"Noted that Surje had no sleep last night and won't be able to eat until this evening. Noted also that wood was being collected from Dilmaya for the funeral pyre. Assume everyone gives something. Maldosing was collecting it. Went on up to House29 at about 10.15am. There were a few men at the house. The lama was inside and had started to beat his drum and chant. Went inside. Found Minbahadur, Tekansing's son, beating the drum while the lama beat the cymbals. Nansuba came in and tied threads round the necks of Kumbasing and the grandson. Even we were 'sha' and told 'a-kroba'. Other women came in and did the same.

Noticed Gungabahadur (Jila) outside. Poju Kaila came in and sat with the lama. Outside, a number of flower garlands had been made and hung with money. In front of the lama was a largish 'kaidu' with six finger holes pressed in it, two by two. On the body lay a kukri and the lama's ribbons. The body appeared to be lying with knees folded as though it was lying cross-legged.

Became much more crowded. Many Lamme. Rudrabahadur took the 'pwe- lu' and threw it out of the house. Interesting that this Lamme family has a 'pwe-lu' and doesn't eat buffalo. (But Dumbasing, who also has a 'pwe-lu' does eat buffalo). So the priests of both Kugi and Songi have 'pwe-lu'. Poju Kaila now playing the drum, and then the bell, and chanting with the lama. This lama must be a Gurung lama, one that does the 'pae' with poju or klehbri rather than a 'chempa'. When the oil lit next to the corpse goes out, Surje relights it. They find some joss sticks and put them in a lump of buffalo dung by the head of the body.

The 'moh' is the husband of Purnakumari, Gomansing's only daughter by a mother who divorced him. Noted after that she never cried over her father's corpse, which was considered very bad form. The 'asyon' was a man from Siklis and he hasn't come. Gomansing will be cremated. Rudrabahadur, Dilbahadur's son, says burning is better than burying because if you bury, the corpse is likely to turn into an evil spirit. Outside they collect gifts of money, biscuits or rice. The 'ala' is placed outside the front door. None of the participants, except, perhaps, the widow, is looking unduly sad. Lot of chatting about this and that.

At 11.30am., Towchiri asks how long it will take and tells the Lama to hurry up, it will rain later. The daughter and the 'moh' left Moja at 1.00am. to get here. Like Surje, the 'moh' is nodding off. Further chanting, and the Lama sprinkles water on the body with a lily-like flower. 11.45am., we were ushered out of the house so that they could arrange the body on the byre. Women were huddled in one buffalo shelter, men in another, the verandah also full of people. A mat and blanket were laid out on the terrace for the corpse. The Lama came out with his ribbons, cymbals and conch. The byre was made of bamboo - no plough beams here as Pignede drew.

Old Tekansing began playing the drum while the Lama played cymbals. Later Poju Kaila took the drum. The widow came out but she was not weeping like Antheba did. Her hair hung loose. Both Dumbasing and Kumbasing have soot on their foreheads. Other men, Kwonme in the main, stand on the terrace, heads bare, including Agi Kroh and Bolbahadur, Kesap and Jusbahadur. People giving gifts of biscuits, etc.

The body was brought out on the byre - probably arranged by Surje, 'moh', and others. It was laid fully stretched out wrapped in a pink sheet, with a clump of leaves in the middle. Gomansing's daughter rubbed the leaves with oil. Usual manner of keening - several women do this, including Gunga, Jitbahadur's wife, who sobbed a lot. One other woman, Narkumari, sister of Nainasing, sobbed more than anyone else. Women in the shelter also sobbed a bit. By then the widow was clearly weeping. Gunga's daughter pulled her mother away - Gunga calling "Thargu!". The grandson put money on the body, then sprinkled it with water.

The bow and arrows brought out and given to the grandson. Other people give money which is placed on the corpse before being taken and noted by Surje. Some women are unplaiting their hair. Then the poju and lama started to dance slowly round the corpse, followed shortly by Gunga and other women, including Bindu, Uli Kancha's wife, Bimkumari, Sherbahadur's wife, and Puspaya, her hair down. As they circled, they threw rice at the corpse. Kumbasing took a stake and ring and went to the end of the terrace, out of sight but presumably to spike the ring with the stake. He came back and did so over the body. His neck was tied with many threads.

Bimbahadur brought out the 'gyan'. Dumbasing also had many strings round his neck. Debibahadur also pierced the ring over the body. Then the byre was lifted onto the shoulders of the grandson (who clearly couldn't carry it for long) and others and they started moving off the terrace. The procession was led by Kumbasing carrying the 'ala' and the ring and stake, followed by the 'gyan'. Then men and women carrying wood for the pyre, then the priests, then the corpse, and others - Dumbasing carrying the bow was near the rear with the 'moh'. The route was passed the Sarki houses and over the landslip. The pyre was built down below the path on an outcrop of rock. The 'gyan' carriers formed a semi-circle shielding the pyre from the group of women. The men were on the other side. They placed the byre beside the pyre, took off the pink sheet and the white cloth, then placed the body on top of the pyre and removed the byre. The latter was broken up.

The body was sprinkled with milk, oil and water from the lama's conch. Coins were placed at the four corners. As soon as the money had been put at the four corners a man, a 'sola', scooped it up. He is the person who has built the pyre, and the payment is called 'sola dhan'. He also gets an 'ashee', an axe, and a small 'kodale'. The body was covered in leaves and branches, then more wood was placed on top. I estimated it took a month's supply of wood for an average family. All this was done to drums and cymbals. Four men - Lamme? - carrying flaming torches, circled the pyre, then fired the four corners with people yodelling. As the flames took the women got up and left. I was sitting above the site, but as they went by they encouraged me to go too.

On the way I had noticed little piles of rice on several stones. On the way back, trailing behind the women, I missed a couple of twigs in the path. Dumbasing's daughter rushed back and took me back to them, and proceeded to flick me with them as a cleansing rite. At the spring, the women all washed their faces and drank, then, as the men arrived, they waited for the women to finish, but with the last few started playful sparring, the women flicking water at the men. The men then washed and drank as the women had done. The final cleansing rite was just at the outskirts of the village. Nansura brought out burning charcoal from the fire and put a little 'dhup' on it. All the women then bent and sniffed it, flicked their shawls over it and their skirts, and went home. The 'bow tsaba' will be in a couple of days." (Diary)

Video sequence:

Minbahadur beating drum, another man plays cymbals

Corpse wrapped in a sheet, men playing drum and cymbals

Gomansing's daughter crying

Budibahadur (poju), corpse in sheet

Minbahadur carries something towards camera and out of the room

Surje watches, men playing instruments

Basket of grain and coins

Men carry corpse out on stretcher, with clump leaves on body

Corpse in pink sheet with leaves, on rug on the ground

People preparing corpse, drums and cymbals playing, woman rubs something on her hands and then rubs leaves, man blows into conch shell

Gunga comes up rubbing her hands, rubs leaves, cries, another woman brings incense sticks, men bring strings of money and leaves

Man sprinkles water on corpse using a flower, women come out of house leading widow, Baikumari, covered in her shawl, weeping

Men garland the corpse, add flowers

Woman embraces corpse, other women crying

People around corpse, including widow

One woman gently persuades woman hugging corpse to move away, Dilmaya and others bring flowers

Trays placed on body

Dankaji, his grandson, crying, sprinkles water on the body, older man gives Surje money which he puts on tray, Lamme women with incense sticks

People pass Surje money which he touches to body's mouth then puts on trays


Surje counts money, musicians play whilst walking around corpse

People walking around corpse

Debibahadur piercing ring with stake over body, people touching his head

Corpse lifted on stretcher and carried by two men, people follow

Procession files off, down path

Hillside with procession in distance

Men in procession, white banner ahead of the body

Procession led by lama, the body, rest of people on path

White banner on path in the distance

Procession rounding corner of hill

Some people on rock above the site of the pyre, then white banner with procession on path

Musicians playing, white banner, people resting

Dilmaya watches with other women, wood pyre with the body placed on it

Men preparing pyre

Man cutting up stretcher, another man preparing body

Dilmaya, other people watching preparations

Surje pours liquid on pyre, another man pours liquid on body, people file past putting grain and coins at corners of the pyre

Body is covered with fresh green leaves, to Dilmaya talking to women

Dankaji pours something on the body's head, musicians start playing

People sitting nearby, pan of surrounding hills

Man puts wood on top of body

Another man puts wood on top of body

Four men, including Dankaji, walk around pyre with burning torches

The four men light the pyre together, people yodel

Lama sprinkles water on pyre with flower

Men holding fire-brands to light pyre, drumming stops

Men walking to camera, pyre in background

People around pyre which is smoking, body not visible

Pyre burning, Minbahadur shaving the head of another man, pyre burning more

People walking back up hill, pan of hillside to pyre, man's head being shaved

Valley and distant hills with pyre burning in foreground, terraced hillside with Thak village in distance

Dilmaya smiling with other women

Sarah and other people washing at the spring

Group of women shaking shawls over a little fire to purify themselves

Woman bending over fire, takes a handful of water from Nansura, sip and throw rest over head, other women do same

Dilmaya shaking head-scarf over fire, then Sarah shakes her skirt over it and washes her face with water

Thak, 12th May 1992