Thursday, July 19, 2012

Traditional Beliefs of Culture and Gods

From the rich tradition to the high cultural values, Nepal holds cure to the every ailment within its profound way of beliefs and prayers. For instance if you have a toothache, you can nail a coin on the large wooden head at Bangemuda get relief from your toothache. If you have pimples then visit the serpent god near the General Post Office and get relieved. If it's an earache the visit the Ear Healing God at Kupondole and your prayers will be heard. It’s shocking but its true and it’s not just beliefs but still today it is practised in most of the Newar community people.

With high values of art, craft, and folklore, the Newars are known for their cultural achievements. They are responsible for much of the physical and spiritual beauty that envelopes the Valley. According to the traditional values, from the Gods and goddesses to the ghosts and evil spirits, and the movements of the planets everything works within the lives making it possible to predict and see future.

It is also believed that when physical ailment strikes, the wrath of divinities, the influence of evil spirits, or astrological influences are thought to be the cause.

Looking at the healing methods, the Newars of the valley practiced both preventive and curative methods. Preventive practices include revering deities, satisfying evil spirits before problems begin, and worshipping ancestral gods in order to restore astrological balance. For example, once a year, usually around the time of their birthdays, Newars take their Jata to an astrologer. The Jata is a birth chart. If it is written in the stars that a misfortune might befall the person, the astrologer prescribes offerings the person should make to deities in order to avert the misfortune. Once an illness strikes a cure must be found. Herbal medicines and satisfying the appropriate deities, ghosts, or evil spirits are advised to the patient. There at least four major types of faith healing.

In Divine healing the tantric priest treats the patient by driving the evil spirits from the body where the Divine spirit is transferred to holy water or rice through mantras, (holy words). The priest then blows on the water or rice at intervals of several seconds and then feeds the water or rice to the patient. He also uses a groom or peacock feathers, to brush away the pain. The process continues till the time the patient recovers. The healer may also advise propitiation to certain deities, ghosts, or spirits. He does not charge a fee but accepts voluntary remuneration.

In case of skin diseases such as rashes or pimples on the body, the healer reasons it to be caused by the spiritual bite of a nag, or serpent god. There are three different serpent gods that cause different kinds of problems.
If the Jal Nag is the cause, the patient has an artist draw four lions on the body, enclosing the pimples. The pimples are cured after the painting, perhaps as a result of the natural dyes used in the paint. If there is a burning sensation or pain it is thought to be caused by the Mi Nag strikes. Mi means fire. The Mi Nag is propitiated at a well, water spout, pond, or other water site. The Ghori Nag, which causes pimples that itch, is also revered at a water site.
The practitioners of Muni, or saint, healing are known as Baidyas and Kabirajs, they use herbal medicine. After observing physical symptoms and performing simple pathological examinations, herbal or ayurvedic medicines are prescribed. On the second day of the Tihar festival those who practice this form of medicine worship Dhanawantari, one of the incarnations of Vishnu and guru to the practitioners.

Another most popular ailment is the Ghost healing. When people are possessed by evil spirits and experience physical or mental suffering as a result then the priest are called to drain the spirit out. The symptoms are obvious where the priest prescribes offerings to the ghost or evil spirit in getting it out of the body. Evil spirits have often been blamed for causing appendicitis and encephalitis leading to sudden death.

The people are so use to the tradition that they have developed special methods for treatment of specific problems, and in some cases the sufferer need not perform the actual worship. There have even been cases in which people living abroad have called a friend or family member in Kathmandu to nail a coin on the god.

Just like that the social trend of parents teaching their young once tradition and culture has been phenomenal, which grooms and conditions the beliefs and habits.  For example if a child hasn't begun to speak by the age of two, they take him to Kamal Binayak in Bhaktapur and pray for the child's healthy development. A chronically sick child will be taken to Harati Ajima at Swayambhu where the mother goddess is propitiated to help the child recover. Sitala Ajima, another form of the goddess, is worshipped when children have smallpox. These mother goddesses exist in almost all major Newar settlements in the Valley.
Similarly, a patient who suffers blood loss is asked to worship Kumari (the living goddess) for his healing process. Rato Machhendranath in Chobar is visited when the patient has to undergo an operation. Patients worship Seto Machhendranath at Janabahal in Kathmandu by lighting 108 wick lamps; this is thought to ensure a healthy life. When an illness has lasted a long time they worship Bijeswari, Mahankal, or Sankata.
When nausea strikes, it's caused by an evil spirit. A family member takes a handful of rice, touches it on the forehead of the sick person three times, pulls a hair from the head and a thread from the clothes of the sick person, and then takes the rice outside and throws it in all directions. The patient then washes his hands, feet, and mouth before speaking with anyone. If he does not do this, his nausea will be transferred to the first person he talks to.
The use of a medium is another important method of healing. Mediums are possessed by a deity. Most are women. All are revered as deities while they are possessed. A bird sacrifice may be made to some mediums. Those who claim healing powers or the ability to foretell events charge their clients.
After washing in the morning the medium prepares herself to conduct rituals. They take up their position, call the divine spirit, and begin work. Clients ask questions. The medium answers the questions and prescribes the course of action necessary to solve their problems. Some mediums may be possessed by a variety of divinities. Others have a divine throne on which they sit at the time of possession. Other family members may support the medium by chanting hymns to the deity, playing religious music, or collecting devotees' offerings.

The popularity of the Modern medical have threatened the traditional healing practices but still people visit and  use traditional herbal medicines as part of their daily lives. The belief of the people has been predominating the practise process where nailing a coin at the toothache god is far less expensive than visiting a dentist.  May be the rich traditional values of the people is limited but it cannot be justified to the level of competing against the modern medicine.  The values of the people have been prolonging in the static way where people are comfortable in justifying it within their lifestyle and certainly it highlight the saying  it is the belief that cures not the medicine.

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