Sunday, August 16, 2020

Animism definition: Animism in the design of Gurung spiritual thread(Ripa)

Animism is a fundamental belief of virtually all indigenous peoples over the world. Gurung culture is shaped by animism. It is prevailing in the world of Gurung since the prehistoric time. It is the cornerstone of Gurung culture. What is animism? How it is shaping Gurungs' perception about the soul or spirit? How this perception is playing a role in the design of Ripa? In this article, I am going to focus only on a miniature part of animism concerning Gurungs. 
A girl Gurunggirl with a Ripa; Animism leads to believe in the soul.

What is animism?

Animism means the belief in soul or spirit. It is a belief that everything has a soul;  all animate and inanimate things—possess a soul. The stone, tree, river, mountain etc all have a soul. Not only human, but other entities also possess a soul. This is a belief which attributes a life force to everything in this world. The cornerstone of animism is that soul or spirit is the source of everything in the world. Human being, plant, animals etc all have a life source on the soul or spirit within. 

How animism is shaping Gurung's perception about male and female?

Everything is alive due to the soul. It is life energy. This implies we (human body) is alive due to our soul. According to Gurung spiritual text, Pye-tah-lhu-tah, "All human do not have equal souls. Male has nine souls and female have seven souls." For Gurungs, male and female are unique due to their souls. How we perceive is determined by the belief. Belief influences our activities and behaviour, which becomes culture. We can see the expression of this perception in Gurung culture.

Role of animism in the design of Ripa

Ripa is somewhere called pahiru/rupa/riba. It is a spiritual thread used on the neck of victims by relatives to bring into normal conditions. At the end of every ritual, Gurungs chant the word "syaaai" with long tonality and put ripa on the neck of victims. Gurung perception of the soul has a significant effect on the design of ripa.


Ripa for the male is made by nine spans of thread and nine knots installed through it. Ripa for the female is made by seven spans of threads and seven knots. The reason behind this design is that Gurugs believe male and female have nine and seven souls respectively. 

Gurungs believes that souls should remain invariably in the body. In case, some souls leave the body, there is disbalance. It causes illness, chaos etc. If all souls leave the body, death causes. The ripe with this design ensures them that they have souls required in the body.

Animism inspires relatedness

Animism is a belief that everything has a soul; everything is connected; Nothing is isolated. Since the soul is immortal, Gurungs believe that they can connect with their ancestor even after death.

Gurungs are the descendants of khe-Ku and Maa-Ngi (nine male and seven female ancestors). They believe ancestors have supernatural power. So, they attempt to connect with their ancestors in any ritual. This is also the reason why gurung design ripe in a particular way. The power of the ancestor is transferred to the Ripa. So, it is very powerful. It helps to get rid of the evil spirit entering the body. Gurungs believe that ancestors can prevent them from misfortune in the life. This is also how Gurungs maintain the social relationship even after death.  

How this relatedness of animism is validated by science?

Modern science has proved that everything is vibration; and vibration is energy. Energy can be transferred from one object to another. Since the soul is vibrating energy, it can be transferred from one place to another.  In digital communication, the vibrating wave energy is transferred from one place to another, e.g. mobile. This makes us connect with the world. In the same way, the soul of ancestor can bring into ritual by shamanistic process.

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