Bonpo Pasang

Dorje: What is your name, Meme (Grandpa)?

Bonpo Pasang: My name is Pasang.

Q: How old are you?

A: Four times twenty and four.

Q: Four times twenty and four?!

A: Yes, 84.

Q: Is your family from Milimchim or you moved here?

A: I am from over there, Bolgang. Originally, I came from Bolgang.

Q: So, your family migrated from Bolgang. Did you move here during your time or your father’s time?

A: During my father’s time.

Q: With whom did you move here? Your father and mother? You were born over there?

A: Yes, I was born over there.

Q: You must have brothers.

A: I had two older brothers; one I have no contact with, and the other died.

Q: Was your father also a bonpo?

A: No, he wasn’t.

Q: He wasn’t, but you are.

A: Yes, I learnt.

Q: Who did you learn from?

A: Meme Chhyaru taught me and his son, Meme Temba. Both of them taught me things.

Q: How old were you, when you started learning? Still a child?

A: No. The year when Dorje, my second son was born.

Q: Were you about 20 years old then?

A: No, not 20, must have been about 40 years old.

Q: Where did you go for your first jatra (here the word refers to pilgrimage)?

A: My first jatra was to Mahadev.

Q: When you say Mahadev (Shiva), do you mean you went to Krejong in Nuwakot (famous Mahadev temple)?

A: Yes, Krejong.

Q: Did you start the journey from Milimchim village?

A: No, no, I actually started from the shed over there.

Q: Where was the shed?

A: In Bolgang.

Q: So you started the journey from Bolgang.

A: Yes, from there.

Q: How many days did it take?

A: Normally, it depends on how fast or slow you are. On the first night, we reached the Meme’s place and then the second day we reached the destination.

Q: Did you reach Krejong on the second day?

A: Yes.

Q: Did you return on the third day?

A: No, we didn’t return on the third day, we got back on the fourth or fifth day. It took two-three days to get back.

Q: When do you organize a jatra? When is the usual time? Is it an annual custom?

A: Every year on full moon of the month of Mangshir (Nepali month).

Q: Only on full moon of Mangshir or other time as well?

A: Mostly on the full moon of Mangshir.

Q: Where else did you organize a jatra?

A: We went twice to Mahadev and once to Fadungdung (a place below Tashithang; a rockface with water dropping down; drubchu=water of realization).

Q: Altogether three times?

A: Yes.

Q: There must be other places, where bonpos go for jatra.

A: Other places bonpos set out to visit are Tsho (“Lake”, referring to Gosainkunda) and Kartik Drupchu in Gyang (another sacred water source near Kutumsang, Nuwakot). There is a drupchu (droplets falling from rocks) in Gyang.

Q: Is there any difference in the process or purpose of setting out to visit a drupchu (holy spring) or a tsho (holy lake)?

A: The process and purpose is the same, there is no difference.

Q: Who else can participate in a jatra, who can accompany the bonpo? The bonpo must have some company during the journey.

A: Villagers accompany the Bonpo, including young males and females, who enjoy these journeys. They sing “Se bonpo” and dance.

Q: Does the Bonpo has a special attire?

A: Yes, Bonpos have a special attire. They wear miyul.

Q: How does that attire looks like?

A: A thee (scarf around head) and miyul. Miyul means skirt.

Q: You play the drum on the way while walking?

A: Yes, I play the drum.

Q: Do you play drum throughout the way?

A: Yes, all the way.

Q: Are you dancing too?

A: Yes, have to dance.

Q: It must be quite tiring, no?

A: A bit. Not too much. As God carries you all the way, you don’t feel the movement. Going uphill, old ones are surprised. During my first jatra, we started the climb from down in the valley and rested first only at Parakharka, above Tshokambu. And then, without resting anywhere, we reached the Meme’s place. We stayed at Meme Bonpo’s place.

Q: You mean the same Meme Bonpo, who you mentioned as your teacher?

A: Yes, that’s him.

Q: What is his name?

A: The older’s name is Chhyaru and the younger one is Temba.

Q: Both of them were teaching you?

A: Yes. They are father and son.

Q: When you organized a jatra, with whom did you go? Were you the only bonpo in the group?

A: When we went to Mahadev, following the lower route, Mingmar, my son was accompanying me. He was also dressed in bonpo attire. He has taken some pictures of the journey.

Q: Do Bonpo Lhamus also need to accompany the bonpo?

A: Lhamu?

Q: Yes, Bonpo Lhamu (T. lha mo, “goddess”).

A: Oh, we call them Bumba Lamu. The one, who carries bumba (T. bum pa, jar), yes, she goes with the bonpo.

Q: Does she have to be a young girl?

A: Yes.

Q: Why is she needed?

A: Because she is the one, who carries the God’s bumba.

Q: When do you need to organize a jatra? Some people say, that for instance, after completing a retreat, you have to organize a jatra. Is that so?

A: Yes, you have to organize one after completing a retreat. When I went to Mahadev, we were preparing for five days after completing the retreat, and then we set out.

Q: For how long were you then in retreat?

A: One has the right to decide the length of his retreat.

Q: On the completion of your retreat, you were preparing for five days to set out for a jatra.

A: Yes.

Q: Many people must have participated in the jatra.

A: All young male and female villagers, who love going on jatra would join. When I started the jatra from there, we counted thirty people on the way at Chhumjaringbu joining and coming with me.

Q: You were dancing and singing all the way.

A: It’s like half way walking only, and half way dancing and singing.

Q: Similarly to the past, are there still jatras being organized these days by the villagers?

A: Yes, they still organize them. Every year there is a jatra to Mahadev. Innumerable people come to Mahadev every year. In this coming fullmoon, a jatra is organized in Gyang. People dance on the ground of Gyang where a drupchu is beneath the ground. On the next fullmoon day, they set out to Mahadev.

Q: Is there a set numbers of bonpos you need for a jatra?

A: There is no set timing for jatra, it is his own wish.

Q: And there is no set number of bonpos?

A: No, it is also our own wish or decision.

Q: Is “Se Bonbo Se Se Se”, the song that is usually sang?

A: Yes, that is created by an expert. Originally “So” was said, but later mispronounced as “Se”. Originally, it was “So bonpo so so so”, invented by Shyabru Meme, and then people started singing it as a song.

Q: Did Shyabru Meme make the song?

A: No, he didn’t. The villagers turned it into a song. Originally, he invented it. I am related to him, we are family. He is the brother of my grandfather, in-law of my father.

Q: These days people say “Se bonpo se,” but originally he introduced “So bonpo so”?

A: Yes, he introduced it as “So bonpo so”. Later people mispronounced it as “Se”.

Q: Do you know what does “So bonpo so” mean?

Third Person: Praying for long life.

Pasang: I don’t know, what it means. Originally it was “So bonpo so so so,” then it was changed to “Se bonpo se se se.”

Q: Okay. Is this line repeated in every song?

A: Yes, it is part of every song.

Q: Do bonpos have any books or scriptures?

A: I have heard, that there are books, but I haven’t seen any yet. I heard, that there is a Bonpo Monastery behind Swayambhu and there are books there.

Q: Have you visited the place yet?

A: No, I have not.

Q: Were there others learning bonpo tradition the same time as you?

A: Yes, there were. Within my circle of friends we taught each other. Memes taught us and we taught the next ones. I heard that Fu-Karpu Dhame Sarki (Fu-Karpu: someone with white face living in the village) had 5-6 students.

Q: Who did you teach? How many people?

A: Nobody learnt from me under my proper guidance. I was in retreat for five days with Dawa Pemba, his son, Meme and Meme’s nephew in Langtang. Dawa Pemba sponsored the food.

Q: So that was a retreat.

A: Yes, we were in retreat.

Q: Did you go to jatra after completion?

A: Not really, but on the way back we passed Gosainkunda Lake in our jatra attire.

Q: Why do bonpos go to jatra?

A: It is said, that we have to go to jatra, visit lakes, pray to Mahadev and organize jatra after someone becomes a bonpo.

Q: Is it like a pilgrimage?

A: Yes, it is. It is going for pilgrimage.

Q: You know, on the top of Yangri peak, there is a male and female statue constructed on the two sides of the path. Did bonpos erect those figures?

Pasang: Where is it?

Dorje: On the top of Yangri. While hiking up to Ama Yangri, right before you reach the top, on the sides of the stairs, there are two statues, one is male, the other female.

Pasang: That is made by talented people.

Q: Is that not made by bonpos?

A: Those are neither made by bonpos nor by lamas. That is made by villagers.

Q: Do you know, why?

Pasang: I also wonder, why they have erected them. Langragyabsa (Tarkeygyang) people would know it.

Q: Jatras are full of fun, isn’t it?

A: It depends on the villagers. The villagers would choose, whether to enjoy it or not. It is just about singing and dancing.

Q: Villagers would sing and dance, but what would bonpos do?

A: Bonpos would sit. Upon the arrival to the resting places, they would circle around for three or five times dancing, and then they would sit down. After a certain period they would pray.

Q: Praying and dancing, is that all?

A: Yes.

Dorje: Thank you, Meme. I think that’s all I wanted to ask. I wanted to know about jatra and now I learnt a lot.

Pasang: (silence)