Good and bad news from Kargyak

Spring in Kargyak is very unstable and uncertain itself. Sunny days (more and more frequent) shift with cloudy or snowy days. We also had a snow storm here and I must say that it was very unusual for us “European people” to see lightning between the snow flakes. Anyway, it is for sure now that snow is melting slowly and temperatures start increasing. This time is not interesting just because of climatic changes but life in the village is now changing as well. (...)

(...) Preparation for spring season started with the trip of almost all men from the village to Ichar village, where they bought logs for various repairs for their houses. Step by step they were dragged them on the frozen river to the Kargyak. After this very hard work, there was pudja in the village, which I have mentioned in my last report.

Pudja is a name for every Buddhist celebration and since we came to Kargyak, there were many of them. This one was special, because it was the celebration of Buddhist New Year. It lasted 15 days and four families together entertained all villagers, who were praying during pudja: “Om mani padme ohm”. Only men from the village took part in this Pudja. Women later organized their ama pudja (in zanskari ama  - woman, mother) and it does not last so many days.

Host families don´t have to pray, but on the other side they must cook for all their guest and I must admit that they cook the best Zanskari meals. We were also invited to Pudja and it was nice to see the openness and relaxation of this religious celebration.

Fifteen days later, they “put away praying beads” and start to read Dharma – one of the most important texts of Buddhism.

Most of the villagers read dharma in two days, but some quicker and efficient readers can do it in one day.

The funniest days for us here were “Zanskari Easter”. Actually, it is not Easter at all, the name of this celebration is Shakuti. During this celebration all the children go from a house to house and shout: "Shakutu Makutu" and collect tsampa, rice, dahl and other food. So, when we gave them jam or biscuits they were very VERY happy. When children get enough food, they cook dinner together and they have they own children party. On the other side, lot of children were absent these days.

We were quite surprised, how honest they were in their absence papers – where was openly written, that they can´t come to school because they are having party at home.

Unfortunately spring here is full of contrasts so quite short time after these parties, we heard bad news. The mother of two of our students died unexpectedly and the village was very shaken by her death.

It was quite touching, how all the people from the village start to help immediately to the husband of this dead woman. Two men went to Phuktal gompa for lamas. These monks kept praying for three days and the funeral took place the last day. During all this time, other villagers were cooking for lamas and mourning guests, they took care of the house and they were company for the father as well as for the husband of dead.

In Zanskar, funerals take place outside, under the sky on the border of the river – the body is burned.

Today there was another Pudja in the village and people were praying in the gompa next to the school. Every time, they are praying in gompa, they come to the school and they want to watch “Dalailama movie” – Kundun. This movie, which shows the life of Dalailama, is their favourite and it slowly became a part of any pudja celebration.

I must finish this report soon because we need to get enough sleep. Because the sunny days are longer and sun comes to the village sooner the kids can´t wait and they come to school (which starts at ten o´clock) at half past eight.

So I hope that there will be no more sad news and our next report will be much happier.

Julee Martin a Petra 

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