On 17th August, I boarded a train from Pathsala to New Alipurduar. Barely, fifteen minutes had passed when a Newspaper-Man came chanting: ‘Paper, Paper, English-Hindi-Bangla, Newspaper, Newspaper.’ I stopped him, and ran my fingers through the stack of newspapers and pulled out one. It was ‘Seven Sisters Post’, Guawahati English daily.
As I read and flipped to the second page, my attention was drawn by big and bold heading that read “Bhutanese National held with human bones, skulls’. The newspaper carried colorful images of confessed items, and the facial profile of the smuggler was shown. The article said that the man was in possession of 46 bones, 5 skulls, and 14 small hand-held drums. Interestingly, these materials were to be flown from Delhi to France.
A part of paragraph read “…the skeleton materials have been converted to musical instruments and utensils, which are used for prayers. The upper limb is being used as a flute, the skulls are used as utensils for drinking holy drinks and the small hand-held drums are used to create music during prayer.”
It’s clear that Bhutanese bones exhumed from silent Bhutanese graves are not only used in Bhutan, but also supplied to many other countries. Some clever people are making a lucrative business out of it.
Since a few years back, the digging of dead bodies out of graves during nights have become quite rampant around the country. In Gelephu, people fumed, resented and wept as the graves of their loved ones are emptied every night. Some even could not be laid to rest for even one night in the grave.
What is holy and sacred in ones faith and cultural beliefs can be completely taboo in the culture of others. It’s almost like saying one man’s food is another man’s poison. In some beliefs, cutting a dead body into pieces or breaking or taking of bones is an absolute desecration of the dead body, and is totally banned by their culture.
In some faiths, the dead body is burned, while in some s put into coffin and place it six feet beneath the earth and, it’s is there forever. And some times, even if they practice one faith, they do both- bury and burn, as per their culture or caste.
In some religions and cultures, the dead body is highly revered and cared, while in some, such care is considered immaterial, as it is a dead body without a soul. No culture is good or bad. Every culture is important in its own way, and revered by the people who practice them.
Digging of death bodies indiscriminately can cause misapprehension among people practicing different faiths and cultures, and disturb peaceful coexistence. Today, around the world, many major conflicts have cropped up from faith and cultural issues, because one fails to understand others.
Lakpa Sherpa, DCCL, Nganglam