Photographs from De long en large Ladakh by Jean Mansion - Édition Findakly. Copyright Lise Mansion

Kham Magar Villages and Shamans of Rukum

The RUKUM District is one of the most isolated areas in western Nepal. This territory is the stronghold of the MAGAR ethnic group known for perpetuating ancestral traditions in mountain villages. They are of Hindu obedience with a strong Animist influence worshipping Bhumi Dévi, the mother goddess of the earth. They intensely practice a form of Shamanism unique in HIMALAYA of which they are the only holders. Some particularities suggest a Siberian influence among the KHAM MAGARS, especially through the panoply of objects they use during rituals. The RÊ drums with single skin and crossbars as well as leather armors decorated with bells and animal attributes are the most characteristic. The area of "SIBERIAN" Shamanism being very extensive between the Bering Strait and Central Asia, it is therefore not very surprising to find slightly heterogeneous objects in HIMALAYA. The KHAM MAGARS are also the only Himalayan Shamans to use the BOLTOS (Archer's Bracelets) and the GAJOS (Drum Stick), which have a protective role, always worn on the wrist holding the Drum. As for the GAJO, it is of course used to strike the Drum but its function goes far beyond that; it serves as an object with healing power like the Phurbus.