The project focuses mostly on the shamanic ritual practices of the Limbu in Nepal and Sikkim, and on the Satyahangma (Phalgunanda) tradition, mostly in Nepal.
Limbu shamanic rituals in Sikkim and Nepal
- The first step of this work comprises documentation of rituals through field research in Sikkim and Nepal.
- We also study ritual content with local shamans:
- We then analyse the rituals themselves. Spatial imagination in Limbu shamanic rituals is revealed in large part while connecting with the ancestor, which is a part of almost all Limbu rituals. This ‘geographical’ dimension of the ritual also makes it a suitable occasion for discourses of ‘bordering’ and ‘de-bordering’ the community at the local, national, and transnational scales. Rituals not only represent the Limbu territory and the border, but are also occasions for the transformation of its meaning.
The Satyahangma ritual practices
In Nepal the reformist Satyahangma (Deity of Truth) movement, initiated by a Limbu spiritual leader from Ilam, Phalgunanda Lingden (1885-1949), propagates a revised version of the mundhum ritual practice. In particular this implies the rejection of blood sacrifice and meat-eating as well as of the consumption of alcoholic beverages, which play an important part in traditional Limbu ritual. Partly inspired by the Josmani Sant tradition, Phalgunanda introduced the building of temples (manghim) in Limbuwan and new forms of ritual, such as the fire offering. The typical pyramidal structure of the temples’ “icon” is now found throughout the Limbu region.
The major festival to commemorate Phalgunanda in Nepal is celebrated on his birthday, the Janma Jayanti on 25 Kartik. Since he has officially been recognized as one of 17 “National Luminaries” (rāshtriya vibhūti) by the Nepali state this event is also of great political importance.