Sunday, January 22, 2017

New Book : A Compilation of prevailing sacraments and religious rituals in Rung Society

Heritage, traditions, customs and culture -  some of the often used words whenever we talk about our rung society - be it at a formal gathering of rung elders or at an informal one over marjya (or more often than not chyakti), cousins chit-chatting after dinner, or telling your valhan friends, during a long train journey to your college, about the super-cool place you are from. 

From celebrating the birth to mourning over the death, our Rung thum-charu (customs and traditions), which are handed down from our ancestors through practice and word-of-mouth, in absence of a written script, made us what we are today. Even though we use these words so often, it is rare to find people with good understanding of these words in regards to Rung culture, and when we go deeper and dissect into the variations of these customs in our three regions (Chaudas, Byans and Darma valleys) it gets even complex to fathom the depth of our traditions.

For many people like me living far away, who get just few days every year to visit our ancestral place - mostly to attend pooja or weddings, it is even harder to understand the intricacies of these traditions. The lack of resources (books, written articles)also does not help. Some books been published over the years, but never in wide circulation.  When I heard last year that my father-in-law, Mr. Pushkar Singh Selal, working on a book on rung traditions, I was excited to see the final version. So when the book was finally released in late December, I was glad to receive one of the first edition copies.

The book which is named रंग समाज में प्रचलित संस्कार एवं पूजा-पद्धतियों का संकलन (A Compilation of prevailing sacraments and religious rituals in Rung Society) is written in Hindi, to reach out to vast majority of rung people, as Hindi is the primary script Rung people follow in absence of a written script for रं लौ (Rung dialect). The preface by the Mr. Selal and forward by Mr. N. S. Napalchyal aptly emphasize the need of such a book in this era of urbanization and globalization, when rung society is being accustomed to outside influences and some of our valuable traditions which demonstrate our essential character and uniqueness are getting lost.

The book gives insights into Rung customs related with life  like सभा, बिनती, बढानी  and death events like नम स्याङ्गमौ, selected religious practices like स्यंग सै पूजा in Chaudas and Rung festivals like दंग्तो ह्या गबला मेला, कंगडाली . It also points out customs which are already disappearing from our society. While the author has named it - a compilation, I think it is definitely much more than that. The book shows author's knowledge of Rung thum-charu and  the effort taken to collate so much information in an easily understandable language, while keeping it short and crisp.

This book is definitely a big help for people like me to expand our understanding of rung customs, and I am sure even people who have good knowledge, will find it interesting.

I would like to publish a few excerpts from the book (once I get author's permission) so that the content could reach out to some more people who cannot get hold of the book.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Something about the famous rungshya picture

 After 10 years of hiatus, I would like to start again this blog with the book cover of Pahad (the mountain) published in 1989. The book was about society, culture, history and ecosystem of Uttarakhand Himalayas.  However, my main interest lies in the back cover of this book, in the iconic picture of a gorgeous rung woman in her traditional attire and silver jewelry, looking out of the beautiful ornate window of her old house. 
The cover of Pahad 1989. The picture of it was circulating in facebook groups 
The original photo was taken in 1987 during Kangdali festival in village Sosa by Anup Sah. The festival of Kangdali is celebrated once every 12 years in the villages of Chaudas. This photo went on to became one of the most famous portrayals of rung culture. I am yet to see another picture as famous. It was in back cover of Pahad, in a calendar by Koormanchal bank and a painting of it was prominently displayed as an advertisement of tourism department of Kumaon region (KMVN) for years. Even today, after more than 25 years this photo was taken, I see rung women posing the same way to get their best pictures. 

The beautiful woman in this picture is my Mother, Pushpa Hyanki (née Budiyal) who was the first graduate in Sosa when she married my father. She graduated from Allahabad university in 1962 before joining as a lecturer in Pithoragarh. The house in this picture is our old house in Sosa. The house is more than 100 years old. The structure is made with stone and timber, floors and walls plastered with rammed earth and roof is covered with stone slabs. The heavy doors and windows are made of wood and have intricate engravings and symbols.

Trivia Time - Did you notice that there is one another person in this picture? In the left bottom side of the window there are a set of eyes and nose. That is a kid holding his mother's hand and trying to sneak in the picture. That is me :) 

 P.S. This blog was in cold for last 10 years. In last few days I have changed its look, removed unnecessary posts and assigned a URL, but my target is still the same - To learn more about rung society by speaking with knowledgable rung people and write it down to remember.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Sathan in Sosa

The above photo was taken during Kangdali in 1988. It is the picutre of the 'Sathan' in Sosa. The most sacred place in the village. The abode of the God 'Shyangsey'. The highest God in the Rung culture.
I will discuss the rung rituals topic in detail in further posts as i am not well versed about the culture and rituals performed during Sangthang, Pooja, marriages and Sabha.

This blog is really helping in knowing and understanding the rung culture, which was a big enigma for me a few years back. With each post more and more layers are opening and the journey is getting more interesting.

Chaudas:Origin of Rung Culture?

Origin of rung Culture, is still very unclear to me. I believe it's a topic on which many rungs are confused. Why our forefathers made their homes at such beautiful but equally harsh places? From where they moved to these places? Why we are called 'Rungs'? Why our culture has colors of both Rajput and Buddhist cultures? From where we got our language or dialect 'Runglo'?I am not sure if there are any concrete answers for these questions as there is no documented history avaialble. Many folklores are around but nothing concrete or provable. Writers from outside looked at us with fascination but the data is mostly based on their experiences and does not dwell on the real things. Here's a piece which put some light on the origin of rung culture.

Chaudas or Bungba is considered to be the originating place for the Rung Culture. As per the undocumented history when the forefathers were forced to migrate towards the north from their original place of inhabitance, they had first established their permanent residance here in a place called 'Thilthin'. This permanent settlement was latter shifted to 'Bungba' which is now called 'Rung-Thijya'. Here they constructed their permanent houses and started the cultivation. The small village under went constant expansion to it present 'Chaudas' which consists of total of fourteen villages. The word 'Bungba' which is the combination of two words 'Bung' meaning place and 'ba' meaning father that is place of father. The expansion to fourteen 'Bungba' in due course has been termed as "Chepi Bungba" (chepi means fourteen) or "Chepi Sae" that is fourteen lpaces for forefathers or "Fourteen Forefathers" of whom we worship today. The origin of the word 'Chaudas' is also from 'fourteen' 'ashrams'

Credits : Deen Bandhu Singh Gunjyal

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Sosa: Circa 1936 and Now

I got this photo from the net. It was taken by some Englishman in 1936 who went to explore Tibet and border areas. The photo was titled "Women weavers from Sosa".The first thing that strike me when i saw the photo was it's background,it looked extremely familiar as if it has not changed for years.I felt that i've also taken some photos with the same background.

After seaching thru some albums i found one photo which i took during Somilda's marriage in 2003.And the similarity between two photos left me amazed, The backgrounds matched perfectly.
Lot of the things have been changed in the span of two photos. The women in first photo are shown in our traditional dress which these days women wear only during during some marriage or festival like Kangdali. During those times business flourished in the area, which abruptly stpped during 1962 war. I think Rung people suffered most after the war, as the business finished and agricluture was not a major occupation. I admire the people who suffered but paved the way for a healthy future for their generations to come. Today the results are everywhere to be seen. The community has been improved by leap and bounds. Today rungs are successful and now from past 8-10 years they are trying to make whole community succesful through laudable efforts.
Also the adaptability rung people showed in past 50-60 years is awesome. From a community which was out of mainstream, they have today mingled with the world.

Sosa. my village, also changed alot in these years. My mother was the first graduate woman of sosa when she came to sosa after marriage and incidently my FuFu was the second. Now, in every home there's atleast one engineer or doctor, and the future of new generation looks wonderful with the choices available to them.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Sosa : My Village

At 2500 mts. you feel like the king of world, especially when you can see might Kali river 1.5 kms straight down looking like a fading line. When echo of your voice from the mountains spread your identity. When the beautiful view of Pangu and adjoining mountains make you believe that you are in heaven. When cold water of "Dhara" make you shiver even in May-June.When silence of woods and talking of wind reminds you of the most beautiful moments in life.

This is Sosa (or Sauso) for you, the most beautiful place i've ever seen in my life. In childhood i never realized why my father is in love with Sauso and wanted to be there all the time. But now i know the true reason, when you are born and brought up in heaven, will you ever want to come down?
Enough of nostalgia, now here some stats about my village. This was compiled by my cousin Hemraj Hyanki.

Fact: Sosa is the more known name of a village called Sauso in Chaudas valley of Rung-rajoo.

Geography: Sosa is at an altitude of 2440 meters from the sea level. The village can be called the heart of Chaudas valley as it is almost at the centre of thevalley. It is at the radius of maximum 6-7 kilometers from any rung-village in the valley.

People: The village comprises of total 48 families. Total human population of Sosa as on April, 2005, was 327 precisely. Demographically it may be interesting to note that the village has sex ratio in favour of females. Out of 327 people in village, 167 were females and 160 were males.

Like every other rung village, the village consists of various lanes (Haroos) of houses one above another. There are three such lanes of houses in Sosa, namely; (i) Lowest lane of houses (Pungpung Haroo), (ii) Middle lane of houses (Gundha Haroo) and (iii) Upper most lane of houses (Yuryur Haroo).
Pungpung Haroo and Gundha Haroo are predominantly inhabited by Hyankis of Syangte Raath while Yuryur Haroo is occupied by Hyankis of Pongsong Raath and Garkhals. Both the Burathoki families stay in Pungpung haroo. Apart from houses in aforementioned 3 lanes, a group of families are settled little away from the main village. That particular settlement is occupied by Kunwars and called as Pongsausau.
As the winter season approaches Hyankis (Syangte) migrate to villages named Jhee (Jayakot) and Jhyaree. Burathoki families migrate to village named Sunamangam while couple of Garkhal families migrate to Nayang.

Places to visit:

Syang-sthan, the abode of almighty Syangsai Gabla (who is worshipped by one and all in Chaudas valley), is just about 2 kilometers from the main village. On the auspicious day of the Full Moon in the Hindu month of Kartik (Oct-Nov), worshippers from all the villages of Chaudas come in groups playing drums and cymbals and congregate at Syangsthan for Auraat (waking-up throughout the night to worship the deity). Whole night lamps are lit, incense is burnt, bells are rung, drums and cymbals are beaten to call the deity to bless it worshippers. Auraat and Saithoom (rituals to worship deity) at Syangsthan are managed and looked after by the Hyankis (Syangte) and Garkhals of Sosa.

Narayan Ashram is one of the major tourist attractions of the Rung-rajoo. The Ashram is at the height of 2735 meters from sea level. One can see peaks of Himalayan range all lined-up toward its north-west as if they are frozen by the charming beauty of Narayan Ashram.

Teesyangkang, is basically a meadow (bugyal) almost 2.5 kilometers from Sosa on the way to Sirdang. This place is more recognized locally for being the picturesque cricket ground.
Syangwi-Top, is little farther from Teesyangkang and is considered to be abode of Gabla (a local deity). This place marks the boundary between Sosa and Sirdang.
Swum-Tonkar, is the highest peak around Sosa. From here, one can take bird’s eye view of Chaudas valley.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Kangdali : The Kumbh of Chaudas

The biggest and grandest festival in Chaudas celebrated every 12 years. Yes, 12 years, last time it was 1999 and the next will be in 2011. No Rung in Chaudas valley miss this grand festival. I was lucky to attend one in 1987 and the second in 1999. In 87 i was not at all aware of the whole proceedings but still i enojoyed being with all the cousins.

In 1999 it was a different, till that time i realized the importance of the festival. I wore traditional dress with a sword and shield in hands. It was like going back in time when my ancestors used to wear the same dress. The women of the village armed with "Ril" led the procession and man followed. After dancing on the tunes of "Hey Loksa...Hey Phongsa" for nearly an hour we reached the place where the flower of Kangrali bloomed.With a war cry women attacked the plantation with their Ril and man followed. After that the enviornment filled with victory cries. It was wonderful to be there at that time. By 2011 our lives will change in a big way, but whatever happens I will not miss the next Kangrali.

The legend of the Kangdali festival comes a folklore, which tells of a boy who died upon applying the paste of the root from a shrub known as Kang-Dali on his boil. Enraged, his widowed mother cursed the shrub and pulled the root of the Kang-Dali plant off its ground upon reaching its full bloom, which happens once in twelve years.

According to another story, the Kangdali festival is to commemorate the brave women who repelled the enemy while their husbands were away. Hiding in the Kandali bushes, they attacked the bushes, which subsequently destroyed the enemy.

Since then, a victory dance is performed every twelve years upon the decimation this shrub in its blooming period. The women with lead the procession, each armed with a Ril, a tool which was used in compacting carpet on the loom. The children and men armed with swords and shields would follow closely behind. As they sing and dance, their music echoes in the valley, and upon approaching the blooms, warlike tunes are played and war cries are uttered. The women, fierce as they were, attacked the bushes with their rils. The menfolk will follow up and the bushes are hacked with swords, who will uproot the bushes and take them back, as the spoils of the war. In turn, victory cries are raised and rice grains are again cast towards the sky to honour the deities with the prayer that the people of Chaundas Valley may be ever victorious over enemies. After the victory dance and the extermination of the shrub, the festival is concluded with a feast.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Take Off : The pursuit begins

First let me introduce myself, I am a rung from Sosa, Chaudas. A rung who was not very sure of his "rung" identity a few years back, born and brought up in Almora with little touch with other rung people. Let me clear here that it was not because of the family, my parents always wanted and still wants me to be the part of it as they are, and my elder bothers are in good touch with our village,soil and people. I feel, what took me far from the realization was that there was no "rung" children in my age group and also i myself never tried to build my own relations, as youngest in the family i never needed to, all these things were taken care of by parents and brothers.
The first time i realized the pride of being a rung and how closely knit our community is, and what i missed for all thez years, was during my brother's marriage in '97, it was an experience of lifetime for me, the life i missed. I closely felt the culture, the people the place all around me and it felt surprisingly warm and caring.
For me,it was ironic, as when i was near to the my village and people, i never tried to know them and when i realized my mistake i found myself 3000kms far from home, in REC Trichy for 4 years, then in CTS,chennai for 2 years now heading to IIMB for another two years. I never regret my decision of choosing my career in South as i went to best colleges in india and worked with one of the best companies.
But as time goes by, my want to gain more knowledge about the "rung" has not subsided.
I hope one day, i'll be able to gain this knowledge, till then i will to put all my thoughts in this blog, what's better than this where relavent people can read my thoughts and could help me reaching my goal.