Tingkao Ragwang Chapriak religion
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Tingkao Ragwang Chapriak religion
The journey of soul in the religion of Tingkao Ragwang Chapriak
By : Chaoba Kamson
The Zeliangrong people of North East India have followed a profound indigenous religion known as the Tingkao Ragwang Chapriak (TRC), the religion of Tingkao Ragwang, the Supreme God. This Sanatan Dharma is basically based on polytheism, worship of many Gods though it gives emphasis to the worship of Tingkao Ragwang. The Zeliangrong people are found settling in the states of Assam, Manipur and Nagaland. The total figure of the devotees of Tingkao Ragwang Chapriak is about 30,000. The present article throws light on the concept of soul of the people.
1. Source of Soul
According to myth, Tingkao Ragwang, the Supreme God after creating the universe, nature, gods, creatures, man etc. ordained Dampapu, a male god and Dampapui, a female goddess to create a human being. As per directive, they created a human being in the form of a fish, khagak and showed it to Tingkao Ragwang who flatly rejected the creation of fish which could not be a human being. As created, they asked Tingkao Ragwang where to keep the fish. He ordered them to set free the fish in the water and they did as ordered. Secondly, they created again a human being in the form of frog. That was also rejected and freed on the earth. Thirdly, they created a monkey as a human being and the creation was also not satisfied and was set free in the forest. The Divine couple was in a dilemma what to do. Not knowing how to create, they approached to Tingkao Ragwang for His guidance. Tingkao Ragwang told them to adopt His image which could be seen in water as a model of man. They created a man and a woman out of the clay of ant-hill. But the created man and woman were lifeless and could not move their limbs. They were disappointed and prayed to Tingkao Ragwang for His help. At last, Tingkao Ragwang breathed His soul or life on their crowns. Then, the man and woman became alive and started crying. All the gods came to see the created man and woman and said that the present creation was well and good. The breath of Tingkao Ragwang is called as Bumaang meaning soul. So human soul originates from Tingkao Ragwang.
2. What is soul ?
Every creature has its soul which cannot be seen. When we place our hands against the heart, we feel the existence of the soul. When the heart beating stops, man dies but the soul never dies. An invisible living force exists in man while he is alive and goes out of body after the death. All the living beings feel cold and sensitive to touch, have sweet and foul smell, have a good and bad taste, have the power to move limbs, have intention, intellectuality and thinking capacity because of presence of life. When this real existence departs from the body, all living beings die. The said unseen living force never dies nor becomes old nor loses. Such living energy which cannot be seen by our naked eyes is known as soul.
3. Where does the soul exist ?
(i) Soul exists in human being
(ii) When the soul departs permanently from the body, the man dies. Before reaching the land of the dead (Taroiram), the soul is on the way, this is the second place of soul.
(iii) After death, the soul will go first direct to the land of the dead where he will lead another world. He cannot forget the pleasures of the worldly life. He strongly still wants the material things. So, long he desires the worldly precious things, the soul continues to exist in the land of the dead. After sometimes his wants will reduce to vanish and he does not hanker after anykind of mundane things. Then he will forget the materialistic world. He will be planning for rebirth with the blessing of Tingkao Ragwang. This is the 3rd place of soul.
(iv) The fourth place is Heaven/Paradise. Reaching this place, it is believed that he had executed some extra-ordinary works which give him salvation and bless of life in Heaven.
(v) This place is also Heaven. It is the highest place where there is no hunger, no sorrow and suffering. There is always bright light throughout the year. Life is peaceful. To reach such place, he has to do righteousness and justice.
(vi) In this place, there is no rebirth. Soul will reside in the place of Tingkao Ragwang permanently.
4. Definition of Soul
Soul is defined as immortal spiritual substance of human being. It is the animating substance of individual. The structure of the composition of soul and body is known as a living being and is further termed mortal. Soul is not born and does not die since it comes from the Supreme God who is the source of soul and life. The physical body is nothing but a shell or carrier of the soul. Human body is the home of the soul. Man is alive so long soul resides in him and the moment when man dies, it (soul) departs permanently from the body. The soul is believed to be pure since it comes out of the Supreme God (Tingkao Ragwang) and the final goal of the soul is to go to Heaven, the abode of the Supreme God. But it depends on the actions of man done in the human world since the soul resides in the body of man.
5. Concept of Tingkao Kandi/Kaidai
It is believed that there is a clear concept of Tingkao Kaidai/Kandi where Tingkao Ragwang exists. To reach at Tingkao Kandi is the ultimate goal of mankind. Everything is available there. There is no sorrow and no pain. Life always leads in peace. To reach this place, man has to do some wonderful works and achieve remarkable results. He should possess a good moral character, have a quality of courtesy, charity, sympathy, love and affection to others. Without these qualities his soul cannot reach at the place of Tingkao Kandi after death. He should get rid of thinking of enmity, hatred, prejudice, pride, anger, telling a lie, adultery, theft, ego, greed etc. He should not look down upon the poor and downtrodden people. When he totally gives up such thinking and activities, his mind will change to right direction. Helping hand to other people should be given a high level of priority. The word, “mine” should be secondary. Mine means selfishness. Charity is for soul. If we follow this principle, the human soul will reach the spiritual world.
6. Good actions give soul an excellent place
Soul is like a flying bird and body means nest. Human soul can move and work without body. That means a flying bird can fly high and a long distance leaving nest. Similarly, man can go leaving behind his house. Therefore, soul and body cannot live togather permanently. Today, a man may not reap benefits of his hard labour but he will certainly get the same in next life. His hard toils will not end in vain. If he commits wrong or sinful acts, his soul always follows them. So, he should avoid such nefarious and immoral activities. Every work with a good intention is very important. Good intention brings a peace of mind and bad intention causes an anxiety and stress. If a man performs good works during his life time, his soul will go to paradise automatically after death. Likewise, we cannot stop smoke from going up in the sky. Whereas, if a person commits unpardonable sinful acts, his soul will go to the place of extinction of life (Thundijang) just as water cannot run upstream instead it will flow to a lower place.
7. Soul will go to Heaven if Maku Banru and Taraang performed.
The main objectives of performance of Feast of Merit (Maku Banru) and construction of ritual ornamented house (Taraang Kai Sumei) which are full of charity are to make the soul good, to do good works, to speak the truth and to worship the Supreme God.
In order to execute these ritual functions, he should abstain from participating funeral service or eating the funeral dinner. He should not kill any kind of animals nor tear even a net of spider. His duty is to worship Tingkao Ragwang.
This is the highest spiritual form of worship. After performance of the above ritual ceremonies, he can take part funeral service and can have its dinner etc. While performing the ritual ceremony of charity (Zoulumei), the performers (both husband and wife) should not look it. They should confine inside their house worshipping Tingkao Ragwang. Performance of such ritual services of feasting all the people present, giving charity and distribution of all ritual items is to reach the abode of Tingkao Ragwang by the soul after death. In such function, according to belief, Tingkao Ragwang also participates. If he carries out the said ritual performance in the name of Tingkao Ragwang, his soul goes to the paradise. There is a belief that those who perform the ritual construction of ornamented house namely Taraang Kai Sumei, Shenlon Lonmei, Laakpui Kai, Huai Kai, Thingku Kai, Chonglen Kai, Puichep Kai and rituals performance of Feast of Merit (Maku Banru) and smaller ritual of Ragaidai, Bamzou Jangmei (Kimei) will have a good place at heavenly abode. Tingkao Ragwang warmly welcomes such souls after death. To feed mankind is tantamount to feed Tingkao Ragwnag. Offering of charity in the name of Tingkao Ragwang is honourable. It is also strongly believed that receiver of charity should not be identified nor recognised. The blessing of elders clearly states that let him be a good host of guests and feed them not being reduced of the rice stocked in the granary”. The elders also give blessing words,” Let him build a big and high ritual ornamented house so that many people will come and see the scripts of the house (Taraang Kaihiak). Construction of ritual ornamented house and performance of Feast of Merit (Maku Banru) signify worship of Tingkao Ragwang by offering holy wine to Him. The soul of such person who performs any one of the above rituals will go to the heavenly abode of Tingkao Ragwang. However, if he commits immoral activities during his life time, his soul will not reach the spiritual place instead will go to the place of extinction of life even if he performs the above ritual ceremonies and give charity generously.
8. Righteous Soul
Those who cannot perform the above ritual ceremonies due to poverty, their shouls will also go to the heaven provided they sincerely do justice and speak the truth. Such souls will not feel hungry and lead a peaceful life not facing any kind of difficulties and predicaments.
9. Belief in the concept of Taroiram.
Taroiram means the land of the dead where ancestors live. Soul after departing from the body will live in a new place temporarily with his ancestors. That new place is called Taroiram. The soul will come across the following places on the way to Taroiram.
(i) A village gate (Ambaan Rangbang)
(ii) A resting place (Bamdondai)
(iii) A river running between the border of Taroiram and human world (Tanung duipaang)
(iv) A beautiful place situated at Taroiram (Marinbangjang)
(v) A windy place of Taroiram (Phoulenlong)
(vi) A resting place of Taroiram (Taroi Bamdondai)
(vii) A gate of Taroiram (Taroi Rangbang)
(viii) A village of Taroiram (Taroi Kaidai)
(ix) A place of Taroigwang (Taroigwangbam)
The human soul will come and take rest at Marinbangjang and pass through the range of Phoulenlong.
Tingkao Ragwang created a male god called Taroigwang (Tamanpu) and his wife called Tamanpui empowering them to look after the souls in the land of the dead.
Taroigwang means king of the Taroiram where he presides over. By the behest of Tingkao Ragwang, Taroigwang gives right direction to the soul to go this or that way. It is also believed that Taroigwang will give divine punishment to human soul in the land of the dead for wrong doing. The soul of good doer will climb paradise through the golden ladder culminating ultimately in the place of Tingkao Ragwang which is the highest place. Human soul is asked many questions relating to his activities during his life time by Taroigwang. If good deeds done are more whereas bad deeds are less, the soul will start for rebirth. If good deeds done are less, such soul continues to live in the land of the dead suffering from anxiety and pain with a specific period. If such stipulated time is over, the soul will lead for rebirth. When a man dies, an elder will shout “Au. Au.we” against the crown of the dead. Au. Au.we, means giving courage to him, not to be afraid on the way of Taroiram. Thereafter, a ritual of Gu-kaset-keimei will be performed purifying the corpse with a piece of fresh ginger addressing his name that his nature of death is normal and not unnatural (Theigai/Thikgai). The elder will tell him to go a good way and pour a little quantity of water in the hearth. Unless this ritual is performed, the dead body cannot be taken a bath. After that, some hair of the dead will be cut followed by giving a bath.
On reaching in the land of the dead, Taroigwang asks the dead whether he takes bath or not. If not taken bath, Taroigwang is very angry with him. If the dead comes with a bath, he is well-received in another world. So, it is compulsory to take bath for the dead as per custom. After burying the dead, the diggers with their spades on their shoulders go around the grave thrice in clockwise and also repeat the same anti clockwise. This custom is locally known as Tarou Laam Laammei, dancing of grave dance. Grave dance signifies to the dead that he is no more. Then, they will break the dried gourd which is placed on the grave. Kharou, a fish bone made of bamboo splints is also placed on the grave. On the fifth day, counting from the day of death, the fish bone will be removed from the grave and beautified it. The deceased is thus comfortably provided for and admonished by word and deed to go into the other world (Taroiram).
Thereafter, the soul will leave the grave and the village to which he belongs and proceed to his destination. The soul will travel on the back of frog while crossing over the river of Tanungduireng. So, the devotees of Tingkao Ragwang Chapriak (TRC) never kill any kind of frogs. And if a dog which is killed for the dead is supposed to bark the evil spirits. Mourners will sing traditional songs such as Magenluh, Chunluh etc. for the departed soul. It is believed that funeral songs help the deceased to enter the land of the dead with his head held high. At the end of every song, the singer addresses, “Kummeipule Taroi chaangtho zougaan jangtatro” which means, have a drink at the land of the dead. Garments for the dead are always worn on the left side so as to avoid removal of the same by the violent wind of Phoulenlong. Therefore left is always used for the dead. As soon as the dead man reaches the land of the dead, his ancestral relatives also ask many questions to him relating to his families and worldly life. When he crosses over the river Tanungduireng, he expresses melancholy and cries rolling over the surface on the earth looking back the material world. When a man dies, a goat or a dog or a cow or a pig is killed in honour of the dead. He uses the goat as a horse and the dog as his body guard. There is a firm belief that the human soul eats all the offering on the grave but he does not eat solid things simply he enjoys smell only. After Gaan-Ngai festival, the living descendants never offer any kind of rice, curry, chutney or drink or eatable on the grave. That means, he has already left the grave and proceded to the land of the dead.
Good soul crosses the bridge constructed over the river of Tanungduireng whereas sinful soul crosses over the bridge sadly which is as small as hair. The frogs carry on their backs those souls who cannot cross over the river. They have been forgotten all the pleasures of the worldly life by eating a fruit of Lung-Nim-Thai. Lung means mind, Nim means control and Thai means fruit. Then, he will proceed to the land of the dead and the place of Taroigwang. Those who commit suicide always live in a dark place where there is no light at all. They feel regretted. Why did they commit suicide ? They will spend the rest of their life in sadness and disappointment.
10. The concept of Rebirth
The followers of TRC believe the concept of transmigration which is known as Rebirth. If a man is born, he will die one day, if he dies he will be reborn. After death, the soul goes to the land of the dead. After living there, the soul will be born to human world. There is a belief that if a married sister dies, her brother (s) will kill a pig or a cow or fowl for her honour. That is called Theigui Loumei. The objective of Theigui Loumei is for her soul which is supposed to be reborn in the lineage of her father. For instance, when a person dies, the members of his family out of love with the colour of garlic or dried charcoal put a mark at a visible part of the dead body for identification. After some years, when a person is born with such a visible mark, then it is presumed that the same soul is born and returned to his family. This indicates that an old member of the family returns home. During his long staying at Taroiram, Tingkao Ragwang will judge whether the said soul can be reborn or will continue to stay there. If satisfied, the soul will lead for rebirth. There is also a belief that the present people who were once born are the rebirth people.
11. The concept of Thundijang
Thun means a kind of plant. Dijang means place of extinction of life. Unpardonable sinful soul will go to Thundijang. The said soul lives in the midst of insects, mosquitoes etc. feeling hungry and spending in dark place. Such soul expresses why does he commit such immoral sins of man and gods ? After living there, the soul converts into a big tree. The said soul will take a lot of time to become a man. Whereas, the soul who converted into thunbang will become as human being quickly. There is a belief that the inexcusable sinful soul will grow as Thunbang which will automatically be rotten after expiry of its life. The rotten plant will convert into worm, this worm is eaten by a bird and again this bird is eaten by man then the soul will be reborn among human being. So, there is no concept of extinction of life forever in TRC faith.
Sin is a deviation from the accepted moral and spiritual norm of a society. In TRC belief, when a man breaks the social and moral code of conduct, it is called a sin. He gets retribution in different forms. After death, human soul will transform into lower beings of animals, plants, trees, or vegetables and ultimately extinction of life or conversion into non-living objects. However, there is a strong belief in the atonement of sin for wrong deeds of man if hearty prayers are offered to Tingkao Ragwang who may redeem his misdeed.
13. Calling of Soul
The Zeliangrong people have the practice of Bukaomei ritual which implies calling of soul. The objective of this ritual is to restore the soul to his original place (human body) as the soul goes out of body because of startling news or action caused by accident or unexpected events.
14. Ritual for Restoration of Soul.
When, human soul stays temporarily at the place of Taroigwang, the king of the land of the dead or the soul is detained by him, a ritual called, Taroijaimei is performed by a priest beseeching him to send back or release the captured soul.
15. Where does the soul go out of the body after death ?
It is believed that the soul goes out through nine natural doors of the body after death. They are - two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, mouth, penis and anus. If the soul goes out of the eyes, his eyes lid open, his mouth opens wide so and so forth. Therefore, as soon as a man dies, efforts are made to check whether his mouth and eyes are in normal shape. It is also believed that good soul departs from the crown as exception whereas a sinful soul goes out through penis or anus after death.
16. Unnatural Death
If there is unnatural death by committing suicide by consuming poison, hanging, jumping down from a tree etc. such soul is denied to access to the abode of Tingkao Ragwang as a divine punishment. So, the soul shows signs of mental anguish thus haunting the human being. Such act of suicide is a great crime and immorality.
The writer is General Secretary, Tingkao Ragwang Chapriak Phom, Assam, Manipur & Nagaland