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Mundhum-The Scripture of Kirant
Updated: Thursday 10th November 2016


Mundhum-The Scripture of Kirat People

The word Mundhum means the power of great strength and the Kirat people of east Nepal take it to be a true, holy and a powerful scripture. In ancient time the Tibetans used to call Nepal by the name of Li - yul, which means the country of Li people.

The Mundhum is divided into two parts. The first is called the Thungsap Mundhum and the second is called the Peysap Mundhum. The Thungsap Mundhum is the original one and came from the very words of mouth till the art of writing was introduced and was referred to as the oral Mundhum in books. It was an epic recited in songs by the learned Sambas or poets. The Kirat priests in the beginning were called the Sambas where, “ Sam” means song and, “ Ba” means the one who (male) knows the Song or Sam.

The Peysap Mundhum is a written book about religion. It is divided into four parts. They are the Soksok Mundhum, Yehang Mundhum, Sapji Mundhum and Sap Mundhum. The Soksok Mundhum contains the stories of creation of the universe, the beginning of mankind, the cause and effect of the sins, the creation of evil spirits, such as the evil spirits of Envy, Jealousy and Anger and the cause and effect of death in childhood.

The Yehang Mundhum contains the story of the first leader of mankind who made laws for the sake of improvement of human beings from the stage of animal life to the enlightened life and ways to control them by giving philosophy on spiritualism. In this book, the leader has made rules for marriage, arbitration, purification and religion. The story of destruction of human beings by deluge and the cause of existence of many languages among the Kirat people, the social customs of seasonal worship to the worship of God, the rules of purification on child birth and death are mentioned in the Lepmuhang Mundhum.

As the Kirat people in the beginning were rationalistic idolaters, they neither had temples, altars nor images, conceiving that none of these was necessary, but that the God resided in light and fire. Hence, they worshipped spirits whom they believe to be the residents of fire and the sun. So according to Sapji Mundhum, the spirits are if two classes: the Good Spirit and the Bad Spirit.38

The Good Spirit

Both the classes of spirit are powerful and invisible, yet they believe that the first class or Good spirit is the creator of the second class or Bad spirit. The first class spirit is the Good spirit, which is believed to be the Supreme and the most powerful spirit of knowledge and wisdom and whom the Mundhum addresses by the name of Ningwaphuma. It means the mine of knowledge and wisdom.

When the spirit comes down to earth the help mankind, people regard him as their grand mother and call her Yuma Sammang. Now the God Ningwaphuma loved human beings so much that he sent other good spirits to help them in their daily work. He sent Heem Sammang, a good spirit to look after the prosperity of the house of mankind; Thoklung Sammang to look after the health of mankind; Nehangma Sammang to give good energy and ambition to mankind; Theba Sammang to guide mankind at the time of war; Pung Sammang to look after the good production of the field; Khambhuling Sammang to guide the first class priest who does not kill and offer blood at the time worship and Okwanama Sammang to guide the second class priest who sacrifices birds and animals for the recovery of the sick person. Every time the priest or priestess recites Mundhum, the word, “ Sammang” means the spirit of God.38 Kirat MSS, Hodgson collection, 1840

The Bad Spirit39

The second class spirit is the evil spirit which is less powerful than the good spirit of God. The head of the evil spirits is called the Tamphung` Sammang which means the spirit God of the forest. It has the freedom to move and work as it likes; but when he does injustice to mankind, the Good spirit God Ningwaphuma controls him. Because, the latter spirit is the Queen and creator of all the other spirits. Ningwaphuma or Yuma Sammang is the only spirit God, who is omnipresent, supreme and eternal. It was he, who created the rest of the spirits and other powers of fire, wind and water.

But Tambhung Sammang being the head of evil spirits causes a lot of trouble to mankind through the other subordinate evil spirits. All sorts of diseases are the results of the mischief of the evil spirits. They always dwell in bad and dirty places and trouble mankind. The spirits both good and bad are actually invisible, yet the Kirat people personify them and treat them as if they are living beings and try their best to pacify them by prayers and sacrificial offerings.

The Kirat priests never use medicine for the treatment of sick people unless they are directed by the Good spirit God in their dreams for its use. If the evil spirit does not get satisfaction from the humble prayers and sacrifices, the priests burn chillies rags and other dirty things in order to drive them away from their presence.

When a priest prepares an altar with a view to destroy such evil spirits, then no member of the house where such performance takes place, should work in the field for eight days. Neither should any member of the family go on journey within that period. The priest prepares a place of such function in a secular place and never allows anybody to go there. If anybody happens to go there by mistake, he is punished with double the amount spent in the performance of the function. If they do not do so, they believe that a worst type of epidemic will occur in the village. As the priest recites the Mundhum,he attracts such evil spirits in the place prepared for their welcome as gods and when they assemble, the priests uses such power over them that all of them are destroyed then and there only.

According to the Mundhum, the Kirat people believe that a sinful person never goes to heaven after death where their forefathers have already gone and where they enjoy happiness. The Mundhum describes that the place where the human soul has to go after death is very bright with thousands of sun's rays and the place is very blissful and it is the place where only the Gods o can stay. So, if a pious man dies, his soul is considered to be worthy of the life of heaven and worthy of enjoying a supernatural life as the other gods there.

But a sinful soul is not allowed in heaven. The sinful work of a man causes him to meet his unnatural death through various ways of suicide such as falling from the tree trunk or into a lake to meeting death by flood or landslide or by being stabbed or at child birth if she be a woman or by accident or murder. When they meet their such accidental deaths, their ghosts also live in the same spot and become mischievous evil ghosts and trouble the living person. Yet, the Kirat priests who know the spiritualism can control them. The evil ghost of a man is called, “Sogha” and that of a woman is called, “Sugut” in Kirat language. The evil spirit which entangles mankind to evil work is called, “Epley” and the other evil spirit which makes fails a man from fulfilling his promise is called, “Songdo”. The evil spirit of envy, jealousy and anger is called, “Nahen.”       40 Kirat MSS, personal collection – 1930

The Inspiring Spirit

Besides the Mundhum of Good and Evil spirits, the Kirat people believe in oracles. They believe in the inspiration of God's spirit in human body. When a person is inspired by the good spirit of God, he or she will be senseless for a while and when the sense returns, he or she will begin to speak oracles. He or she prophecies the good or bad results of a sickness or of projects of any man or woman who consults him/her. He or she recites all the Mundhums of the past days in his/her oracles. These oracles encourage people to do good work for the benefit of the others. They give good advice to people who believe it and direct them how to proceed to good path. They instruct people to use medicine for the recovery of sicknesses. They do not advise blood sacrifice; on the contrary, they instruct them to be pure in spirit, body and in their work. When the God's spirit goes away from his or her body, he or she will fall asleep for a while, but cannot remember what they had said before. This culture can be compared with the Delphi oracles of the Greeks or Yavans in ancient Greece, where the priestess after chewing the sacred bay and drinking water from the sacred spring took her seat on the tripod and uttered oracles.41

The Tantric Feat in Kirat Mundhum

There is also another kind of Mundhum called the Phungwa Changma and Phungwa Lemma. In such Mundhum, an expert priestess sings or recites the whole story of the creation of flower, its uses and compares such

41History of Nations, the Greeks by Dr. J.P. Mahaffy, C.V.O.D.D.D.C.I., page 100

inanimate objects to human life in such a way that she particularizes the mentality of a certain man to that of the stage of that particular flower. She then diverts the stage of that flower from freshness to a withered condition. While she is doing this act of diverting, the particular man who is compared to that particular flower becomes slack and loses consciousness. Then finally when the priestess refreshes the flower, the man comes back to his senses and becomes fresh again.

The priestess, who knows such occultism, can also practise such magic to command a tree to drop down its leaves on the ground and again to put them back on the tree. This culture of animism of the Kirat people seems to have started a very long time back. Jack Finegan of Princeton University mentions in his book of the Archeology of World Religion that during the pre-Aryan period, the Indus Valley Civilization appeared to have much animism in the religion.42 All these points prove that the Kirat people had enjoyed the Indus Valley Civilization to some extent.

The Spirit of Envy and Jealousy

The Mundhum mentions that when the mankind was in the stage of animal life and there was no sense of family relation, at that time, a brother and a sister became consorts. When her husband died, she became the wife of her own son. The son also died. So, the ghosts of both the husbands became the evil spirits of Envy, Anger and Jealousy and is called, “Nahen”.

42  The Archeology of World Religion by Jack Finegan, Princeton

University 1957, page 127                     Kirat Yakthung Chumlung  B. S 2059, Poush 17th