animism of the Kirat people seems to have started a very long time back. Jack Finegan of Princeton University mentions in his book of the Archeology of World Religion that during the pre-Aryan period, the Indus Valley Civilization appeared to have much animism in the religion. All these points prove that the Kirat people had enjoyed the Indus Valley Civilization to some extent.
The Spirit of Envy and Jealousy
The Mundhum mentions that when the mankind was in the stage of animal life and there was no sense of family relation, at that time, a brother and a sister became consorts. When her husband died, she became the wife of her own son. The son also died. So, the ghosts of both the husbands became the evil spirits of Envy, Anger and Jealousy and is called,
Origin of term
After the partition of Kirat Land of Limbuwan into ten districts, the representatives of each Leaders of Shan Mokwan people(the ten districts) assembled in a meeting at their holy place Ambe pojoma, discussed and decided to name their nationality. Accordingly, they resolved and changed the Name of Shan Mokwan into Yakha-Thumba or Limbu. The Ten Leaders or Chiefs became Ten Limbus and the word Yakhathumba was retained as the new name for the race. Thus, the Ten Limbus became the administrators of the entire Yakhathumba race. They further resolved to convert all the old Kirat people into this new race of Yakhathumbas. Thus, the old Kirat people adopted this new name and became Yakhathumbas. Later on, when the Ten Limbus lost their power of administration, all the Yakhathumbas began to call themselves Limbus.
The Limbu's Administrative Policy
- That, no chief is liable to take any initiative in the matter of external affairs of the federal government without the consultation of the Ten Limbus.
- In order to make the country stronger by strengthening manpower, the Ten Limbus decided to convert any caste or creed of their subject into the Limbu race and to treat them equally as their own brothers. This rule of conversion is called the
- When the Ten Limbus conquer any land either in Tibet or in India, all the war prisoners of such conquered land should be deported to Limbuwan and should be converted into the Limbu race according to the Limbu rule of Chokphung Thim.
- The land, thus vacated by deportation should be occupied by the children of the Ten Limbus.
- If a member of a Limbu family commits an offense which separates from the rest of his family, then he should be accepted again in his family by performing a function of purification of Samyok Lung Thim.
- The children of a Limbu either from a Tibetan woman or an Indian woman should be reckoned as the legal issue and should be allowed to inherit his father's property, provided the children of such connection be recognized by a body of meeting represented by members of the Ten Limbus.
- The sons of a Limbu family when reach the age of 12 years must learn the art of archery.
- Every house of a Limbu must give one of his sons to serve the State as a soldier when he reaches the age of 18. His name should be enlisted as Thoksuba.
- When the number of Thoksubas in a village reaches 300, it must have a Thokpeba or a leader to command the Thoksubas.
- There should be one Thoktumba to command over five Thokpebas. They should always be ready for any kind of emergency.
- A Thoktumba is liable to get a big plot of land from the king for the maintenance of all the military officers and soldiers.
- The Thoktumba should keep a piece of land for his requirement and distribute the rest to his junior officers and soldiers.
- The Thoktumba is empowered to keep or remove any officer or soldier from such military service.
- One tenth part of the income of a land should be paid to the king as land revenue.
- A Hang-Chumlung or King Council should be composed of the Hang, the Tumyang, the Thoktumba and two elderly men known as Pasing and Padang to represent the layman.
- A murderer should be given a death penalty.
- A thief's hand should be dipped into boiling water.
- A mischievous person should be asked to confess his fault before the place of worship.
- A man who breaks his blood relation should be enslaved and sold.
- A man who breaks his mother's relation should be expelled from the village and kept in a cave.
- Yuma Sammang being the main God of the Ten Limbus should be worshipped twice a year- first in the month of November and secondly in the month of April.
- Ya-wama or the season of sowing seed should be worshipped in the month of March. Chasok Mangkhoma or the season of harvest should be worshipped in the month of September.
- When a woman becomes pregnant, God should be worshipped for the safeguard of the child of the womb. It is called the Sappok-Chomen.
- Once a year, the headman of a family must fix a day for the worship of God for His blessings for the good health and the prosperity of his family members. It is called the Manggenna.
- Once in three years, the headman of a family must observe a day for the worship of God especially for his health. It is called the Nehangma.
House Building Ceremony
When the site of a house is being dug, no matter, whether it be a big or small building, its centre portion should be dug, a deep hole should be made and a very big, strong and high wooden pillar should be fixed there. This main pillar of the house should be called,
Hang Sitlang (Mul Khamba). Before the plantation of this main pillar, the top, the middle and the bottom of it should be bound with a cotton thread and some grains of rice should be sprinkled over them. When the hole digging function is completed, a copper piece should be dropped into the hole. After that, the main post of the house should be fixed straight upwards. A pig should be killed and its blood should be sprinkled at the bottom of the post as an offering to the deity Okwanama. The priest should then address the deity Okwanama, the supporter of the earth and pray to him to protect the members who would reside in the new house for the protection of kind of disease and troubles. After the completion of the function of the main post erecting ceremony, the workers should be fed with meat and drinks.
Though the house building may be of various dimensions, it should be of a storied building and there should be a big hall room at the centre on the ground floor where religious rites should be performed. A storied building is called, "Jong Heem" in Limbu language, a small and temporary hut is called,
Yaksha and an ordinary house is called,
Heem. After the completion of the construction of the house, a special puja ceremony should be performed. It is called the, "Heem-gey" ceremony. The family concerned should enter the new house and invite all the relatives and friends to attend the Heem-gey ceremony. They should assemble with contributions of coins or rice or Thi or wine. The owner of the house receives such contribution by the name of Pong-yang73 and keeps the record. The priest then invokes God for his blessings and for the safeguard and good prosperity of the inmates.
After the feast, the guests drink and rejoice by singing and dancing throughout the whole night. In the evening the priest should perform a puja at the bottom of the main post of the new house. He should pray to the, "Heem Sammang", the spirit God who is in charge of the house property for the safeguard of all the members of the family who will live there. After the completion of the puja, the dancers should enter the room through the main door with their drums and dance round the main post of the house building three times. They should then come out and dance on the house yard throughout the whole night. Early in the morning, the drum dancers should dance round the new house three times and after that they should be dispersed. After giving some amount of fees, the priest should be bidden farewell.
Yehang, the first religious leader of mankind made the following rules for birth and death of the Limu's:-
The fourth day for the male child and third day for the female child should be observed as the day of purification of the woman who bears a child. The child's naming ceremony should be performed on the same day.
- Four days for the man and three days for the woman should be observed as the number of days of condolence when they die. During this period, the living relatives of the deceased person should not take salt, oil, chilli, onion and ginger. On the fourth day or the third day, they should be purified by the voice of all the members who had joined the funeral ceremony and should allow the living members of the deceased person to resume normal life as usual.
- The members of the house of deceased person should not rejoice or join any kind of festival or function for one complete year. After the completion of one full year, they should invite all their relatives and friends in a meeting and request them to purify and allow them to move and work like themselves.
- When a male member of a family dies, his corpse should be washed and wrapped with a white shroud and put into a wooden coffin,
Khongand should be covered with,
Khukin such a way that the face of the corpse can be seen from outside. The head of the corpse should be exposed and be sheltered with a kind of cap or hat or umbrella,
- The coffin should then be buried within a stone box under a four feet deep pit. All the mourning members who attend the burial ceremony should offer a last handful of earth to show their last respect to the dead person and the following should be chanted,
God had made your body out of the earth and ashes and today your body is mixing with the earth again.After covering the pit with earth and stones, the grave should be piled up with four steps of stones for the man and three steps for the woman. A stone pillar should be erected in the middle of the grave. If the man is of high regard, his stone monument should be raised to eight or nine steps high in his honour.
- The priest should explain the assembly, the name and the address of the deceased person and the cause or disease and the treatment of the sickness and the failure of recovering from it. He should request the people that it was due to the will of God Ningwaphuma that such and such person had died. He was no more among them. His death has made every member of his family very sad and impure. They had been forbidden from talking, working, mixing with other people and taking salt, oil, ginger and chili or any kind of spices. They were in great trouble and request the gentlemen present to kindly purify them from that day onwards so that they would be free to move or talk or work or eat or drink as usual.
The Priest should address and ask the assembly:
Listen yea gentlemen! I hear that such and such person of your village is dead and gone from among you. Is this true or not ?
The Assembly should answer:
Yes, yes! He is dead and gone from among us. We know about his illness and we tried our best to cure him. But, it was by the will of God Ningwaphuma, his period of life is completed and therefore, he is dead and gone from among us. He has been separated from us forever.
Has he been put into the lap of his forefathers in heaven or not?
Yes, yes! He has been accepted into the lap of his forefathers in heaven.
Has he not faced any kind of obstacles on his way to heaven by the evil spirits of hogs and fowls?
No, no! He has not faced any obstacles of the evil spirits of hogs and fowls on his way to heaven. He was the son of God, the son of the Sun, and the son of Moon. So he directly went to heaven where God and his forefathers live.
Then he is dead and gone and is no more among us. When he has been accepted by his forefathers in heaven; then will you purify his living relatives and set them free from the bondage of impurity?
Yes, yes! We will purify them! We will make them free from the bondage of impurity! From today onwards, his living relatives are all pure. They are no more in the bondage of impurity. From today, they are free to talk, work, to eat everything as usual. They are free to mix around with all. Their friends and relatives give them best wishes. Let God Ningwaphuma save them from any sort of distress and calamities in future!
(Turning towards the impure members)
From today onwards, you are free from all kinds of impurities. All the gentlemen who have assembled here today made you free and pure as they are. You can now take salt, oil, ginger, chilli as usual. You are free to talk, move and work as usual. The practice of greeting which had been closed for many days and will be resumed from today.
(He will then ask them to bow down before all the gentlemen present for the function.)
The purified persons will bow down before the priest and all the people of the assembly. They will then serve meals to all the people present and thus the living relatives of the deceased person will be purified. They however, are prohibited from attending celebrations like singing or dancing or rejoicing in any function for one full year.
Yehang, the first religious leader of mankind made the following rules for marriage and divorce
- The matrimonial connection between father - daughter, mother - son, brother - sister should be prohibited.
- There should not be any marriage between a step-brother and a step-sister.
- The system of marrying cousins should also be stopped.
- No one should break the blood relation from the father's side.
- The blood relation from mother's side should be opened after the fourth generation only. He who violates the above rules will be killed by thunderbolt.
- Young girls of a different blood should be bought for wives and their marriage should be solemnized through their priest and his witness would legalize the girl's status as a legal wife of a legal husband.
- The children born of an illegal wife or illegal husband will be illegal and they cannot have any rights to parental property. They will be under the disposal of their maternal uncle.
- When a woman delivers a male child, she should be purified on the fourth day and the child should be named on the same day.
- She should be purified on the third day if she bears a female child and the naming ceremony of the female child should be done on the same day.
- A girl should always be bought for the sake of marriage of a Limbu. A marriage ceremony shouldbe done in two ways. First, by making a payment of the girl's price before the marriage which should not exceed Rs.55/-. Secondly, by making payment of the girl's price after the marriage which should not exceed Rs.44/-.
- A legal marriage should always be recognized by the Headman of the village on payment of Rs.2/- as a marriage tax. It should be called the Pharsut Yang.
- The recognition of a marriage should always be given evidence by the second Headman of the village for which a tax of Rs.1/- should be paid. It should be called the Singchem Yang.
- A sum of Rs.2/- should always be paid to the girl's father for the separation of his daughter's family title from him to that of his daughter's husband's family title. It should be called the Semui Yang.
- A marriage, violating the above rules would be announced as illegal and the children from such illegal marriages would be called Khosa or Bastard. They will have no right to inherit their father's property.
- They can be legalised by following the rule of Samyok Lung thim of the Ten Limbus.
Rules of Divorce
- A divorce from the husband's side is called,
Khemjongand a divorce from wife's side is called,
- When a man divorces his wife by his own will and if he has not paid the price of his wife in full, the man will have no power to take his children with him.
Rules for Status of Children between Wife and Husband
- The children born after the divorce will be called khosa. The maternal uncle will be their guardian and they will be under his disposal. It is called the rule of,
- But if the man does not want his wife and yet wants his children, then he can do so by legalizing the children under the rule of Samyok Lung Thim of the Ten Limbus.
- The divorced wife will be treated as an unmarried girl and will be allowed to marry again.
- But if the man has paid the full amount of his wife's price and yet divorces her, then he will have no claim for the refund of his wife's price from his father-in-law. He can take away his children with him.
- If a divorced wife is married again and first man wants to refund his wife's price from the new husband of the divorced wife, he can do so according to the Tengo-Henchhing Thim rule of the Ten Limbus.
Rules for Unchaste Woman
- When a man's wife lives with her parents and goes away with another man other than her own married husband, then the parents of that woman hold responsible for her.
- But, if a woman quits her husband's house and goes away with other husband, then in such case the husband himself will be responsible for her.
- If a wife divorces her husband, she should refund her price to her husband in front of the court. Then she will be declared an unmarried girl and will be allowed to marry again.
If a person desired to be a member of Kirat race by giving up his old relatives and expressed his sincere desire of being so, then he should choose a faithful man of a certain caste of the Kirat race. He should then talk to that particular man and express his view of wanting to be a member of his own blood and request him to accept him as one of the members of his family. Having heard the sincere desire of that man, if that particular man of the Kirat race wishes to accept him as his own brother of the same blood, then he should inform the same news to all the Ten Limbus, who would send their representatives to their assembly. The assembly would be held in the house of that particular man who makes every arrangement for the meeting. An arrangement of a feast in honour of the conversion of such person should also be made. The tribal priest should attend the function. When all the representatives from ten different districts have assembled, the man who has come from different class but now would want to be a Kirati, having washed and worn a new costume should sit by the side of his would be father or brother with folded hands, just in front of the assembly.
The Priest addresses the assembly and says in a loud voice
Listen yea gentlemen! In the olden days our forefathers had blessed us saying, you children will be increased and multiplied more than the stars of the sky and more than the sand of the sea. They will grow and prosper like,
samyok grass which remains green throughout the whole year in every part of the earth. If a member of your children disappears, let ten more members grow in number. If anyone of your members is separated from the rest, let him be allowed to rejoin his group. If any member of any other nationality or race or tribe or family or cast or creed desires to join your family, let him be accepted among your children as members of the same fold. Because, it is better to gain than to lose; it is better to be more than few in number; it is better to increase children than to decrease.
Therefore, today also, in accordance with the old system of the adoption of nationality of the Ten Limbus, this man of such and such name of such and such nationality or race or tribe or caste or family of such and such country or district or village is requesting you, that, he is going to make such and such person of such and such name and nationality or race or tribe or caste or family of such and such country or district or village? Will you accept this new member in your community?
The Assembly (replies in a loud voice)
Yes! yes! We will agree to this decision. We will accept this new man in our community and treat him as one of us. We all follow the customs and rules adopted by our forefathers.
Therefore, from today onwards, this new man of such and such name and nationality or race or tribe or caste or family of such and such country or district or village, though a stranger to us, has become a member of the family of such and such man of such and such caste or tribe or race of Limbu nationality of such and such country or district or village. Now, this man has become a member of the Limbu community of such and such clan of Kirat nationality of such and such village of such and such district of the Limbuwan State of the Kirat country. Henceforth, this new man will not be counted as stranger. He should be called a relative of such and such man of Limbu caste of the great Kirat nation of such and such village of such and such district of Kirat land. We have accepted him in our Limbu community.
The Priest: (addressing to the newly converted person)
If it is so, then you, though belonged to such and such caste or tribe or race or nationality of such and such village or district or country have been accepted in Limbu community of such and such clan of such and such family of such and such village or district or country by the gentlemen present here today.
Therefore, from today, you have become a member of the Limbu community and a relative of such and such person. You have become his blood brother. You should not think ill of your blood brother. You no longer belong to your old caste or race or tribe.
The Priest then orders him to bow down before all the members of the assembly. The newly adopted brother also bows down to his new father or brother and his families. Depending on the age factor, he bows before the people who are elder to him. The assembly then keeps the record of the decision of such conversion under the signature of the gentlemen present as witnesses. They resolved and fixed a certain amount of fine to those who talk ill against such converted person.
When the members of the representatives of the Ten Limbus or Ten Districts Assembles, the priest should recite the Mundhum saying that in the beginning, the Kirat family used to be called the Devas or the Enlightened family. When they were living in a place called Muna Temple, they multiplied and increased to such a great number that their leader ordered them that their number should be put into census. He further ordered them that; every member of their family should bring forth a stone for the counting of their numbers and out of the deposition of the stones they brought, and a memorial tower would be built. Accordingly, the task of census was completed and in commemoration of the census, they built a high tower. But the heap of stones was so big that the construction of that tower reached a height so high in the sky that its top could not be seen from the ground, neither could the bottom of the tower could be seen from its top. But the construction work went on.
But all of a sudden their language got confused. Nobody understood the language of each other. They got annoyed and began to quarrel with one another. The tower fell and most of them perished under the debris of the falling tower. The survivors also could not live in peace. They went on fighting. So one of the leaders, Papa Hang by name separated his group from the rest and brought them towards the east. His group reached the Himalayan terai in six months. After the death of Papo Hang, Nam dyu and Nam di Hang became the leaders. These two leaders called a meeting of their people and said,
You belong to the Deva family, but on account of the quarrel between brothers, you had to be separated from them and you have come to such a far away country. Now, you should not fight any longer. You should unite together and go on increasing number of your family like countless numbers of sand and pebbles or the numerous stars of the sky. You should prosper and grow like samyok grass which grows everywhere on earth. If any member of your family appears to be lost, let ten more members be increased. If anyone of you have to be separated from your fold for the cause of some bad conduct or ill behavior among yourselves, let him be given a chance for repentance, confession and your acceptance in your fold again. You should receive them by making the culprits touch Samyok grass and stone three times and confess their misdeeds before the assembly because it is better to have a larger number than a smaller and union is better than separation. If any one of you, therefore, is found doing mischief in the villages, he should be punished according to the law by keeping him aloof from his family fold for many days. If he repents and confesses his fault before the assembly then a meeting should be held. A long stone should be erected; the man's name should be inscribed on it; a handful of green samyok grass should be kept at the top of the erected stone along with a coin worth one rupee. At the bottom of the erected stone, a sum of rupees thirty as a fine for his misdeeds should be kept. The culprit should be made to stand by the side of the stone and the samyok grass in front of the assembly.
The Priest (addressing the gentlemen present):
Listen yea gentlemen! This man of such and such name, son of such and such person, a resident of such and such village, has committed such and such crime in this village and therefore, he has been kept under custody for so many days. Now, he wants to repent and confess his fault before you gentlemen, in front of this stone and samyok grass erected in his name. He has deposited thirty rupees as a general fine for his mischief. Will you then pardon him? (In a loud voice)
The Assembly (In a loud voice):
Yes! Yes!! We will pardon him if he repents for his misdeeds and confesses his fault before us. If he takes an oath before the erected stone and the samyok grass, saying that he will never commit such a crime again, we will, certainly accept him in our circle again.
The Culprit then touches the erected stone and the samyok grass three times and turning towards the assembly, confesses his fault and begs a pardon promising that he will never commit such offense again.
Now, gentlemen! This man of such and such name, son of such and such person, a resident of such and such village has repented for his misdeeds, confessed his fault before you by touching the erected stone and the samyok grass three times. Now, has he been pardoned by you?
The Assembly (in one voice):
Yes! Yes! We have seen him touching the stone and samyok grass, repenting, confessing and requesting a pardon for his fault, so we are pleased to pardon him. He has been pardoned now; he is free to do work and eat and drink with us as usual. As we have pardoned him, in front of the gods and goddesses today, he has been pardoned by them as well.
The Priest asks the man to bow down before all the gentlemen present. First of all, he bows down before the priest and then to all the members of the assembly. A written record of all these functions is kept by the headman of the village. After that, the man serves the meal to all the people after the completion of the feast, the function is over. The fine of rupees thirty is divided among the members of the assembly and the priest.
- After the clearing of a forest, one day should be observed as the day of worship to God for His blessing. No one should work in the new field. Any person violating this rule will suffer a heavy loss when he goes to work in the fields.
- The Kirat system of the counting year begins from the month of February, so the first roar of Thunder in that month should be regarded as the sign of the beginning of rainy season, No cultivator, therefore, should work for four days in the field. They should sacrifice birds and animals to God and pray to Him for His blessings for the timely rain and sun for the good production or harvest in their fields.
- When the first storm blows, no cultivator should work in the field for four days. They should fast and pray to God for the good protection of their lives and crops from the bad storms.
- The first rainfall in the year should also be observed for four days. No cultivator should work in the field. They should fast and pray to God for His good guidance in giving rain according to their needs of the cultivation.
- A special day of worship should be observed for the hailstorm; because the accumulation of the hailstorm makes the field very damp and if a cultivator works in such a condition his crops will not be fruitful. All the cultivators should pray to God for the protection of their crops from the damages of hailstorm.
- The first fog which covers the ground should also be observed for one day. No cultivator should work on that day.
- The first thunderbolt should also be observed; a failure to do so will result in great damages. God should be prayed for His protection from the harmful thunderbolt.
- When a man buys a slave or a horse, he should not work in the fields on that day. If he does not observe it, then either his slave's or his horse's leg will be broken.
- The day of marriage should be observed. No one should work in the field on that day. They should join the marriage party and bless the new couple for their long lives and good prosperity in their new house.
- When there is a birth of a child, one day should be observed for fastings and prayers should be offered to God for his safety. No one should work in the fields on that day.
- When a domestic animal bears a calf or kid or pig, one day should be observed and no work should be done in the fields.
Thus, with these rules and regulations, the descendents of the Ten Limbus ruled their districts for many years. Their trade connections with India were at Rungpur and Dinajpur of North Bengal and those with Tibet were at Sigarchi and Pharijong. Their exports included Chirayta, Majito, Musk hide and Medicine herbs. Likewise, they imported salt, coral beads, kerosene oil, glass ornaments and woolen clothes.Thebasam Legend and worshiping
Ku-wang-ti was a very famous king among the Nembang tribes of Limbuwan. When he died, his soul was deified by the name of Theba-Sam. His ancestors had originated from China. When their descendents migrated to Tibet, they did not stay there, but came further south and settled in a village called Doromba of Yangwarok district of Limbuwan. Their children multiplied into many numbers and were divided into ten different families. They were Sardappe, Yangsoba, Phejongba, Namlakpa, Yangdemba, Mapeyjong, Phyak, Makkhim, Loringden and Picchowa.Later on, they made their permanent settlement in the district of Panchthar in the Limbuwan. The names of villages settled by them are Phejong, Lungruppa, Yambung, Sardap, Pauwa, Hellang, Phaktep, Arubote and Hangsari. One of the famous children of Ku-wang-ti was called Pathong Hang who in turn had two famous sons named Chukmiba and Latiba. Both of them were great devotees of the Goddess Yumasam and by the merciful grace of Yumasam they had acquired flocks of sheep and herds of cattle. In those days, the number of people was less and the forests were dense. The wild beasts gave a lot of trouble to these two brothers by attacking the flocks of sheep and the herds of cattle.
Both of them were badly harassed and so they prayed to Yumasam for Her blessings of the powerful spirit, Muksam. Then they laid traps and snares for the wild beasts. But they were marvelously dumbfounded when they saw their traps and snares had been disbanded and destroyed. They again tried their best to lay traps and snares in different places in a better and stronger way, yet they failed in catching a single prey. They got very annoyed and went to see the cause of such failure. In one of the snares, they found an old man entangled. They both angrily inquired him who he was. He very calmly answered them that he was their ancestor. As they had totally forgotten to regard their ancestors, he appeared there to instruct them how to regard him. He told them that he had been a great hero in his time and he told them that he had not disappeared. He had become powerful and he could do anything and fight very bravely through those men who regarded, worshipped him and asked help from him. He had to be worshipped first in the forest, then in the house yard and on the third day he had to be worshipped inside the house.
His alter had to be decorated with a sword, a shield, a lance, bows and arrows accompanied by red colored flags. The man who worshipped him had to put on the warrior cap and amour or Yasapippu and Tagaba. He had to hold a lance and act like a true warrior and worship him as their war deity and he would certainly help him. After the completion of the puja ceremony people had to be fed on the fourth day in honour of his visit to his worshippers. Both Chuk-miba and Latiba were very much pleased to hear and receive such instructions and decided to carry the old man back home. They untied him from the snare and carried him home. When they reached the hill top of Khamhetla, a mountain peak in Panchthar district of Limbuwan, the old man vanished. The two brothers were astonished and went home feeling satisfied that they would certainly be guided by the heroic spirit of their ancestor Ku-wang-ti. They took a bath, fasted for three days and three nights, went into the forest to worship the spirit of their ancestor, came back and worshipped him in their house yard by making an altar as suggested. On the third day, they worshipped their ancestor's spirit inside their house and fed people in his honour on the fourth day.
The news of this new gust of inspiration of such spirit of the war deity or Thebasam in the body of Chukmiba and Latiba spread far and wide. The local Lapcha chief of Ilam district asked for their help to fight against his enemy. They helped him and won the battle for him who in respect of their friendly help gave his two daughters Tong Kung Ramit and Rummit Nurrap's hands in marriage to Chukmiba and Latiba. This cult of ancestor worship or Thebasam worship is still in practice in Limbuwan. In Limbu
Theba means Grand Father and
Sam means Spirit.
During the Thebasam puja performance, an altar should be decorated with a sword and a shield, bows and arrows, guns and spears accompanied by red-colored flags. A small red cloth has to be spread on the middle of altar. A big bull buffalo has to be bound in front of the altar. The priest has to be dressed in a Kirat warrior cap and amour or Yasa-pippu and Tagaba. He has to hold a long spear in his hand and stand before the altar. He then has to burn incense, sprinkle some grains and flowers. He has to sanctify the altar by sprinkling holy water called Chungnawa by means of a hyssop or chungna. He then has to start chanting Mundhum of his ancestor Kuwang-ti and has to praise his brave deeds of the past days. He has to offer prayers to the dead spirit of his ancestor and sing songs of praise and call him to be present to receive the blood sacrifice which would be offered in his presence. When the priest feels that his body is shivering, he will suppose that the spirit of Thebasam has come. He, therefore, has to dart the standing bull buffalo with such a force that it will suddenly fall down and die. He will let all the blood flow before the altar as a blood offering. Then he prays for his guidance in times of need and ends the puja function. All the invitees will be fed after the completion of the puja performance.
These days, the Tong-sum Tong-nam festival is called the Tri-sala Puja in the Nepali language. This puja is generally held during the month of April. This puja festival is performed in memory of the successful campaign of the powerful Kirat king Uba Hang, who under the guidance of the powerful spirit Yuma-sam had conquered all the countries lying between southern Tibet and the Mithila provice of north India in the middle of 9th century AD. King Uba Hang had instructed his people to observe this day as the day of the Tong-sum Tong-nam festival.
During this festival, all the Ten Limbu chiefs and their followers assemble in Yashok Jong at Kummayok and offer thanks by offering an oblation to their guiding spirit Yuma-sam who is addressed by her other name of Yshokeni Maharani. As this powerful spirit is regarded as, people do not offer blood sacrifices. They burn incense, offer fruits and flowers and pray for Her guidance forever. If anybody wishes to offer a blood sacrifice, they will never be allowed to kill any bird or animal within an area of about two miles of that place of worship. However, they will be allowed to go to another place of worship called Kusayok, situated at a distance of about two miles south from Kummayok to offer blood sacrifice. Those people who do not wish to kill and offer blood sacrifice will fly pigeons in the air in honour of the day of the triumph of the Kirat King Uba Hang.
After the completion of the puja ceremony, the Ten Limbus or their representatives hold a meeting for discussion and decision- making. They propose ideas for the development of their country. They recite the Uba Hang Mundhum and sing praise of his heroism of the past days. The people then enjoy a grand feast and dance through the whole night. Sometimes, the young men come forward in the field and display a duel fight by using their khukuris and sticks. They do not kill each other, though sometime they cut each other's limbs accidentally. They take this duel in a sporting manner and the village headmen or Shubhas, will compromise the case amicably.Cultural Dance
The Kirat Drum Dance
The Limbu dances are always group dances. There are two classes of dances among the Kirat people. The first class of dance is called Ke-Lang. It is generally practiced at religious functions and marriage ceremonies. The second class of dance is called the Ya-Rakma. This kind of dance is done for the purpose of threshing corn. In this dance, musical instruments are not required. But at religious functions, the dance is always accompanied by musical instruments. Some of which are the Ke or wooden drum, Perigey or the kettle-drum, Ta or cymbal, Muphro or Mephrama or flute, Kom or harp, Sanai or trumpet, Siripongey or small bell and Yak-tail
Ke-Lang is known by three names. It is called Thok-tham-gey or Heem-gey at the time of performing a housewarming puja ceremony. At the time of worshipping gods, it is called Dung-Dung-gey. Again at the time of a marriage ceremony it is called the Lam-gey and Mekkam-gey.
The Invention of Ke-drum
The Kirat Mundhum gives a description on how the Ke-drum was invented. Once, when a traveler was passing through a dense forest, he had to spend the night in that forest under the bottom of a hollow tree.When he woke in the morning, the sun had risen up high in the sky. Suddenly, his attention was disturbed by a peculiar sound. He got up and looked in search of the sound. Then, he saw a swarm of bees humming inside the hollow space of the tree under which he was sleeping. A new idea struck him all of a sudden. He thought that if a piece of log of a hollow tree is cut and its bark is thinned and if both ends are closed with goat skin, it might certainly produce some kind of sound when struck by hand or a small stick.
With this idea, he went home and tried his best to make a wooden drum out of a hollow tree. After trying for several times, he was successful. He realized that the beating of the drum produced two kinds of sounds. The sound which came out from its right side was shrill and sharp and the sound from the left side had a flat note. Thus, he invented a wooden drum for his people. As he was the first man to handle the wooden drum, he was called Ke-demba by his people. Later on, his descendants remembered the name of their ancestor as the inventor of the Ke-drum. So in memory of his name, they kept their family title as Ke-demba Limbu. Since Ke means a wooden drum and temma means to hold, Kedemba means the holder of wooden drum.
In the beginning, when people saw pigeons, turkeys and peacocks dancing, they imitated them and started dancing likewise. Thus, Ke-Lang dance is classified into various dances like the Cock dance, Turkey dance, Pigeon dance, Peacock dance, Dove dance, Sparrow dance, Quail dance, Snake dance, Butterfly dance, Fish dance, Porcupine dance, Deer dance, Monkey dance, Spindle dance, Bison dance and Elephant dance. During marriage ceremonies, the women folk join the men folk in the dance. Besides dancing, the men also beat the drums. The women stand one by one after each man and follow their movements of their hands and feet. They shake their hands and feet together turning right and left according to the sound of the Ke-drum and the small bells. The instruments played while dancing are the cymbals and Yak-tails. The Kirat people do not sing at the time of dancing Ke-drum, but give a shrill slogan of rejoice.
After the solemnization of the marriage ceremony in the hall of a Limbu house, the drum-beaters enter the hall yelling and dancing step-by-step. They dance round the main post of the hall room leading the bride, bride-groom, maids in waiting and the best-man for three rounds of dancing. This process of the of the beating of the drum and the special dancing is called,
Mekamgey. After the completion of the three rounds of dancing, they stop and sit silently round the particular main post of the hall. After that, one elderly man comes forward, sprinkles flowers before them as a offering of gratitude and expresses his gratitude on behalf of the head member of that house for their taking trouble in obliging to his invitation at his son's marriage ceremony, for blessing the new couple for their prosperous future and for pleasing God as well as all the men present through their entertaining dance. He then keeps a copper coin before them, as a sign of promise for their remuneration and requests them to continue dancing the whole night and to bless the house. After that, they stand up again and go out dancing, beating the drums and giving slogans of marriage cry in one voice. This continues all through the night in the house yard. They change their rhythms of the dance according to the beating of the drums.
Meanwhile, the singing party composed of the elderly men sit round the main post along with bride and bride-groom and their friends. They sing the Mundhum's chapters that talk about the creation of flowers and mankind and compare their lives with those of the flowers and bless the new couple for a prosperous and happy life.Early in the morning at day break, the dancing party dances round the house for three more times and stop dancing. The owner of the house offers them some refreshments with Rs.5/- or five half rupees and bid them farewell. They depart from there, beating their drum in a different fashion now which they call the,
The Kirat Paddy Dance (Dhan Naach)
The Agricultural dance is called the Ya-Rakma or Paddy dance or Dhannach in the Nepali language. Ya means paddy and rakma means to trample. So Ya-Rakma means to trample paddy with a view to separate the grains or paddy from its ears.
Introduction of Paddy Dance
In the early times, people cultivated land and sowed crops and when the crops became ready for harvest, they cut them down into bundles and trampled the ears of the crops or threshed the hay and dried the paddy plants with their arms and brought the corn home. When they knew that one man was needed for threshing one bundle of crops, they experimented in threshing ten bundles of crops by ten men at the same time. When they were successful in threshing corn in a better and a quicker way, at that time, an old man Shorokpa proposed them to work in the field in a dancing manner. He first of all introduced the system of planting paddy in a dry field. He arranged a dozen young boys to stand in a line at one corner of a prepared flat field holding cross sticks making opposite angles of about 20 degrees in their hands. He then asked a dozen young girls to stand behind the boys with a bag of corn seed to be dropped into the holes made by the young boys. Now, when the old man started singing and marching before them, the whole line of boys and girls marched after him singing, making holes and dropping seeds into the holes according to the rhythm of the song. In such manner, the young boys and girls were also encouraged to work in the fields.
When the paddy became ready for harvest, the old man instructed them to cut and dry the paddy in the sun for some days. He then, instructed them to hold their hands side by side and tread over the hay three times and raise their left feet together. He again instructed them to trample the hay three times and raise their right feet together. Thus, they turned back and forth together for four or five times and threshed the entire bundle of paddy with their feet. Later on, the same system of threshing paddy with their feet became the famous Paddy-dance or Ya-rakma. After the death of that old man, people named this Paddy-dance the,
(Ku)Shorokpa-dance. As the Ke-Lang, the Paddy-dance differs from district to district. There are all together ten districts in Limbuwan, so there are at least ten different kinds of Paddy-Dance. The famous dances are known by the name of Panchtharey, Tamrangey, Siridhakpey, Phedappey, Chhotharey, Chaobisey, Athabrey, Lapchey and Tambarkholey.
This agricultural dance is practised in the winter season when the paddy becomes ready for harvest. A small round flat land in some part of the paddy field is chosen, the sods are removed, washed, plastered with cow-dung and made smooth and clear. Then paddy with its hay will be heaped in one corner of the prepared floor. After some days when it is time for threshing, the owner of the paddy field invites men and women to work and dance. During the day time, they thresh the bundles of paddy with their arms and deposit the hay with the remaining paddy in one corner of the floor. At night when the dancers assemble, the workers spread some amount of hay in the middle of the floor and allow them to dance over the hay. They dance in a circle holding one another's hand. The workers will keep on changing the old hay for the new one as the dance continues.
Rules for Paddy dance
- The brothers and sisters of the same parents and cousins are not allowed to hold one another's hands and dance together. It is taken as a sin to touch each other's hand or feet among the members of the own relatives.
- The female members of a different family of a separate blood relation are allowed to hold the hands of the male members of a different family of a separate blood relation and dance together.
- No one is allowed to touch the tip of the toes at the time of dancing. If someone does so by mistake, both the dancers must stop dancing and come out and beg a pardon by bowing down with folded hands.
- The line of dancers should not consist of only boys or only girls. The line as a rule should consist of a boy and a girl alternatively. They must hold their hands.
- There should always be a leader in the dance group who starts dancing from the right side and goes on to make a circle.
- At every movement of 13 steps from the right to the left (5 steps to the right side and 5 steps to the left side and again 3 steps at the same spot) the whole line should turn back from the right hand side and dance like before. One of the ways of dancing (in five steps) is as follows:
- The boys and girls should make a circle by holding their hands with the dancers on both their sides.
- They should march together with right foot first towards the right side in five steps.
- The left foot which follows the right step should be raised in a straight line towards their front side in five steps.
- Now the marching starts from the left foot in five steps towards the left side.
- In the next step which follows the left, one should raise the foot in a curved line towards the back side, after the five steps to the left.
- Now, at the same spot the marching should be done in two steps and the whole circle should turn their bodies from the right side to the back raising their feet on the third and the fourth steps in the air in a straight line towards the front and dance as before. The timing of steps in dancing is given by the sound ha-ha, chhai-ya-ha, du-ri-ha, etc. The leader of the dancing party starts to sing it when he knows the step-dance has progressed.
- The leader should take the lead in singing the song. The rest of the dancers repeat the same in one tune. The dancers should dance according to the rhythm of the song.
- There should be no musical instruments at the time of such a group dance. The song sung is generally about love affairs.
- The workers in the middle of the dancing ground should be active with their long bamboo sticks and should remove the threshed hay and supply fresh hay before the dancers.
Thus, the Limbu dance serves two purposes: one, for threshing the corn and the other for pleasure. They dance throughout the night. The owner of the field gives them refreshments at the interval. When the threshing of corn is completed, the dancers will be disbursed. Generally young boys and girls take part in such dances.
Source: The books of Iman Singh Chemjong