Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Animistic view: How Gurungs perceive death?

Animism means belief in the soul or spirit. It is a belief that all the animate and inanimate thing in this world possess soul or sprit. It is a fundamental belief of all the indigenous people in the world. Gurungs, the indigenous people of Nepal, have the world view of animistic nature. In this article, I am going to show how this belief is shaping gurung psychology and culture considering death. 

How Gurungs perceive death?

Considering the perspective on the soul, Gurungs perceive death when their souls completely leave the body. In other words, to cause death, the soul should be departed from the body. Gurungs believe male and female posses nine and seven souls respectively. So for a male to cause death, nine souls should completely leave the body. And to cause death for female, seven souls should completely leave the body.

Gurung death ritual(Pae)

How animism is shaping Gurung death ritual?

Human behaviour is shaped by belief. What we believe consciously or unconsciously directly affect our behaviour. The soul is life energy. It is immortal. Animism leads to belief in an afterlife. So, Gurungs perform dead ritual since they believe the soul is immortal; and departed soul is still alive in the non-physical form. If they did not believe in animism, they would manage only death body. There would not any ritual considering afterlife. Gurungs performs death ritual to send the departed soul to the land of the ancestor(Siminasa). They believe they can meet with their ancestors(khe-maa) after performing the shamanistic death ritual. 

Why Gurungs send a departed soul to Siminasa?

According to Gurung spiritual text, "There is no land for dead in the land of the living; and no land for living in the land of the dead." 

Gurungs believe that if departed souls are not sent to the land of the ancestor, they suffer and make us suffer too. Conversely, if they are sent to siminasa, they can meet with ancestors and remain peaceful with huge fulfilment. 

The social intelligence can be perceived in Gurungs' animistic view. Gurungs believe that death cannot end their relationship. Even though departed souls are sent to siminasa which is a spiritual or supernatural world, the livings build a social relationship with them whenever required. 

Gurungs take their ancestors as active family members. They believe that ancestors have a superpower and can protect them from misfortunes in life. Like living, ancestors can support in enhancement but non-physically. They take permission when doing work. In healing work, Gurung shamans pray for ancestors to succeed in their ritual. This is how Gurungs believe in the existence of a supernatural world and continues to bond with their ancestors. 

How Gurung death ritual is managing grief?

Gurungs have a world-view that after death, departed souls are sent to siminasa which is the land of ancestors. This implicitly figures a pivotal experience, 'There is no death but only the change of the world.' Gurung spiritual text assures that the land of ancestors is the land of fulfilment. Departed soul could get food if hungry, get water if thirty, get warm if cold, get a friend if afraid etc. It helps to reduce the grief of the deceased family. Deceased family members bonds with them through different rituals as if they are still active family members. 


Gurungs are indigenous people of Nepal having an animistic view on their culture. They perceive death animistically and perform a unique shamanistic ritual when death causes. They sent departed soul to the land of the ancestor(siminasa) and persist social relationship with them through different ritual. Gurung death ritual seems helpful to control the grief caused by death.

See Gurung death ritual by clicking below. (Video by Mani Sarabja Gurung)

Delivered by FeedBurner