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Bhutanese Beliefs

Book Review: Karma Pedey, Ta She Gha Chha: The Broken Saddle and Other Popular Bhutanese Beliefs, DSB Publication, pp 152, Nu. 245

All expectant mothers, beware of who touches your new born first since that person's temperament and nature will influence the baby's. If your cat keeps wiping its face with its paw, you can very well expect guests. And, if a tooth of yours comes off in your dream, be warned of serious illness.

This is what the Bhutanese have always believed and has been documented in Ta She Ga Chha: The Broken Saddle and Other Popular Bhutanese Beliefs, the latest book in the market.

Compiled by Karma Pedey, a lecturer in English at the National Institute of Education, Paro, the book contains some of the most popular beliefs of the Bhutanese society.

All societies are fraught with ancient, time-honoured beliefs and so is Bhutanese society. Take for example, who hasn't heard this, that if a crow crows on your rooftop it portends the news of death of someone you know.

"Popular beliefs form an enduring set of beliefs around objects and situations demanding an individual to respond in some preferential manners, attitudes and approaches," says Karma Pedey in her introduction.

Beliefs are universal. Books like Dracula by Bram Stoker and films like The Brotherhood of the Wolves and The House of the Spirits are based on popular community beliefs. Even Sir James Frazer's seminal work The Golden Bough also has a chapter dedicated to magic, charm, taboos and beliefs.

In his foreword to Ta She Gha Chha, the director the Center for Educational Research and Development, T S Powdyel, says that "the invention and fostering of beliefs may be among the most intelligent ways found by the human race to explain and sanction, confirm and contest, excuse or accuse the consequences of their own actions and the happenings in the universe around them".

Karma Pedey's book, compiled over three years, draws from the rich oral reservoir of popular beliefs of the collective consciousness of the Bhutanese. The chapters are categorised under broad themes.

Ta She Ga Chha would make a good reading for both young and old, and especially school children who are more and more subjected to the impulses of rationality, skepticism and cynicism by the day.

Meanwhile, next time a bee hovers over your head better don't get irritated and chase it away. It is just doing its duty: intimating some good news about your loved ones.

This article was contributed by Gopilal Acharya, KUENSEL, Bhutan's national newspaper

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