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13. Verses addressed to Asmai. 13. A lofty mansion: on the

14. Asmai interns the corpse

15. The story concludes with Imami's prayer to God.

terrace is a starry Beauty.

14. The hero over head and ears in love.

15. The damsel unfolds to the youth her own sad tale.

16 to 36. The romance continued.

VIII.-A Lepcha Funeral.

By Sarat Chandra Roy, M.A.

WHILE staying at Darjeeling during the Puja holidays, I had an opportunity of witnessing a Lepcha funeral. As there are some points of ethnological interest in the rites and ceremonies observed I took down a few notes of what I saw, and on these notes the following brief account is based.

The deceased was the wife of a Lepcha servant in the Roman Catholic convent at Darjeeling. The father of this man was a Lama, and consequently the family is of some respectability in the local Lepcha community. In fact, when I first saw the funeral procession coming along the road just below the house where I was staying, I had no idea that the husband of the deceased was in comparatively humble circumstances in life. The bier was covered over with an embroidered shawl and was preceded by a venerable-looking old Lāmā, reciting mantrams in Tibetan, ringing a bell with one hand, and holding in the other one end of a long strip of cloth, the other end of which was attached to the bier. Following the bier was a large procession of mourners and a few men playing on drums and cymbals and sounding conch shells. One man was twirling a small prayer wheel (māni). The musical instruments were all held aslant and not in the upright position in which they are ordinarily carried by the musicians. This, I was told, indicated that it was an occasion of mourning. The mourners now and again took up the refrain of the Lama's mantrams. This refrain consisted in the wellknown mantram of the Buddhists "Om! Mani pa [d] mē hūm”.

Thus the procession went on for about two miles along the West Mall and the Old Calcutta Road, and finally we began to climb up a steep slope of the Jalāpāhāṛ Hill. At about half-way

up the slope, the procession halted, and I observed a number of Lepcha women carrying jars of maṛuâ-leer come up by another route and join the party. The bier was put down on the ground and most of the men sat down for a while to rest. The women were in the meanwhile busy, some distributing glasses of beer to the men and others collecting dried leaves and kindling a fire. The relatives of the deceased selected a site for the grave by the side of the other graves of the family, the deceased's husband's brother now first applied his spade to the ground thus selected. I was told that according to Lepcha custom the son or brother or other near kinsman of the deceased must dig out three spadefuls of earth before others would join in digging the grave. The height of the bier was measured with a stick so as to adjust the depth of the grave accordingly. As some of the men went on digging the grave, others, men as well as women, were busy collec ting pieces of stone and placing them by the side of the grave. All the time the Lama went on chanting in Tibetan what I was told were long addresses to the spirit of the deceased. The refrain of "Om! Mani pa [d] mē hum" being now and again taken up by the other men. The Lāmā as well as the grave-diggers and other members of the party were now and again regaled with copious draughts of maṛua-beer served by the women. When the digging was in progress I noticed the men frequently expressing satisfaction with what they saw, and on enquiry I learnt that what made them rejoice was the absence of any stones (long) in the grave. If they had come upon any stones, it would have indicated that the deceased had died before the length of life allotted to her by Heaven, so that some human being must have caused the death by charms or sorcery.

When they had dug a grave of the dimensions required, and spread out a layer of stones at the bottom by way of a flooring to the grave, a ceremonial glass of maṛua-beer was handed over to each of the persons present. (I was excused on my assuring them that I was not accustomed to spirituous drink of any sort.) The drinking of this cup of beer is taken as a solemn undertaking to recite the mystic mantran "Om Māni pa [d] me hum" for the

Friends and relatives now

benefit of the soul of the deceased. took a last look at the face of the deceased, by slightly drawing aside the cloth-covering over the bier. This partial lifting of the curtain showed that the deceased was placed over the bier in a sitting posture, and that a silver coin had been already put into the mouth of the deceased. The bier was first taken three times round the grave and finally lowered into the grave, the Lāmā all the while chanting his mantrams and the men chanting the refrain of "Om Mâni:pa [d] mẽ hūm" in a chorus. At each of the four corners of the grave, a long split bamboo was vertically inserted before the bier was let down. Over the bier was placed first a layer of stones, then a layer of earth, and again a layer of stones and over it another layer of earth and then a final layer of stones over which a longish stone was placed in an upright position. This upright stone indicated that the corpse was interred in a sitting posture. On inquiry I learnt that in some families the corpse was laid down in the grave in a lying posture and in those cases the uppermost stone was laid flat on the grave. Such stones on a number of graves close by were pointed out to me in proof of this statement. Another symbolic representation was a lenjed or thread-twister placed over the grave to indicate that the grave was that of a female, thread-twisting and weaving being the habitual occupation of a Lepcha female. Similarly, I was told a bow and an arrow are placed over the grave of a Lepcha male. Flowers were now strewn over the grave and a meal of boiled rice, stewed beef, and boiled māṛuā (Eleusine Coracana) was placed over the grave on a leaf-plate. A portion of this food, I must not omit to mention, was already burnt near the grave with fire lighted with dried leaves collected by the women. who attended the funeral. Finally the four bamboo splinters that had been inserted into the grave at its corners were pulled out of the grave by men credited with a knowledge of charms and spells. A person skilled in magic lore is called 'bungthingbu' if a male, and 'mon' if a female. The reason for first inserting and then taking out these long bamboo splinters was explained to me by the assembled Lepchas as a precaution to

prevent the soul of the deceased from retaining in the grave the soul of any one present whom she particularly loved on earth. It is also worth mentioning that the Lepcha takes particular care to see that no green leaf or stone gets buried with the earth with which the grave is filled in, for such green leaf or piece of stone would stand in the way of the soul when it may be required to go to Yama, the god of death, or to other worlds.

From the burial place most of the party returned to the house where the death occurred, and I accompanied them. Outside the house every one who had been present at the funeral was at first thoroughly fumigated with the smoke of a fire in which a species of bitter plant was burnt. Each of them had next to present himself before a 'mon', or female exorcist, who was standing there with a live fowl in one hand and a kind of tall bamboo-grass in the other. The 'mon' made passes over the body of each with the fowl and the bamboo-grass Then the fowl was killed by being struck against the ground and was thrown away outside the house. Finally, maṛua beer was served in bamboo-tubes to those who attended the funeral and a meal was also provided for them.

Two days later a more imposing ceremony of driving away the evil spirit was performed in the house. The whole afternoon the inmates of the house were busy arranging the room where the ceremony was to take place, kneading flour and making various small figures of flour-dough resembling men and animals, and scrubbing a large number of ceremonial brass lamps and arranging them in several rows tier above tier. By evening the old Lāmā, with an assistant Lāmā and two disciples, took their seats in front of the rows of lamps, an elderly relative sat on the left of the rows of lamps, and close to him sat the husband of the deceased; important guests were given prominent seats and other guests were seated as best as they could in and outside the room. Many of them did not wait long in the room, but were soon replaced by others. Fortunately I was given a prominent seat from which I could see every part of the ceremonies. The Lama and his disciples went on chanting interminable chapter after chapter from a manuscript book which, I was told, was

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