Monday, May 20, 2019 11:08 [IST]
Last Update: Monday, May 20, 2019 11:04 [IST]
Embracing the season of Baisakh, the Kiratvanshi Sunuwar (Mukhia) Koincbhu celebrated their grand festival 'Shyadar -Pidar ' with wholehearted reverence and exuberance on the day of Baisakh Purnima on 18th May, 2019 at Niz Rameng, South Sikkim. It is a known fact that festivals celebrated by the community are quite often revolving around themes of nature; and more importantly dedicated towards the exhibition of their rich culture and heritage. These expressions of cultural pride of the Kiratvanshi Sunuwar Koinch have been very important for the community due to the fact that they are a minority in the State of Sikkim. And therefore, to preserve their culture through different means has been a task that is carried forward with great enthusiasm.
I've always been fascinated by the various cultural practices of my community, primarily due to its symbolic use of ideas, beliefs, values and knowledge that present themselves through metaphorical symbols and narratives alike. The Kiratvanshi Sunuwar (Mukhia) are nature worshipers and the traditional religion of this community is called Kirat-Dharma (Kirat Religion), while the religious philosophy is called Mundhum / Kirat Mundhum. Their rituals are concomitant to the worship of five elements of Mother Nature, in addition to their ancestors, which in turn point towards their appropriation of practices that are animistic and shamanistic in nature. They have their own shamans and priests known as Puimbo (male shaman), Ngiami (female shaman) and Naso (priest).The position of Naso is always hereditary contrary to that of Puimbo or Ngiami. A Naso must choose his successor from among his male offspring.He can only operate within the Sunuwar community whereas a Puimbo or a Ngiami can act as an intercessor between evil spirits and people belonging to different ethnic groups or castes. The shamans and priest conduct every custom, ritual, festivals etc. Therefore, they play an integral role within the community.
Shamanic sources of power come from honouring Mother earth and the spirits of the place where the Shaman performs his ceremonies. The shamans must call on the guardian spirits and deities who inspire him i.e. the keepers of the earth, trees, river, medicinal plants, snow clad mountains etc. The sacred hidden languages of the land is experienced and perceived in the form of rhythms, vibrations of warm and cool sensations in the physical body etc. They can cure sickness and sometimes referred to as 'Jhakris' or 'faith healers'. Such individuals receive their power primarily through successful encounters with supernatural forces of the past.
The festival of 'Shyadar -Pidar' is celebrated to express our gratitude to our deity 'Shyadar' who is also called 'Chandeshwari Devi', to express our gratitude and seek her blessings for crop harvest, strength and wellbeing of humanity. It is also called 'Ubauli' Puja which is performed by the priest 'Naso' who offer 'prayers, incense (Sukpa-dhoop), akshata,fruits, flowers and totala' (Oroxylum indicum), which is an important flower of Sunuwar koinch ritual. The worshiping of the deity is accompanied by the beating of drums (Guindewa), cymbals (Gulma) followed by the traditional Sunuwari dances and songs showcasing their vibrant traditional attires similar to that of a rainbow.Additionally, the dances and songs performed imitate the movements of animals and birds.
The occasion was graced by Hari Gurung (Zilla Panchayat) as the Chief Guest and Special guests included Dolma Tamang (Panchayat President) and dignitaries of various communities. The overwhelming presence of the community members and Sunuwar (Mukhia) Koinch from Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Siliguri brightened the occasion. The event was attended by many guests especially considering that the Government of Sikkim has declared 'Shyadar-Pidar ' a state holiday.
Hailing from the Sunuwar (Mukhia) Koinchbu community gives me a sense of immense pride to see our members of the association working together to revive our vibrant culture. I believe that culture will not exist without people and the reverse of this being true as well. Living in the world that is heading towards a 'global village' furthered through the process of globalization, it is inevitable that there would be an erosion of individual and collective identity. However, given this reality we are confronted with it and is important that we as individuals and as a community strive our best to preserve our rich culture with great zeal and vigour.