Social Science Baha

A Meeting Space for the Living and the Ancestors: The Resting Platforms Chautaara among the Bahing Rai of Eastern Nepal

Claire Femenias

Among many communities of the Kirat of Eastern Nepal the funerary rituals are extended over many months and consist of several steps. The mourning and funerary process is closely linked to notions of local identity that finds one of its most evident expressions in the chautaara, the resting platforms that are built for the deceased and the living alike. Taking the example of the Bahing Rai, among who I am conducting my PhD research, I will analyse these expressions of local identity in the funeral approaching from three perspectives: A first approach will be to examine the importance of religious syncretism in general, as the Bahing funerary process and believes are strongly influenced by both, Hindu and Kirat worldviews. Secondly I will focus on the building of the chautaara platform whith which the mounring time finds an end. In this step of the funerary ritual, the animistic, Kirat religious believe of the Bahing is expressed very clearly, and therefore I will discuss the function of the platform – for the living and the deceased – in detail. After the construction of the chautaara the deceased’s name will from now on be recited in the yearly him dim ritual, which is my third approach to the topic. With his name being recited in this ritual, the deceased has officially been integrated into the world of the ancestors. The him dim ritual is performed by the noxchog (“shaman”) and his two assistants, the nabuja, and constitutes a key for the understanding of Bahing Rai religion, both in its animistic and Hindu-syncretic aspects. As a conclusion it is suggested that the chautaara and the him dim both function as means of commemorating the genealogies of the communities and in this way root them in their local identities.