Ancient tradition of divination and cure on the wane

Pawos and Nejoms, who the people used to go to seeking help in the days gone by, are almost no more

Culture: Declining number of Pow and Nejoms (shamans) in the locality has left the people of Punakha worried.

Baap gewog, a place that use to have more than 20-30 Pows and Nejoms about two decades ago, has no Pows today. The gewog has only three Nejoms. Two of the three Nejoms are in their late eighties.

The only Nejom who is active today is 68-year-old Kinley Gyem. She is also getting older, said Baap Mangmi Kingley Penjore.

People still approach Pows and Nejoms when they face problems. There are stories that testify the power of the shamans. They have cure patients that modern medications could not.

Kinley Penjore said that the number of Pows and Nejoms are decline with losing interest amongst younger generations.

“When we were young, winter used to be fun,” he said. More than 20 to 30 Pows and Nejoms from across the locality used to gather in the gewog to perform together. There used to be celebrations nights on end.  Times have changed,” said Kinley Penjore.

Najom Kinley Gyem said one of the reasons for decline is because Pows and Nejoms become one due to faith. “I was 42 when I became a Nejom,” she said. “Some starts as early as 14 and 15.”

Kinley Gyem had been sick for long time. Nothing could cure her disease.  Her family consulted a senior Pow from whom they learnt that she was the spiritually chosen and should be ordained as a Nejum. “I will remain a Nejom until the end of my life,” said Kinley.

Kinley Gyem get about five visitors now and then from across Punakha, especially from Baap gewog, who come to consult about their health and welfare issues.

Sangay from Thinleygang said that people today prefer consulting lamas to Pawos and Nejoms.

By Dawa Gyelmo, Wangdue

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