The losing lustre of the Mangpa tradition

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'Mangpa' Ran Bahadur Rai performing rituals

Every community has its own religious and traditional practices which makes them unique from others. However, in these modern times, the practice and the essence of these age-old rituals have seen a decline. One such tradition that is losing its lustre is of the Mangpas.

Mangpa or a priest of the Rai community is slowly losing its importance and value among the younger generation. Once invited in every Rai household to perform important traditional and religious rites and rituals, the use of the Mangpas has seen a steady decline through these years.


Ran Bahadur Rai, Mangpa or a priest of the Rai community

Ran Bahadur Rai, a 60-year-old Mangpa feels that the younger generation should come forward to protect and preserve this tradition of the Rai community.

Ran Bahadur, who is presently serving at the Mangkhim (temple of the Rai community) at Chemchey, South Sikkim, has been into this line of service past most than 40 years.

Ran Bahadur has been tending to sick people at the Mangkhim. His visitors are not only from the Rai community but from other communities as well. Ran Bahadur who volunteered to pass on his knowledge to the younger generation now seems to be disappointed as he says that none of the younger ones is interested to carry forward the tradition of the Mangpas.
Jiwan Rai from Namchi, South Sikkim, who is a Mangpa tells that everyone is not destined to become one.

“The healing abilities cannot be passed to another. One needs to be identified as a Mangpa, as that particular person is born with psychic powers. To a layman, we can just share the knowledge we know, but the power to connect with metaphysical energy is something that one has to be born with”, he acquaints.

“We receive most of our knowledge in our dreams from the Mang (deities). I too did!” Tells Jiwan, who is just 21 years old. He shares that he was identified as a Mangpa when he was a child and started with his practice at the age of 13.

The locals believe that only the chosen ones are destined to become a Mangpa. As per them, one has to be a pure soul to receive knowledge from the deities and possess healing powers.

Rai, also known as the Khambu, is a community who are indigenous to some parts of India and Nepal. They are considered to be one of the oldest ethnolinguistic groups. The Rai community possesses a rich and unique cultural heritage and tradition and is believed to be rich in oral and written history. They are mainly worshippers of nature, local deities and their ancestors. They worship Sumnima and Paruhang as their primordial parents. In this act of worshipping Mangpa plays an important role is performing the rituals, especially during the community’s harvest festival called the Sakewa. The Mangpas are also traditional healers who are believed to have been blessed by knowledge and psychic powers.

The tradition of the Mangpas is believed to be started with human evolution. As per Bulu Mukarung, a member of the Nepal Rajkiya Pragya Pratisthan, the existence of the Rai community takes back to five thousand years according to ‘Thelaydong’- the Rai calendar.

The Akhil Kirat Rai Sangh (AKRS) plays an important role in organizing various traditional programs to help preserve the tradition and culture of the Rai community in Sikkim. However, there is a need for more individual effort which can turn into a collective one, in order to preserve such age-old traditional practices.

The world has changed, so has our opinions about such beliefs. Modernity has seeped into our lives and with science giving us practical explanations to our every query, there is less room for superstition. Regardless of all these scientific reasonings, a little bit of conscientiousness towards traditional beliefs for the sake of its preservation won’t hurt, because if our traditions are erased, our existence too gets questioned.

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