Rajesh Rai | Omchhu
Two siblings, a brother and a sister, converted to Christianity more than a decade ago, were ritually restored to Hinduism, their religion by birth, yesterday afternoon in a simple ceremony.
The siblings, Bhimraj Rai and Aiti Maya Rai, 29, are originally from N-Bindu village in Tendruk, Samtse.
Thirty-five-year old Bhimraj Rai is a driver at a mining enterprise at Omchina in Geling, Chukha. Aiti Maya Rai’s husband also works at the same mining company.
In 2007 that Bhimraj Rai became a Christian after marrying a woman from the same faith. He was in his early 20s then.
“Being Hindu was fine but I decided to convert after marrying,” he said.
However, Bhimraj Rai soon started to regret his decision. Although the initial days were fine, he said it soon started to be difficult. Going to devotion practises four times a week started to make him uncomfortable as he would miss them often.
Bhimraj then told his wife of his intent to become Hindu again. She disapproved. But his goal to become a Hindu again started when he divorced in 2018.
Bhimraj also said he had intended to bring a pundit and do the rituals but it was an expensive affair.
“Last year, I shared my feelings with an elderly person from Darla,” Bhimraj said, adding he was then connected to a Hindu pundit.
“I felt encouraged and this happened today.”
After being restored to Hinduism yesterday, Bhimraj Rai said he was a happy man again.
His younger sister, Aiti Maya Rai, who is also married for the second time said she was influenced by her friends. She converted to Christianity in 2010 when she was living in Pakchina, Sampheling gewog.
“My daughter used to get sick all the time and bringing shamans and conducting rituals became an expensive affair,” she said.
That is when her friends told her the child would recover if she converted. Later, Aiti Maya started to feel she was misled when her daughter did not recover after two years.
“Then I started regretting my decision,” she said. But it was not easy to just turn to Hinduism because there was a process.”
Yesterday, Aiti Maya said that she felt comfortable as people accepted her back.
Meanwhile, the Hindu pundit, Khagendra Prasad Kafley had come from Paro to conduct the atonement ritual.
“I was informed about these families’ intention to go back to practising Hinduism,” he said, adding that he then came and discussed with the families how to go about and decided the date for the ceremony.
Khagendra Prasad Kafley said that people shouldn’t influence others to convert to different religions. “The poor and the illiterate are being brainwashed and converted most of the time,” the pundit said.
“No one should influence.”
However, if there are people who had once swayed and converted but now willing to return to Hinduism, it was the community’s duty to help, he said.
With yesterday’s two cases, the pundit claimed he has conducted 66 such restoration rituals.
“But I am not influencing or brainwashing people into this,” the pundit said. “I would help anyone willing.”
At the ceremony yesterday, about a dozen people gathered to witness the transformation and show their support.
Among them was Jagadish Bishwakarma, who is a member of Hindu Dharma Samudaya of Bhutan.
He said the rituals for converting back to their birth religion should be simple and comfortable.
“Being a good human being is better than accepting any religion,” Jagadish said.