Choki Wangmo | Tsirang
Fall—the season of beautiful transition—is a time cherished across various cultures. It also brings back memories of loved ones who are no longer with us.
After Dasain celebrations in October, Novin Gurung and his family had a serious discussion. They wanted to immortalise their forefathers with a memorial structure.
And what better ways than build a resting place by the road, said Novin. Chautari, a raised platform or resting place is constructed by the roads, trails, or important routes built in someone’s memory. Widely practiced in the Hindu culture, chautaris are mostly found under or nearby banyan and peepal trees in India and Nepal.
We built two wooden chautaris near our house in memory of our uncle and aunt, said Novin from Norjangsa in Tsirang.
This time, the family built a concrete chautaris on their land. “We have long wanted to honour our forefathers,” said the father of one.
This good deed, he said, would liberate the dead from suffering. “It is the least we can do on their behalf.”
Some plant fruit trees near chautaris.
“This would help rejuvenate tired people walking along the road. The merit would benefit the dead,” Dil Kumar Das from Mendrelgang said.
In southern parts of the country, chautaris are a common sight.
They are either built out of wood, concrete, or mud. Some inscribe names and paste pictures of the deceased on the chautaris.
To build permanent (concrete) chautaris, people have to get permit from the dzongkhag and the home ministry. Temporary structures are approved by the gewog administration.
“We didn’t build it along the highway as road expansion might damage it,” Novin said.
Chautaris were traditionally used as a space for public gatherings. People now use them to conduct village meetings and pujas.
It is said that in other cultures, a sacred fig tree is planted in the middle of the structure. The tree makes it an ideal resting place.
On important occasions such as pujas and death anniversaries, families make food offerings at the chautaris.
Such practice of honouring the deceased provide important insights into cultural values, traditions, and religious beliefs across the world.
For example, Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, celebrated across Mexico celebrate the lives of loved ones who have died with special foods, parades, festivals, and dancing.
Novin thinks that the culture might die soon in the future. “Younger generations do not care about such values.”
“But there’s hope. We have to pass the values with logical explanations,” he added.