The Legend of Banjhakri

When ever I see my blog, recall list of places in India I have explored so far , I always felt that this is not complete without exploring northeast side of India. Seven sisters of India, the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura. So far I have explored Meghalaya and Assam.

Wait a minute, Sikkim is in northeast part of India but why is it not part of seven sisters. I was always under impression that its part of seven sisters but it isn't. As usual before I explore Sikkim, gone through few articles, blog posts and travel diaries. An eye opener for me, I was ill informed. Sikkim is not part of Seven Sisters. One reason is geographically it's not a contiguous part of the peripheral northeast region and there are some political, social reasons. My trip to Sikkim last month helped me to understand more about its culture not just roaming around and covering tourist destination.

One popular tourist destination in Gangtok caught my attention, a waterfall named after "Banjhakri"

I went there, nicely built and well maintained waterfall along with entry park, just 10 km from Gangtok. I thought it would be just another waterfall and theme park. I was clueless why the name of waterfall is Banjhakri and what's the significance. The information board at the entrance gate gave me some information and then I saw the status of Banjhakri.

Banjhakri and Lemlemey

In the Nepali language, Ban means "wilderness", Jhākri means "shaman".

Banjhakri (male) and Banjhakrini (female, also known as Lemlemey) are shamanic deities in the tradition of the Tamang people of Nepal, they had ability (mythologically), more like a humanoid who changes into a non-human animal form.

Physical appearance

Banjhakri is a short, wild, simian trickster, large ears, hair covers his entire body, except for his face and palms, and he plays a golden dhyangro (kind of drum)

Banjhakrini is also known as Lemlemey, combination of bear and humanoid with long hair. She carries golden sickle, described as bloodthirsty and brutal.

Here is the legend

They were believed to be cave dwellers. Banjhakri used to find, abduct young boys and girls. Take them to his cave for witchcraft, shamanism training. Only who pure in body and heart were retained for training. Training period lasts usually for a month, after that they were left to the same spot where they were abducted. They could return to their villages to continue practicing witchcraft. Those who had physical scares and heart not pure were released, sometime thrown from cave, often captured by big Banjhakrini.

Quick search on Google will give you bit of info but being there and listening the stories of Banjhakri  is different feeling. My cab driver was born and brought up in Sikkim, very chatty in nature and gave me many interesting information. I had many questions for him

Are they real? aren't they just a character as told in stories? why abduct child ? why pass on the power?

Driver believed Banjhakri and Banjhakrini still exists but few can see them. Its not just his belief but most of the people in Sikkim do recognize Banjhakri, they are revered and celebrated as a teacher, as the god of the forest. Although they abducts young boys and girls but people believed Banjhakri's intention was never malicious. As he train youngster to became witch doctor and pass on ancient knowledge of healing. When children comes back from training they became more powerful, help other people with their shamanic power and healing.

The showcasing of Banjhakri in this waterfall and engery park is to deceit the age old practices of nature worshiper, beliefs on healing powers, diagnose of ailments and driving away of bad sprits.

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