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Photo of the Week: A Jhakri (Shaman) of Darjeeling, India

  • Pravin Tamang (Photo and Text)
  • 6 February 2011

This photo shows a Jhakri – the local word for ‘shaman’ – who is taking part in the festival of Banbo, which takes place every year in Darjeeling in West Bengal, India. The proceedings are part of an ancient tradition that is enacted to bring good fortune to the area.

Photo of the Week (06 February 2011) - Jhakri, Darjeeling, India

As part of the festival, Hindus from the area prepare with an early morning bath. A brass container is then filled with water from a nearby stream and placed on the altar of their homes to be taken to the main temple of Darjeeling – Mahakal Baba Temple, which is deeply revered as the guardian of the place.

The temple itself sits in a commanding position overlooking the town of Darjeeling. Just a few hundred metres below it is an open area where the Banbo ceremony takes place. Jhakris perform a ritual dance to invoke the spirits of nature and to deliver a blessing on the area.

It’s a year-long wait for these Jhakris, who arrive to bid goodbye to the monsoon. On the final day of the event, holy men from every village gather together and dance chanting “shey shey la bonbo, shey shey la bonbo“.

Other important events in Darjeeling’s calendar include Losar – or Tibetan new year – which takes place in early March and Saga Dawa a major Buddhist festival that falls in mid-June. Being in Darjeeling during one of its many celebrations is fantastic way to see a vibrant new side to the place.

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