Durga Maya Rai

Durga has completed her MA degree from Tribhuvan University, Kritipur.

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Published On: December 4, 2017 08:33 AM NPT By: Durga Maya Rai

Sakela Ritual in Rai community

Each ritual has had its own ways for centuries. Sakela ritual of the Rai Kirat community has a unique way to celebrate a series of rituals in Baishakh and Mangsir months of the Nepali calendar. In this ritual, ‘Sakelasilli’ (a type of dance step) is performed in a hypnotic way. Sakelasilli is conceptualized to seek the underlying myth behind the ritual to perform, using traditional musical instruments, costumes and ornaments. 

As per the Rai myth, there are proto archetypal ‘Paruhang’ (universe) and ‘Sumnima’ (Mother Nature) which together are the deities of Rai Kirat community. Historically, these were the supreme almighty god and goddess, respectively. They gave birth to a lot of children, but unfortunately all died except three. Three of them, all being sons, were Chikiwa (tiger), Narawa (bear) and Henkubang (human). 
Among them, Narawa (bear) headed to the jungle. In the course of time, the other two matured with their parents. Chikiwa was quite arrogant while Henkubang was quite cunning and intelligent. These two always caused scenes making it hard for their parents to control them. Henkubang wanted to get rid of Chikiwa. On the way of these two brothers’ visit to the forest one day, Henkubang put on all the food in Chikiwa’s mouth and assaulted him with bow and arrow.  

Sumnima found out about the assault after insisting Henkubang to tell what happened to Chikiwa. She then headed to the forest with materials like rice, ginger, coin, ‘marcha’ (vermilion powder), bunch of leaves, sickle, and ‘chindo’. She got to the place where Chikiwa was buried, dug out the corpse, cleaned it and placed ginger, marcha, khurpa and bunch of leaves on the body, enchanting the Mudhum. According to Ganesh Rai in his book ‘The Wambule Rai Writers and their Works’, Mudhum means ‘the worship of nature or esteem to the ancestors’ souls, an unwritten Kirat holy script’. This brought Chikiwa back to life. 

This caused Sumnima to separate them from each other and assign separate kingdoms for each. Chikiwato now had to live in the forest and Henkubangto in the village. Sumnima built the boundary between them with ‘Shila’ (stone) which divided their kingdoms forever. If either of those two were to cross the boundary, it would result in a grave curse. Sumnima suggested Henkunbang to worship that stone twice annually for his prosperity. This ritual was developed as a ritual in the human community and exists to this day as the Sakela ritual. In the ritual, the Nakchong worship the stone as god and the remaining people spellbindingly dance wearing typical ornaments and customs in circular form.

So, this is the story behind the ritual to celebrate Sakela. Rai Kirat communities celebrate Sakela ritual twice on the base of agricultural calendar. Normally, Udhauli is celebrated in Baishakh. It is done so to show deep gratitude to Mother Nature for offering the humans food and safety from natural calamities. On the other hand, Ubhauli falls in Mangsir which is organized to show respect to the ancestors for teaching civilization. 

The hidden myth of Sumnima’s order to her son Henkubang to worship that stone was to satisfy his ancestors for serenity, strength and prosperity. Similarly, things like ginger, rice, coin, vermilion powder, bunch of leaves, sickles and ‘chindoto’ are used in Sakela ritual by the Nakchong to worship Sakela’s shrine for the betterment of the community. So, Nakchong is regarded as the reincarnation of the deities and the King who has supernatural powers to demolish devils.

Durga has completed her MA degree from Tribhuvan University, Kritipur. 

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