Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Bhutanese Belief: The Red Bone or Don Khang


The dusk has just set in after farewell of yellow balls into western horizon. I and my friend were afraid of darkness roamed the shrub meadow. More than that, we were afraid of his father whose hand was much faster than his scold. We had just lost a track of a heifer. It had strayed away from the herd. We looked for any footprint or sign towards deep cliff. Finally, we found it on the crest of cliff precariously enjoying the lush virgin grass. In enjoyment, it had forgotten home.
We are late for putting cattle into coral. Our sisters were calling for us on top of their husky voice. Some cattle had reached home while some had strayed on the ways. We made that heifer move homeward as fast as we could because our hair was rising due to fear of darkness. At the opposite side of the river, we saw a flicker of light firstly dim and intensifying. Suddenly that light manifested into numerous lights linearly. Then again it became one. Look at that demon-light, we told each other. The sweats curled down our spine.
Demon light was believed to be visible form of wandering soul of red-blood /red boned people. Red Bone people were said to be lowest and worst of human ancestral classification. The highest were Choje, religious lineage, Dunje, religious lineage of numerous generation, Khoche/penchen, probably a ruling lineage, ordinary and red bone. In other way, we can also classify as blue-blood, ordinary and red bone or don khang (demon bone). Demon Bone should not be misunderstood as castes of slaves or serfs. Demon bone people could be king and rulers also. In Buddhist society, it is believed that a human has many individual spirits and demi-gods protecting him or her. For an instance, Kelha/ birth-god who will stay along each people till death.  It was just that red-boned people were associated with some malign spirits that accompanied them. They are called Don kang (in sharchop) or demon bone because if they think of Mr X, he would suffer from stomach pain or some kind of pain scratches on the body.
Demon-Bone people are believed to be handsome and beautiful. ‘If we can’t compete with them in blood, at least we can compete with them in flesh or looks.’ That is what they (rather their spirits) are believed to say. My friend who is now an engineer had a friend. They used to eat together in restaurant, drink together in the bar and even share the talk of lovey-dovey. But my friend never went to his friend’s house, he never ate from his friends’ hand and they never slept in a same bed. As most of the people, my friend believed that breath of people of red bone must not to enter into his mouth or face. He believed that it would dilute his blood or get sick.
Between difference chasms of people, there are certain rungs. For instance, from scale of one to ten, choje came at ten and redbone came at one. Let’s say a girl is choje and boy is redbone. Whenever, they sleep together, the rung of girl will decrease and rung of boy will increase. The girl will feel sick until their rung is leveled. But I have never understood how it is possible and why such dilution never happened among others and only with red-bone.
In monger, a guy told me a story about a brother and sister. Sister apparently married with redbone and her blood/soul was diluted to same level of her husband. Brother went to meet her brother. On the way, there was a chorten. From below,he found her sister circumambulating the chorten. Before he could shout her sister left home before him.
When he got to her sister’s house, she was picking louse from her husband’s scalp basking in the sun.
“Sister, how came you didn’t see me at chorten?”
Sister was shocked. She replied, “I thought of going there but I never went.”

Brother believed that it was soul of her sister who went there. For example, a redbone people will be not happy with other and would want to harm other in rage of anger. Unfortunately, the other man would become sick. There would be bite mark also. But redbone would have no idea as he isn’t involved. His bad spirits have done the work.
Once a girl accused to red-bone fell in love with boy. As boy was walking in the evening, the lights encircled him. When he raised his hand higher, light raised its flame too, as hee stretched his hands, the flames stretched too. So boy took his sword and hit the flame from within until it died down. He then erected a stump on where light finally faded. My villagers believed that one should always do as the boy did should such flame of light pursue you.
Next morning, the boy who knew it could be her went to see the girl. The girl was sick suffering from some unexplainable pain on the thigh as if somebody had put huge pole into it. The boy came back to spot where light threatened him night before and took out the stump. The girl was miraculously healed. The stump had hit her thigh or her spirits thigh for she and spirit was one.
After a few years, as I was expelled from my school, I went to Mongar School. There I could see the many such lights appearing on other side of the school in one village. One day, I asked one of mates, “What is that light?”  He nonchalantly replied, “It is angel-light.”
That kept me thinking. Why one village called it demon-light and another village called it Khandro-Mi or Angel light? Could there be a difference that I didn’t notice? Anyway, for my layman eyes, the phenomenon was same. A huge light was seen, and then it was split into ten or fifteen huge light of same size of that of first light. Again the light became one. There would be no sign of burning at the place where it appeared when you go next morning.  Whether, it is angel light or demon light, it is for scholar to find out. As a layman, I am just narrating my belief as instilled in me by elders when I was small boy.










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