SHAMANISM IN NEPAL

The mystic world of Dhamis and Jhankris

By LB THAPA FOR THE ROAMING POST

Dhamis and Jhakris are still active in many parts of Nepal. thinairadventure.com

This is the age of science and technology where computer rules the roost. Science has been making rapid advancement with a number of new inventions like never before. Like many other branches of science, medical science has also made remarkable progress. From cloning to test-tube baby, artificial heart transplantation and many more…everything is possible today. And in the recent years, the success of some complicated surgery heralds the remarkable feat of medical science. All this explains how much progress the medical science has made in recent time.

A group of Jhakris. ambertamangblogspot.com

However, this is also true that at times when medical science finds it unable to treat a particular illness, the faith healers have done the impossible. The way they treat a patient may be unconventional and unscientific, but it works. Yes…it is the world of Dhamis and Jhankris who use mantras and treat the patients. This is a traditional healing practice that is handed down from one generation to other since the time immemorial. What these faith healers simply say is that one should have faith in the practice. The mantras, say the faith healers, work more effectively when the patients receive with complete acceptance. It might not work for the skeptics. Quite surprisingly, medical science has made so much progress in the field of medicine, but at times it fails to cure an illness, despite of all kinds of right medication. As a last resort, many patients visit Dhamis or Jhankris, with a ray of hope of getting rid of the illness they have been suffering of.

The other day I was in my village Lamjung, Jita vdc-5, where live a very popular shaman. His name is Dhan Bahadur Dura, but people fondly call him Dura Jhankri. I have heard a lot about him. It was popular about him that he was taken away by a Ban Jhankri, at the age of 14. Ban Jhankri did release him after five years when he was well versed in the Jhankri vidhya (knowledge). Ever since then he began treating people of various illness.

A Jhankri begins its rituals. youtube.com

I wanted to meet him because this was the only purpose of my visit to the village. When I reached at his home, there were already many people waiting for their turn to come. An old lady told me that I was too late to get Dura Jhankri’s services. She called me the next day, early in the morning. But I told her that I wanted to take his interview, not any treatment. “If it is so then come at night, after 8pm” she said tersely and walked away.

Meanwhile, I saw a gentleman with a lady, must be his wife, waiting for their turn. They must have been from a well to do family. I began talking with them. I was surprised to hear about the story the man told me. It was about her wife’s illness and subsequent recovery.

Til Prasad Bhattarai (name changed on request), was a manger in one of the reputed banks in Pokhara. Until two years back, he had a very happy family of three. Then all of a sudden his wife Sabitri Bhattarai (name changed) plunged into depression. He took his wife to the best hospital in Pokhara for the treatment. The treatment continued for about six months, but without much success. Then one day she made an attempt to commit suicide by hanging herself to death. Luckily one of the neighbors saw her before it was too late. This incident tore her husband apart. For his utter dismay, he took his wife to Kathmandu, hoping to get a better treatment for his wife. In Kathmandu, she was taking all the medicine prescribed by the doctors, but no avail. Then someone advised him to visit Lamjung to get his wife treated by Dura Jhankri. Literarily, he was advised to get his wife treated by a Dahmi, which he was always against of such superstition. His first reaction was a big NO, but he had no better option in hand, so that he decided to give a try. He brought his wife to Dura Jhankri for the rigorous treatment. Miracle! In less than a week treatment, Mrs. Bhattarai was on the course of improvement. And in the less than one month, there was conspicuous improvement on her health.

“It was almost one and half years I did not see my wife smiling, let alone laughing. Now she smiles, laughs, and also cracks jokes. Before we arrived here, she had consumed tons of pills and capsules, but without any improvement. Truly speaking, I was on the verge of nervous breakdown” said Bhattari with a serious tone. Upon this Mrs. Bhattarai, who looked full of life, smiled at me that I reciprocated with a gentle namaste.

The same night I met Dura Jhankri. He was bit high on marijuana, but his face was calm and confident. I knew what he liked the most that would make him talk smoothly. I greeted him with two bottles of whisky. I saw his face turned bright and eyes twinkling. He was happy to know that I wanted to write a story of his experience as a Jhankri.

“Now I’m 65 years old. I have been in this practice for the last five decades or so. Many people like you don’t believe when I say that I was picked up by a Ban Jhankri, at the age of fourteen. I spent about five years inside a cave where Ban Jhankri taught me Jhankri vidhya (knowledge). He is my only Guru, my god. After about five years, when I had completed the Jhankri vidhya, he dropped me at the same place from where he had picked me some five years back. His parting words were ‘never work for money’. Act to survive by serving the needy people. I’m just trying to do what my Guru had advised me. Sometimes, when I failed to control an adamant spirit, I take my Guru’s help. I have not maintained a record but I have successfully treated many people. They come to me when they got fed up of visiting doctors. However, more and more poor people visit me simply because they can’t afford a doctor’s exorbitant fees. Some illnesses are physical. In such cases, I advised them to visit a doctor” said Dura Jhankri.

Meanwhile, Dura Jhankri showed me an album. “Look at this photo. This German lady was here almost five years ago. She had burning feelings along her respiratory track. She received the best possible medical treatment in Germany, but nothing worked for her. Doctors said she was allergic to some foods. She ate no foods she was allergic, but still no relief. I treated her for about one month, and she was perfectly alright. She asked me my fees, I said her to just construct a temple with a rest room so that wandering sadhus could spend a night or two before leaving for another destinations” said Dura Jhankri, and showed me the temple she had constructed.

The reality is that Dhamis and Jhankris do exist even today, and they can cure the people from their chronic illness. The science of Jhankri vidhya is therefore a subject of thorough study. However, there are many self-proclaimed Dhamis and Jhankris around us, who, in the name of Jhankri, do more harm the patients than good. Their only intention is to make quick bucks by cheating gullible people. Dhamis or Jhankris of this category could be dangerous, because they don’t know how to handle the craft. As a result, many patients lose money, health, time, and sometimes even lives. Several times we have read news that how a fake Dhami killed a patient in an attempt of driving away a spirit.

Dura Jhankri told me about a similar incident where a fake Dhami had beaten up a lady to death. He beat up the lady with a bunch of nettle. When the spirit did not leave her body, he turned violent and started beating her with a hot flat spoon. The lady, already exhausted, could not stand against such a merciless beating…finally collapsed. The Dhami continued beating the corpse until the first ray of sunlight. Only early in the morning he realized the lady was no more…he ran away. But he was caught by the local people who tied him up until police arrived and arrested him.

There are about a dozen books available in the market. And most of them are written by the westerners. It is quite interesting to note that the art and science of Dhamis and Jhankris has attracted more westerners than Nepalese scholars. These foreign scholars did show remarkable degree of patience and strength of mind to learn the secret art. Among many of such scholars one is Dr. Larry G Peters. Dr. Peters spent several years with a number of Dhamis and Jhankris and learnt the art with patience. He is a world renowned psychotherapist who studied Tibetan shamanism for years. He spent a great deal of time conducting ethnographic fieldwork with shamans in Nepal, China, Mongolia, and Siberia. Dr. Peters, at present, conducts workshops on Tibetan shamanism in cities across the US, and brings several groups to Nepal each year. He is a professor of Anthropology and psychology at the California Graduate Institute in Los Angles. He has written quite a few books on the science of Jhankri vidhya, but two of them ‘Spirit of Himalayan Forest Shamans’ and ‘Tamang Shamans’ are the best known books of him. According to him, in the course of time, the tradition of Jhankri vidhya of Nepal traveled as far as American continent, Australia, and Siberia.

In recent time even some westerner scholars have made an attempt to translate Jhankri’s secret mantras into English text. Many scholars, in several parts of the world, are studying such text to understand how an illness is cured by merely pronouncing these words (mantras).

When asked all this with Dura Jhankri, he said: “Yes…mantras can cure an illness. You should believe it because every word has cause and effect on people. If you eulogize a person by using good words, he will be very pleased with you and vice-versa.” I think this is the simplest way possible to describe how mantras work if they are pronounced properly.

Dr. Larry G Peters must be credited to popularize Nepali shamanism abroad. His effort across America has drawn many westerners attention. As a result, today several people visit different parts of Nepal, some for getting relief from their chronicle illness, while others to study the art.

About the Blogger

LB Thapa is a travel blogger from Nepal. He is also an author and journalist. His books have been published by Nirala Publications, New Delhi, India and Himalayan Maphouse, Kathmandu, Nepal. His books are available on www.amazon.com

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