YADANG PHONGMA (BIRTH RITE)
Some experienced women, mostly the close relatives, gather at the house of a mother who is going to give birth to baby and nurse her. Phedangmas and other traditional healers are always alert there to take necessary precautions and exorcise the evil spirits. After the birth of a child, traditional way of cleaning is done. Phedangma performs a simple ritual by chanting a short Mundhum for the protection of the baby. It is a kind of happy announcement in brief that a new guests has descended on earth that includes the prayer to supreme goddess Tagera Ninwaphuma for the bestowal of safe, prosperous and happy long life to the new born baby.
The house, where a baby is born, becomes impure. Guests are not entertained, close relatives are also considered unclean and worship ceremonies are not conducted on their behalf. After three days for the female baby and four days for male baby, a ritual of Yangdang Phongma is performed. Its literal meaning is ‘hung a cradle’ and it is a ritual of purification of the mother, the baby, the house and the close relatives and giving name to the baby and showing the baby the light of the day. Usually Phedangma officiates the birth ceremonies.
Mother (Sakewamma) takes a bath in warm water early in the morning and the baby is also cleaned properly. Wadum Pakwa – water of the seven springs or “Chirakphek Chwa” (water in which gold has been wasted) is sprinkled in and outside of the house and to the members of the house through a small bunch of Samyok (Cynodon Dactylon) and Namyoba (Indian worm wood fleabane/Artemisia vulgaris) for purification. Phedangma performs the ritual of purification with the aspersion of holy water. Tumyahang (distinguished persons) support and accept the purification procedure. After purification, the worship of supreme divinity Yuma and other guardian deities are performed and prayed for the protection of a new family member. Mangenna of the new born baby is also conducted for the first time and a name is given to the baby. Phedangma invokes his Mukkuma Sams (powerful omniscient preceptors or gurus) and asks for toe instruct him the name to the baby. Names are usually given considering the time, day or date, month, year or special occasion of the baby’s birth and his/her form, color, etc. Names are also borrowed from the names of sun, moon and other planets, gods, legendary heroes and heroines, great kings and queens and other popular figures or objects.
After the completion of name giving rite, a ritual of showing light to the baby begins. Aunt or elder sister carries the baby wrapping in new warm clothes and crosses the door in and out three or four times to show the light of the day to the baby mumbling the following words –
Thakpu Kubu Khriklo (be flayer as birds)
Yãsã Thukpen Khriklo (be fast as antelopes)
Taktak Pengwa Khiriklo (be swift as deer)
Lãsã Phungpit Khiriklo (be cautious as Yak)
Sumdãng Ketti Khiriklo (be strong as rhinoceros)
Utta Kendi Khiriklo (be powerful and intelligent as elephant)
Hengthok Yepma Khiriklo (be astute to run sate), etc. etc.
It is a kind of lulling tone to coax the baby and the content differs according to whether the baby is male or female. If the baby is a female the following lines are mumbled –
Thak Thakmã ga Khiriklo (be skilled in weaving cloth)
Himdãng Wapma Khiriklo (be skilled in decorating house)
Yã.akchãmã Khiriklo (be skilled in preparing food), etc. etc.
Above metaphorical expressions represent the older ways of life. Today’s most favoured expression are “Saksak Nipmã Khiriklo (be fast to read and learn)”, “Lenghã Chokmã Khiriklo (be astute in business)”., “Yãngsã Thakmã Khiriklo (be clever to earn money)”, etc.
The cradle is prepared and hung at the proper place by then. First of all, a puppy is kept there and the cradle is made to swing. It is believed that the dog saves the baby from evil spirits and other Sammang Chyang (inferior divinities having harmful character). A shell of the Neghokkirimba (a snail) is hung on the ropes of the cradle with the belief that the soul of the baby will hide in the shell while sleeping in the cradle so that the evil spirits will not see his or her soul. Some People even place or insert some medicinal herbs also in the cradle. Finally the baby is kept in the cradle and the cradle is made to swing slowly.
Birth ceremonies are completed with the rite of Yangdang Phongma (ritual of purification and naming of the child). Relatives and invitees enjoy the feast arranged by father and mother or grandfather and grandmother. But some of the knowledgable persons on Limbu customs and tradition say that foods prepared or touched by a woman, who have newly given birth to a child, is not acceptable till 22 days of her partutrition (Subba, 1989) and she is still considered defiled. But this practice is not clear and common to all Limbus.
Northey and Morris (1927) have mentioned that a special ceremony is held for a child whose mother does not belong to Limbu clan. Though they have observed slight variation in the performances of the ceremonies and obtained conflicting accounts of those ceremonies, they mention that the special ceremony is organzed by the father, officiated by Phedangma and attended by gentlemen representing ten Limbus, which includes applying of grounded up black pulse to the mouth of the child, who is thereupon considered as Limbu and his or her mother is liable to be buried according to Limbu custom when she dies. This is not a common practice today. Most probably this was a part of Chokphungthim, a custom of including a person of foreign tribe into blood relationship and thus making him or her a Limbu.
In recent times, birth rite and the procedure of giving name is most influenced by Hindu tradition. If it is performed in traditional way i.e. performed by Phedangma, the exact time and date of birth are noted down and an astologer, usually a Hindu priest is consulted to give the proper name for the baby and to prepare his or her horoscope in his own format which works as birth certificate. Probably most of the Limbus are following this procedure for their names and horoscopes since the last three to four hundred years which is evidenced from Vangshavali (pedigrees). Today it is obvious that Limbus are following syncretic form of birth ritual comprising both of the element of Hindu and Limbu tradition and culture. There are also some traces of Buddhist influence in the manner of celebrating the birth ritual through their proximity, interdependence and interaction with Tamangs and Sherpas.
Some believe that the God of Destiny writes the luck (fate) of the baby at the night of Yandangphongma, but in the introductory recitation of Mundhums, Phedangmas, Sambas, or Yebas and Yemas mention that they are, accomplishing their job which was predestined by Nawalungmang Chosaplumang (God of destiny or luck) while they were in the inner world, unseen world in the womb of mother (Shreng, 1992). It is a common practice among all Mundhum reciters to speak something about their vocation. These show that the future of the baby is determined when he or she is in the mother’s womb.
These days, Limbus have started to perform the rituals of feeding rice to the baby usually after six months and cutting hair of the male child after three to five years following the Hindu traditions. But, still it is believed that the presence of maternal uncle is necessary for the successful ritual performances.
Source: Srijana Subba