Archive for June, 2007

Complementary and Modern Medicine: Strange Bedfellows? (Satis Shroff, Freiburg)

 International Ethnotherapy Congress in Munich (Germany)

In the 80,000 hamlets of Nepal, there are over 400,000 shamans and traditional healers, who have to some extent acquired the basics of modern medical treatment through the Health Ministry.


The old tradition of the dhami-jhakri in which the fate of a person can be influenced by appeasing the spirits is still intact in Nepal. A séance provides the ill person a communication possibility depending the nature of the illness. For the spirits (Geister), be they rough or fine in their manifestations, belong to the everyday lives of the tradition-conscious Nepalese and many other ethnic-peoples in the northern and southern hemispheres of this globe.


Disease and conformity: The traditional healers of Nepal are not only versed in the nature of illnesses caused by spirits, demons, male and female witches, Gods and Goddesses, but also diseases which are in conformity with epidemiological studies and results. The usual diseases that are mentioned by traditional healers are: diarrhoea, coughs, pneumonia, heart-maladies, abdominal pain, pain in the joints and other less specific symptoms like: headaches, body pain, nausea etc. Other commonly mentioned diseases are: vomiting, worm-infections, pickles and boils, carbuncles, cases of goitre in the hills (think of the Himalayan-salt ads in the west), different skin problems, tuberculosis, problems of the urinary tract and menstrual disorders and anomalies.


In the past the shamans were not allowed to get rich through healing, and the codex and ethics of the healers in the Himalayas were strict. Today, the Nepalese shaman blesses a life-saving electrolyte solution for the treatment of diarrhoea and dysentery. The shaman has become innovative in Nepal, and makes himself or herself socially useful by ritualising and selling anti-baby pills for a small financial commission. This way, he or she helps Family planning, which is supported by the government. The Nepalese government has raised the status of the shaman by bestowing an official title upon him: Practitioner of Traditional Medicine, with the condition that he or she take part in medical and hygiene courses. ‘Traditional’ sounds better than ‘complementary’ because shaman has a long tradition in Siberia, Nepal and others parts of the world.


Sociological view: The position of the shamans in the hamlets of Nepal is getting a certain amount of recognition and importance, because he or she gathers new experiences and acquires modern methods of healing, and in this way, the shaman uses a combination of traditional and modern medicine. From a sociological point of view, magico-religious healing plays a central and positive role. The magic and faith in the healing powers of the shaman helps to strengthen the group, tribe or caste by defining a common foe, and in identifying the evil, invisible spirit that has been causing illness. In this way, it is possible to control one’s own environment and the immediate neighbourhood and to influence it. Moreover, the healing ritual of the shaman late into the night helps to sublime difficult somatic Triebanspruche and to channel them in a socially acceptable and legal way, without being stigmatised in the society as being abnormal or an ill-person.


When you boil down the matter between traditional and modern medicine, belief is in the eye of the beholder. If modern medicine doesn’t help, complementary (traditional) therapy seems to do so, for instance in the case of people struggling with long-term pain. Whereas the physician is concerned with infections caused by fungi, bacteria and viruses, Nepal’s Dhamis, Bijuwas, Bong-things and shamans are concerned with spirits, demons, Gods and Goddesses and other invisible powers between Swarga (Heaven) and Prithvi (Earth). The people in Nepal still have faith in the practitioners of traditional medicine, despite the danger of being stigmatised as being superstitious, anachronistic and backward. The government has found out that even though Health Post have been set up, the people living in the foothills of the Himalayas (Mittelgebirge) still prefer ritual therapies from their shamans. The medically-trained traditional healers can reach millions of Nepalese through a well-developed strategy. Most of the Dhamis-Jhakris have shown that they are open to new skills in health, population and family-oriented basic knowledge. Moreover they were (and are) ready to give their acquired modern knowledge to their respective communities in their hamlets.


Humane and empathetic: The traditional healer not only cures with modern pharmaceuticals, but he or she imparts a cultural note to the therapy by blessing the medicine in a ritual through the recitation of mantras or prayer, which is indeed soft and humane, and the patient becomes a part of the ceremony, and isn’t left alone like in a hospital. Traditional (complementary) medicine has come to stay. It was there all the time in different continents, and is an expression of care, humane-treatment, softness (Sanftemedizin), dignity, respect and empathy for the ill person. These are values that have dwindled in modern medicine’s pursuit for rationalism, validity and science. Every time a patient enters a physician’s clinic, he or she feels uneasy that the clock is ticking away to his or her disadvantage. Time is money. More patients means more money for the physician and the health insurance company. That leaves little time and hope for the hapless, impatient patient.


The value of hope: The value of hope, which is an important resource in different cultures and among traditional healers, is lost in modern medicine. What was Florence Nightingale doing with her candle-light in the bedsides and stretchers of her wounded soldiers in the Crimean War? Was she giving them antibiotics, anti-viral drugs? No, she was giving these forlorn souls a precious medicine named hope. But is traditional medicine entirely based on hope? Certainly not. Traditional Chinese medicine, Tibetan medicine, and the Indian subcontinent’s Ayurvedic medicine, Unani medicine deploy among others pharmaceuticals botanical, zoological and mineral extracts to cure the illnesses of millions of people since time immemorial. So does modern medicine, which enjoys perfect packaging and marketing and ads through the media. It’s the catchy, convincing-sounding ad that makes people rush to the apothecary to buy the pharmaceutical product that they’ve seen in TV or have heard about from their relatives and friends, as is mostly the case in the layman’s aetiology.


Modern medicine is a science because its experiments can be reproduced, it is systematic and can adjust itself in combating new bacteria, viruses and other disease causing microbes. But traditional or complementary medicine is also learning new methods of treatment and hospital hygiene.


Alone in 1980 Dr. Badri Raj Pandey et al trained more than 1000 traditional healers (Dhamis-Jhakris) in Nepal under the Family Planning and Maternal Child Health Project (MCHP). Since there are more traditional healers than physicians and paramedical personnel, the traditional healers are an important resource for the family planning and health organisations in Nepal. This study has revealed that the traditional healers play an important role. They have a functional network and they aren’t s so expensive as medical doctors. The traditional healers are always ready to visit their patients, even though it means walking through the better part of the day to treat the patients. Physicians are reluctant to walk four to six hours to their impoverished patients, and they’d rather be paid in currency notes rather than with eggs, vegetables, or a little red rooster.


School medicine has to win the traditional healer as a resource and ally, and not as concurrence, for the common aim of traditional and modern medicine is to free the individual from his or her illness, and provide an efficient and honest cure. The wellness and recuperation of the patient should be the common goal and not rivalry. This target was fixed by the Nepalese government and the shamans are now treated with respect, asked for assistance and requested to take part in therapy-workshops and medical training projects. Such workshops were held in: Kanchanpur, Chandani municipality, Mahendranagar, Syangja and Ilam in the past. It was explained that the project as such didn’t have any intention to influence the healing methods or beliefs of the tribal shamans. The participating shamans learned how to motivate the people of their respective communities, family-planning and other health-promoting measures.


Causality and logic: The shaman can differentiate the principle of causality and logical thinking and communication. The shaman manifests religion and the art of healing as a coexistence form, and is open for new healing methods if it helps the patient. Likewise, there is a trend on the part of physicians and psychotherapists to take on the shaman’s healing methods. And to this end, there are universities that are training therapists through the use of modern and traditional medicine by inviting and bringing together traditional healers and modern therapists, medical and nursing students and physicians.


Two German two universities in Heidelberg and Munich have established themselves in the service of traditional and modern medicine by offering workshops and seminars by bringing practitioners of Traditional and Modern Medicine together. It is a marriage between the two systems of medicine.

An advanced international, intercultural and interdisplinary education as a therapist in Medican Anthropology is being made possible from 12th till 19th October 2007 by the Institute of Ethnomedizin and it costs 1269 euros. You can join the program at any stage. It is a global path for health and healing and is organised by the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich. The program makes it possible for western therapists to take part in a lively dialogue with authentic indigenous healers, shamans, and teachers from all over the world.

For those interested in ritual healing methods in the world a seminar was organized by the Südasien Institute, Heidelberg, Dept. of Ethnology from 12.-16.March 2007. The program was available under: www.sai.uni-heidelberg.de/abt/ETHNO/forschung/springschool.htm. How does ritual healing work and what can we learn from it? Can and should ritual healing be publicly integrated in the Heath Services? These were the themes of the one-week seminar which showed the detailed and extensive field research among the ritual healers in Tibet, India, Indonesia, Kenia and Latin America.


Another programme organised this time by the Institute for Ethnology has a number of well-known Nepalese shamans like Maile Ngema Lama, wurde bereits mit 8 Jahren in der Wildnis von den Urahnen der Schamanen berufen und in das schamanische Heilwissen eingeweiht. Sie wuchs in einem Bergdorf der Tamang auf, die zur tibetischen Sprachgruppe gehören. Nach der weiteren Ausbildung in ihrer Stammestradition begann sie mit 11 Jahren zu praktizieren. Sie ist ca. 50 Jahre alt, gehört zum Volk der Tamang und ist heute eine der berühmtesten Heilerinnen von Nepal.

Mohan Rai, director of Shaman Studies and Research Centre in Kathmandu, Nepal. Mohan Rai is a central personality of shaman culture in the Himalayas. He is 68, comes from the broder area of Nepal/Bhutan and belongs to the Mongol folk of Rai and Kirati. His father was a famous Kirati Schaman. He speaks more than ten languages.
Parvati Rai, Nepal, a female Kirati Schaman and practices since 45 years. Parvati worships Nature, like all Kirat-folk. Among the Kirats the shaman plays a central role in the society from birth till death. Parvati Rai received her initiation when she was nine years old and became a shaman at the age of 16, lives in Kathmandu and works as a shaman for the Kirat Society and supports the Kirat Foundation through her work. She married at the age of 15 and has four kids.


About the Author: Satis Shroff is a writer and poet based in Freiburg (poems, fiction, non-fiction) who also writes on ethno-medical, culture-ethnological themes, and writes regularly for The American Chronicle (www.Amchron.com), and is a contributing writer on www.boloji.com, http://www.wordpress.com and also Blog.ch. He has studied Zoology and Botany in Nepal, Medicine and Social Science in Germany and Creative Writing in Freiburg and Manchester. He describes himself as a mediator between western and eastern cultures and sees his future as a writer and poet. Satis Shroff was awarded the German Academic Exchange Prize. He is a lecturer in Basle (Switzerland).

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When Erik Confesses, Can Jan be Far Behind? (Satis Shroff, Freiburg)


It was a pathetic, unprecedented scenario in Germany’s TV channel when Erik Zabel, the cyclist, with tears in his eyes, and an emotionally distorted face, confessed in front of 5,5 million viewers that he had doped with Epo during the Tour de France in 1996. Tour de France, Giro di Italia, Tour de Ländle, he was a constant participant for T-Mobile. It was a sensation in Germany because bike-riding has become a sort of Volkssport. And the city of Freiburg, in its perpetual search for attractive titles calls itself the Capital of Cyclists.


Now the entire German nation’s attention is turned upon Jan Ulrich, the cyclist from Merdingen near Freiburg, for he’d done an offensive media campaign to save his skin earlier at B. Kerner’s TV show by repeating: “I repeat, I have never injected epo and have never taken drugs in my life.” A clean German hero? An entire packet with his blood samples were revealed in Spain. Somehow, to viewers in Germany, Jan’s assurances sounded like the last words of the politician Rainer Barschel just before his exit. The hollow litany, “Ich versichere Ihnen” echoes still in our ears. Jan’s tour helper Christian Henn who was tested during a doping-control with an overdose of testosterone values.


Eric Zabel wasn’t alone in his candid confession. Rolf Aldag, the Sport director of T-Mobile also admitted having encouraged the use of Epo as far back as 1995. According to Der Spiegel in the Telekom-team there has been systematic and thoroughly doping as in the cases of the entire concurring teams. The Dane Brian Holm also belongs to the list of sportsmen who admitted to doping: Bert Dietz, Christian Henn, Udo Bölts, Rolf Aldag and Erik Zabel. During an ARD-interview Zabel said: “The generation before us rode their cycles with amphetamines. My generation goes in the history of cycling as the Epo-generation. After the Fuentes-scandal we came to know about the blood-change doping.” The future generation of cyclists will be the gene-doping generation. The irony of Udo Bölts is that he even wrote a book last year with the title “Quäl dich, du Sau” (Torture Yourself, You Swine) and posed as a fighter against doping.


Ethics, morale and fairness seem to be conspicuous through their absence. The basic behaviour seems to be to make money through sport, despite the critic in the media against doping in sport. Doping was tolerated and even supported by the people involved in sporting events in different parts of Europe. The collective conscience seems to question Erik Zabel’s wet eyes as crocodile tears, and the confession as partial truths, perfectly staged pseudo-transparency. Was it a well-organised show run by ARD, ZDF and N24? Your guess is as good as mine.


The worst part of this unfurling scenario is the fact that the University of Freiburg and its Department of Sport Medicine have a reputation to lose, since the media have started calling Freiburg a doping university. “ We’re very worried about the ethical problem,” says the University rector Wolfgang Jäger, and he sees the danger of his elite university being dragged in the swamp of doping. Two medic doctors Lothar Heinrich and Andreas Schmid have been fired and therapies for sport medicine have been stopped, and an evaluations committee is to look into the matter, which dates back to at least twenty years. The files are all there at the university archive, kept with German thoroughness, perseverance and sense of order. As a German saying goes: lies have short legs, which means you can’t lie to all the people all the time. And Freiburg’s Sport Medicine physicians have been supplying T-Mobile based in Bonn with doping substances since many years, including epo even though it’s against the drug law of the country, sportsmanship and the Code of Hippocrates.


The doctors Heinrich and Schmid have regretted their mistakes through their respective lawyers, and Heinrich went even further to say that he’d engage in the fight against doping.


The state attorney of Freiburg has taken over the matter in the case of Heinrich and Schmid and mentioned that the matter regarding doping would not be followed up when it is over five years old. Nevertheless, the state attorney wants to find out whether the Telekom and T-Mobile teams used doping between 2002 and 2007. The university rector has no idea where the doping substances came from and how their were billed by the accounts section.


A lot of questions have to be answered and the doping affair timing is wrong, because the university of Freiburg is celebrating its 550 anniversary and Freiburg wants to be recognised as an elite university this autumn. It’s like getting an academic oscar for excellence. The nomination of Freiburg as an elite university will go on, despite the doping scandal. After all, Freiburg is also my Alma mater, and I can only cross my fingers and whisper as we do in Germany: “Toi! Toi! Toi!”



Satis Shroff is a writer and poet based in Freiburg who writes on WordPress.com and regularly for The American Chronicle and its twenty-one affiliated newspapers (poems, fiction, non-fiction and on ethno-medical, culture-ethnological themes). He has studied Zoology and Botany in Nepal, Medicine and Social Science in Germany, and Creative Writing in Freiburg & Manchester. He describes himself as a mediator between western and eastern cultures and sees his future as a writer and poet. Satis Shroff was awarded the German Academic Exchange Prize. Please read his poems, articles and essays at google & yahoo search under: satis shroff.

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Memoir Kathmandu Blues:


Once upon a time there was a kingdom in the Himalayas called Nepal. People in the outside world also called it the Land of the Sherpas, the Land of Yetis and Yaks, the Land of the famous Gurkhas and the Land of the highest mountains in the world. It was ruled by a Gorkha king named Prithvi Narayan Shah, who in 1768 brought the different kingdoms together through his conquests. The rise of the House of Gorkhas (Shah dynasty) has endured since 238 years till November 21,2006.


In 1974, I happened to be a part of a scenario known as the ‘Back to the Village Campaign.’ It was a strange sight in the mountain kingdom of Nepal, which was a forbidden land twenty-four years ago. University professors, lecturers, bank managers, His Majesty’s section officers and other cadres, who normally barked at peons or paleys in the offices of His Majesty’s Government to bring them tea and snacks from the nearby tea-shops, were digging with shovels, lifting stones, plastering up the stone blocks with cement. The place was a remote locality of the Balambu village pan­chayat. And the motley crowd of workers were urbanised white-collar job-holders and citizens of Nepal, working shoulder to shoulder with their rural brothers under the ‘Go to the Village National Campaign.’


The national campaign had a branch office at Balambu, which was located 18-kilometres from Kathmandu along the Kathmandu-Thankot road. In 1975, with a view to enable one to acquire first-hand knowledge regarding the progress made by the government and semi-government workers in the development tasks of the village panchayats in the suburbs of Kathmandu Valley, a couple of journalists from the pro-government media: The Rising Nepal, Gorkhapatra and Radio Nepal were invited to take part in a surprise whirlwind tour of these areas. The ten pan­chayats where the Go to the Village National Campaign was being implemented in the valley were: Naikab-Nayabhanjyang, Purano Bhanjyang, Saritartha, Machhegaon, Mahadevsthan, Thankot, Dahachowk – Chowketar and Ward-Bhanjyang.


The Go to the Village Campaign was the brainchild of King Mahendra, the father of King Gyanendra Shah, and was launched in the Nepalese month of Pousch 1, 2024 (Nepalese calender). The National Campaign was intended to mobilise the masses, taking into consideration the fact that Nepal was predominantly an agriculture-based country. A country where the village forms the most important unit. And every village had its five elders who so-to-say ran the village.


It was believed in the palace circles, and in the panchayat government, that if there was to be an awakening at all in the country, it had to come from the rural masses of Nepal, and a so-called tentative ten-point programme was implemented in the villages of the kingdom, in which His Majesty’s civil servants, students and workers from the urban areas were deputed to go to the villages and help ‘to strengthen and popularise the sentiment of nationalism and national unity’. Nepal’s masses were to be acquainted with the Panchayat Democracy, and thereby develop and further strengthen it.


The panchas at the grassroot-level were required to stick to the principles of the non-aligned foreign policy that the country had adopted, a far sighted policy of the ruling Shah dynasty to maintain their power. As long as you were non-aligned, you could rule a kingdom as you pleased, and there were no allies who’d look over the shoulder and protest when human and other rights were misused. The Kingdom of Nepal had always been a special case as far as geo-politics were concerned. India had a patronising attitude towards Nepal because it was the only Hindu Kingdom, and India’s Hindus and Buddhists flocked to Kathmandu’s holy temples like Pashupati and Swayambhu. After all the Goddess Sita from the Ramayana came from the Nepalese town of Janakpur. Moreover, Gautama Buddha was a prince from Lumbini, another place of pilgrimage for the Buddhists and Hindus. Thanks to the assistance of Japan’s Zen and Shinto Buddhists, Lumbini is an attractive place now.


A campaign was to be started against corruption, injustice, oppression and bungling of works that were of national reverence. The campaign was to make the village population active and conscious. Efforts were to be made to render assistance for the successful implementation of the existing land-reforms, civil code, social reforms and development works which had a national bearing. The idea of cooperatives was to be expanded and propagated. The people were to be made aware of the importance of the forests and wildlife, and were to be encouraged to plant tree-saplings. Since agriculture was the mainstay of the country, agricultural output was to be given greater priority. Cottage industries were to be encouraged and extended in keeping with the blueprint of the national campaign.


All this was the gist of the Go to the Village National Campaign, which a Nepalese linguist named Tara Nath Sharma once dubbed as ‘an echo of Mao Zedong’s repressive measure of closing down the universities and sending teachers, intellectuals and writers to villages for mandatory manual labour during the Chinese Cultural Revolution.’


Showcase villages were taken as examples and the development under the Panchayat government shown to the media. Prior to the implementation of the National Campaign, modern medical facilities were unheard of in a village like Satungal and the local popula­tion had to resort to the shamans of the village, who would practice their ‘strange, archaic, unscientific, mysterious and useless occult art on the simple taboo-ridden villagers (sic).’ The exorcists and shamans didn’t demand money for their services, but the villagers paid them in kind, by sacrificing their best roosters, goats and other animals.


Things slowly changed and a dispensary was set up by the local unit of the Campaign, and the doctors started coming on a three-day rotation to the village and treated the patients. Sample medicines were distributed ‘whenever possible’ (most of the time it wasn’t possible), and the dispensary trained volunteers from the ten panchayats of the area as health assistants. Some of the diseases that were (and still are) common tend to be: ascariasis, hepatitis, colitis, amoebiasis and malnutrition in general. The villagers talked about the family-planning programme, which was also active in the hamlet and the rural population of the village had been vaccinated.


At Chowkitar village, a farmer showed the patch where he was growing pear, plum and peach from the seeds provided by the Campaign and which had been distributed by the local panchayat office. I had the impression that simple Nepalese villagers didn’t know that the seeds that were distributed by their respective panchayats could be used by them, and they’d be free to make a profit out of the produce. Nobody had told them anything about it. There was an unspoken loathing on the part of the villagers, when it came to interactions with the government officials. Many farmers seemed to have the notion that the products obtained through the use of go­vernment seeds would be confiscated.


That the villagers were fully aware of the importance of the forests was amply evident in the higher reaches of the villages, for the mountains were dotted with saplings of Pinus roxburghii. The saplings were, of course, provided by the Department of Forestry, and the planting was done exclusively by the Campaign workers. The farmers were too ap­prehensive about the consequences of bureaucratic involvement. Soil erosion, which has been a prime factor for the lessening of yield in the remote areas of Nepal, can be checked to a considerable extent through the much-publicised tree-planting ventures. The Nepalese farmers were shown films of the royal family King Birendra, Queen Aishwarya, Crown Prince Dipendra, and the other two princes Gyanendra and Dhirendra planting saplings in different regions of Nepal to the accompaniment of the ironical song ‘Nepal ko dhana, hariyo bana’ (Nepal’s wealth is its forests).


If, for instance, there was a conflict regarding land-ownership- rights in the Eastern part of Nepal, as in the case of my college-friend Karki, the petition had to be filed in front of the Narayanhiti Royal Palace as a last instance of justice on earth. Even though Mr. Karki was educated in a college in Kathmandu, and could read and write in Nepali and English, he was obliged to have a petition filed, and written, by an official petition-writer, whose duty was to write a letter in longhand with sentences that were standard examples in circumlocution and archaic, courtly, subservient manners of expression. Having paid the writer for his trouble and artistry, one had to leave the matter to the Gods, and wait and pray that it be heard somewhere in the chambers of the spacious, modern Narayanhiti palace. For Vishnu, who is also called Budanilkantha in Nepal, reposes on his bed of serpents in the primeval waters, couldn’t be bothered with such earthly matters. Vishnu’s preserving and restoring power has, in the past, been manifested to the world in a variety of forms through his incarnations.


During a visit to Lalitput I met Tschering Lama, a lean, bespectacled, restaurant-owner, who’d bought a plot of land smack on the shore of the beautiful Phewa Lake in Pokhara (Central Nepal). He was extremely proud of his new acquisition. Sometime later, when he actually wanted to build a house on his patch of virgin Nepalese earth, he came to know that the land definitely hadn’t belonged to the man he’d bought it from, and that his purchase document wasn’t worth a rupee. The land was the property of the Royal Family, and as such, not for sale to the commoners.


Mr. Lama was awfully disappointed, frustrated and depressed, because his life-savings had gone in this bargain. He’d had plans to build a lodge for the foreign tourists and also cater to their gastronomic delights. And there he was, a broken man with a glum expression on his face. He did have his smart attitude though, and that’s one trait I really admire among the Nepalese from the mountains. They keep a stiff upper lip.


You can see this smartness even under desperate situations amongst the hill-tribes and the Gurkha war-veterans from Flanders to the Falklands. The Nepalese are indeed a stoic, proud and sympathetic people, and a visitor to Nepal notices it, and learns to cherish it after a journey in the teeming cities, crowded trains and blazing plains of the Indian subcontinent. If you’ve had the pleasure of travelling around in India with its maddening crowds, a visit to Nepal can be so exhilarating. Due to the tourism trade, the tourist or traveller might be pestered by curio-sellers and money-changers in Kathmandu’s famous Freak Street (Jochhey Tole, as the Newars call it) and at the bazaars in Thamel. But the people in the countryside are grateful if, and when, they have visitors. These visitors were, before the tourists came en masse, travellers, ascetic holy men (sadhus), monks and pilgrims, or trading Thakalis and Tibetans with mule and yak caravans, and it was normal for the travellers to be questioned about their heritage, caste, birthplace and so forth.


A Nepalese invariably asks, ‘tapaiko jat kay ho?’ Which caste do you belong to? This is because the caste-system and tribe-clans are well-established in Nepal, and every Nepalese name also bears evidence to his or her caste or tribe. For instance: Birendra Bahadur Karki. The first name is this case is Birendra, and then comes ‘Bahadur’, which means ‘courageous’ because all Nepalese males would like their sons to be brave and courageous. And finally ‘Karki’, which denotes that the person belongs to the sub-caste of the Chettris, the second highest order in the Nepalese Hindu hierarchy.


The life of a Hindu, from birth till his remains are turned to ashes, is saturated with religion. Everything he or she does, even eating and drinking, is connected with a religious ceremony. Whereas India has thrown away the shackles of colonialism, as well as the privilege of hundreds of Rajas and Maharajas, because it is a secular state in accordance to its constitution, Nepal still remains Hindu, perhaps due to the fact that its doors were closed to the outside world, and foreign influence kept at bay. But in this Himalayan enclave which has been conserved by dynasties of Shah kings and Ranas who usurped the throne, there are also other ethnic Nepalese who practice other religions, like Buddhism, Animism, Islam etc. India has solved the problems of underprivileged tribes and castes by giving them the status of ‘scheduled’ and has created scholarships from the school-level to the University level.


The reason why the Maobadis under Pushpa Kamal Dahal, alias Comrade Prachandra,became stronger in West Nepal (Rukum, Rolpa, Jajarkot und Salyan) was because of Nepal’s general poverty, corruption, nepotism and lack of perspective. Only a small section of the Nepalese population benefited from the schools, colleges und universities and the blessing of Nepal-aid from foreign countries and mountain-tourism. The Maobadis are fighting now for the banishment of monarchy and removal of the feudal structures in the society.


In Nepal it was always difficult for a poor dalit (lower caste) or someone from the hill-tribes to set foot in Kathmandu, and give them a good education. It is a sad fact that only the rich can send their children to the best English schools in Kathmandu, Darjeeling, Kalimpong or Gorakhpur. The rest of the Nepalese parents sent their children to the government-run schools, where the standard of education was miserable. Nevertheless, thousands of Nepalese students pass their School Leaving Certificate exams and go to colleges and universities, with an English handicap.


In the Hindu society of Nepal, the King has always been the patriarch, who swears to his descent from ancient Vedic heroes who were worshipped by the people. A Newsweek interview with the former King Birendra Shah also didn’t help to throw new light into this ancient tradition, for His Majesty coughed up a diplomatic reply and that was it. The Bada Raj Guru, a Brahmin, was the first State Minister in ancient times, though the Nepalese Raj Guru has still retained his power, because in this Hindu set-up every governmental or stately decision is associated with a religious ceremony. For instance when the King of Nepal leaves his Narayanhiti Palace and visits his own country or other countries, the court astrologer is consulted to choose an auspicio­us day. The King is for the Hindus, not only the protector and preserver of ancient Hindu culture, but is also a manifestation of tradition and development in the Hindu world.


In September 1995, I was astonished how far the winds of democracy had swayed into Kathmandu valley. In Kathmandu Valley there are three former kingdoms: Kathmandu, Bhaktapur (Bhadgaon) and Patan (Lalitpur). At the Rato Bangala, an elite school in Patan smack in the middle of the Sri Durbar, run by a dear family I personally know, I had the privilege of taking part at a school theatre and there were parents and guests from Kathmandu’s upper society. A literary natak (play) in Nepali was staged, in which the protagonists played the role of the people of Kirtipur during the times of Prithivi Narayan Shah. The entire play was from the viewpoint of the besieged and cheated Kirtipurians, and not from the angle of the attacking and marauding Gorkha king in 1768.


I found it rather innovative and courageous on the part of Patan’s man-of-letters Mr. Kamal Mani Dixit, in comparison to the pre-democracy days when everything was controlled, and lips feared to speak about human rights and democra­cy. The people of Kirtipur had put up a brilliant fight in those days, but were defeated, and the males of this brave kingdom, located on a hillock near the Tribhuvan University, had to pay a terrible price. The Shah king ordered the lips and ears of the Kirtipurians to be cut. Only the traditional wind-instrument players retained their lips and ears. It was a bloody affair with a huge pile of lips and ears. The barbaric treatment meted out to the Kirtipurians spread like wildfire in the other parts of Kathmandu Valley and soon Patan, Bhaktapur and Kathmandu fell.


If you are planning to go to Nepal soon, do visit the brave town of Kirtipur, near Kathmandu. The triple-roofed Bagh Bhairab temple walls in Kirtipur are still decorated with swords and shields of the Kirtipurian troops defeated by Prithivi Narayan Shah’s victorious Gorkha army. There is also an image of Vishnu astride the Garuda. Underneath you’ll see the elephant-headed God Ganesh and Kumar. The Nepalese king is also revered as an incarnation of the Hindu God Vishnu. I don’t want to sound like Borat, but blood sacrifices are made on two auspicious days: Tuesday and Saturday mornings. Another place in Kathmandu valley where such blood-sacrifices are made is in the temple of the Southern-Kali, where the Nepalese cook their lunch and have a feast after the temple visit.


I had a chance to meet King Birendra at the reception in La Redoute (Bonn) and had a small talk with such niceties as ‘How long are you in Germany? When are you returning?’ At the Graf Zeppelin Hotel in Stuttgart and Echterdingen airport, where I had the opportunity of handing Queen Ayeshwarya, who was a fellow poet despite her cruel role during the democracy revolution in 1990, a bouquet of flowers which I’d brought along from Freiburg im Breisgau. The late Madame Busak, the Stuttgarter Royal Nepalese honorary consul, was also there, in addition to Herrn Späth, the then Minister-Präsident of Baden-Württemberg. The Nepalese anthem never sounded more nostalgic then, and the traditionally quaint, triangular Hindu Nepalese flags fluttered in Stuttgart’s windy airport as the Bundesgrenzschutz played the Nepalese and German anthems.


In the meantime, Nepal’s multi-party government and the Maobadis have signed a peace accord and declared a formal end to a ten-year war of terror that killed more than 13,000 Nepalese. The agreement paves the way for the Maoists to give up their weapons and be confined to UN-monitored camps. An assembly will draft a new constitution and decide the future of the King Gyanendra Shah’s dynasty as the monarch of Nepal.


One thing is definite: the Maoists and the other communists don’t want the 200 year old monarchy anymore. What is encouraging, and curious, is that they have vowed to honor the outcome, even if the assembly decides to maintain a ceremonial monarch, stripped of his powers. A new wind blows in the Himalayas. Will the Maobadis give up all their arms like the Khampas (Tibetan freedom fighters from Eastern Tibet who’d come to Langtang) did in 1974, after they were confronted by the Royal Gurkhas? With a little bit of monitoring from the UN and Swiss officers, it might be possible to fill up a few containers, but will all the Maobadis surrender their arms? We can only hope and trust them to do so.


What will happen to the angry, restless, mobilised Maobadi fighters and child soldiers? Will they go back to their schools, if not destroyed, or for treatment in case they are traumatised? Will there be social programs for those who suffered under the atrocities of the government troops and the Maobadis? There’s a lot to be done in this country under the shadow of the Himalayas. Will it be a back to the village dream, after the triumphal march of the Maobadis into Kathmandu, heads and hands smeared with red vermilion powder and automatic guns in their hands? Or will the new government use the manpower resources by mobilising and subliming their youthful energies, towards the development of new jobs and a new economy?


Copyright © 2007 Satis Shroff, Freiburg


About the Author: Satis Shroff is a writer and poet based in Freiburg (poems, fiction, non-fiction) who also writes on ethno-medical, culture-ethnological themes. He has studied Zoology and Botany in Nepal, Medicine and Social Science in Germany and Creative Writing in Freiburg and Manchester. He describes himself as a mediator between western and eastern cultures and sees his future as a writer and poet. Satis Shroff was awarded the German Academic Exchange Prize.


Writing experience: Satis Shroff contributes regularly articles and stories to www.Americanchronicle.com with its 21 affiliated US newspapers. He has written two language books on the Nepali language for DSE (Deutsche Stiftung für Entwicklungsdienst) & Horlemannverlag, and an anthology of poems (www.Lulu.com). He has written three feature articles in the Munich-based Nelles Verlag’s ‘Nepal’ on the Himalayan Kingdom’s Gurkhas, sacred mountains and Nepalese symbols and on Hinduism in ‘Nepal: Myths & Realities (Book Faith India) and his poem ‘Mental Molotovs’ was published in epd-Entwicklungsdienst (Frankfurt). He has written many articles in The Rising Nepal, The Christian Science Monitor, the Independent, the Fryburger, Swatantra Biswa (USIS publication, Himal Asia, 3Journal Freiburg, top ten rated poems in www.nepalforum.com (I dream, Oleron, an Unforgettable Isle, A Flight to the Himalayas, Which Witch in Germany?, Fatal Decision, Santa Fe, Nirmala, Between Terror and Ecstasy, The Broken Poet, Himalaya: Menschen und Mythen, A Gurkha Mother, Kathmandu is Nepal, My Nepal, Quo vadis?). Articles, book-reviews and poems in, www.isj.com, www.inso.org., www.nepalikhabar.com. Please also search www.google & www.yahoo under: Satis Shroff.



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