Of human bondage

The silence of the mountains veils mysteries that would fascinate humans till eternity. And for someone living in the shadows of these mighty mountains fascination generally turns into humble submission to the supernatural. There is little option but to believe in the myths and taboos that sweep through valleys across these mountains. Since childhood I’d been awed by the scene of Malis (human’s designated by Devtas to be their mouthpiece) banging their fists on the ground and shaking vehemently, while they answer to the human queries. And these queries can be as trivial as – why the family is going through tough times, or why a particular member is suffering from a disease?

I dare not question them and their behaviour. After all, they are from the supernatural realm, which I can just imagine of. Then these palkis (palanquins) of Devtas… I’m told that though human beings carry them but it’s by force of the Devta or the Devi itself that humans can move forward. If the Devta/Devi desires to stop, the palki will get really heavy. And then the Palki dances… It’s just amazing. The humans are just an instrument here.

It’s equally amazing to note the hierarchy the Devtas enjoy. You have the supreme deity, under whom is the Gram-Devta, his brother / sister or even assistants and then the Kul-Devta/Devi and so on. Then there is the Bir Devta and the Lankra, which are omni-present in Himachal. Bir is a soldier Devta, while Lankra would be wherever Durga is as he is her dwarpal.

And off course there are the supernatural beings like the Bansheeras (supposedly human beings but hardly one-foot in height and living in the remotest of the jungles) Kalis (not to be mixed with Kali Mata), Paaps (souls of forefathers who are believed to be stranded, Daayans (women supposed to be witches), Bhootbish, and something called Bish that seems to be catching up fast and the other petty ghosts.

It will take reams of papers to describe their roles but still the Devtas restrict themselves to their assigned work, which the other deities cannot breach into, except where the evil supernatural elements start disturbing human peace.

But what perturbs me more and off late has taken me far away from worshipping them or accepting them as my guardian angels is the fact that they behave more like human beings. They have their own rivalries. Gram Devtas of two different villages can be enemies. I’ve a friend from Kotkhai. His mother cannot worship the Devta of her maternal village because of the rivalry between the two Devtas.

That was a small example. What’s more perturbing is that these Devtas can be bought over to your side for a mere goat / ram / sheep. (Which Devta can take a goat / ram or a sheep also depends on the hierarchy. Corruption starts from the top (pun intended).

Let’s take an example. Suppose I have a friend named ABC in another village. And I grow jealous of him or have a fight with him. I pray to my Devta. “Well Devtaji, I’ll give you a ram (khadoo), you should teach ABC a lesson. He should fall ill, lose property or some harm should come to him.” In the next few days… ABC or any of his family members falls ill, which they think is out of the purview of a doctor. So, ABC approaches the Mali of his Kul-Devta. His Kul-Devta tells him, “Keep Re. 1. 25 on my name and see the difference and ask me after three months.” Slowly, the family gets back into life. Meanwhile, I’ve already sacrificed a ram to my Devta. Then after three months all of a sudden ABC finds himself again in a similar situation. Now he approaches his Devta again. The Devta too won’t tell him so early. Only after a lot of pestering, he tells him that ABC had a fight with Surender and Surender had invoked his Devta to teach him a lesson. Now you approach Surender and his Devta, feel sorry to him and do a pujan of his Devta and me. (Poor Khadoo… lost his life in the war of human beings and Devtas.) This Pujan would mean another ram to my Devta and to his own Devta.

All done, ABC should be fine now. But the same problem starts cropping up again. He approaches his Devta again. And his Devta tells him… “That puja was not fine. There was some hindrance in that. You both would have to do that puja again. This time invite senior devtas as well.” The situation means that besides two more khadoos, there would be sacrifice of bakras (goats) as well as senior Devtas too would be invoked.

Well, what does this all mean? Worse than how human beings behave…

I’m not questioning the existence of these Devtas here. I believe that they do exist. If I believe in my existence, I believe in their existence too. But what I don’t expect them to do is to behave like petty human beings. If they are to be put on a pedestal where they are supposed to be worshipped, they ought to act in a judicial manner.

And if the Devtas are judicial enough… then why did not my Devta prevent me from thinking ill for my friend? Secondly, the Kul-Devta of ABC was responsible for guarding and protecting ABC. Why did he allow my Devta to harm ABC?

To me it seems… after all ABC’s Devta did have his interests as well. He is an equal accomplice in harming ABC as finally when it would get down to pujan and all, even he too would get the share of the sacrifice.

What happened meanwhile? Four to five khadoos and two-three bakras had already lost their lives. And each khadoo cost me or ABC around Rs 1,000, depending on the size and weight. The Mali too had to be given his share of service. There were other people as well who had been invited to feast upon the sacrificed khadoo and bakra.

Well, was the trouble ethereal or just a part of day-to-day life, is again debatable. But if something like this exist, my question then is – are they worth worshipping? Are they worth putting on that pedestal if they act worse than murderers? (At times even deaths too have been credited to the wrath of a particular deity.)

If I tell all this to my friends in Delhi, they all laugh at me. But I see people in Himachal believing in all this day in and day out. I’m not questioning their faith. Nor do I want to convince my friends in Delhi. But the question remains – do the Devtas exist because we exist or is it vice versa. Whatever be, let’s at least make sure that these supernatural being and not troubled by us humans for things too pedestrian disturb their hallow.

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