Where: Nepal, Timal People: Tamang Religion: Mainly Buddhism mixed with Hinduism, Animism and Shamanism Ritual: Funeral Ritual
In Tibetan Buddhism, one believes in death and rebirth as in Hinduism. The Tamang people originally came to Nepal from Tibet and settled in different places in the mountains surrounding Kathmandu.
The religion of the Tamang people is a mix of old Spritualism, Hindusim, Buddhism and Animism. When a person is dead, the dead body is placed in lotus position to give the spirit peace. It is easy, when the body is still warm, but a bit more difficult after rigor mortis has occurred.
The Lamas (Buddhist priests) make sure that the spirit does not escape. During the ceremony the Lamas chant and read from the Tibetan Book of Death, while family members are watching and from time to time pray with the Lamas. Candles and the deceased’s favourite food is served for the spirit and helps keeping it in place during the rituals.
As in Hinduism, the body is cremated. The fire cleans and absorb the body, setting the spirit free to travel on. In the morning, following the night of cremation, the family roams the ashes and for a small piece of the deceased’s skull. This piece is important in the following ritual, the Ghewa.
The first ritual and the cremation ensure that the spirit of the dead is well-received for a stay in bardo (a state between death and rebirth). The second ritual, the Ghewa, is a big party that ensures the spirit of the dead a good rebirth. At the same time the connection between the living and the dead is finally interrupted, and the living need not fear the wrath of the dead.
I am very grateful to Ramri and her family for allowing me to participate in the ceremonies and cremation. Additionally, I would like to thank my guide, translator, fixer and friend, Arun Karki, without whom this experience would not have been possible.