Himalayan Mountain Cults
Author: Gabriele Tautscher
Nepal is renowned for the snow-capped Himalayas and their sacred status as the abode of the gods. These sacred seats are considered inaccessible and remain forbidden to human beings. Despite this mountain image, the largest part of Nepal consists of the lower, densely populated regions known as the Middle Hills, an area of intensively cultivated valleys and skilfully terraced hillsides. Here too, in spaces long inhabited and cultivated by humans, certain natural features â€“ peaks, rock outcrops, caves, and lakes â€“ are considered sacred. The villagers see them as the seats of their divine protectors and as the â€˜custodians of their land.â€™ In contrast to the â€˜forbiddenâ€™ Himalayan peaks, these sacred sites â€“ above all those on centrally located mountains and mountain lakes â€“ are the scenes of spectacular festivals with shamanic, Buddhist and Hindu cults. On the full-moon nights of July-August the rugged peak of Kalingchok, the flat, grassy mountaintop of Thulo Sailung, and the shores of icy Gosainkund Lake become the scenes of large popular festivals. On such occasions these sites vibrate to the sounds of shaman drums and the night becomes a great feast for all. The present book is an anthropological study on the history and formation of these communal feasts and rituals on Sailung, Kalingchok and Gosainkund. Not only are they the home of unique â€˜Himalayanâ€™ shamanic practices and Buddhist/Hindu rituals, they also provide tangible evidence regarding the history of these regions that lie so near the Kathmandu Valley, yet have barely been studied. These festivals and rituals, too, outline the complex interrelation between the shamanic beliefs of a local Himalayan society and the powers of Buddhist Tibet and the Hindu Kingdom in the Kathmandu Valley.