Hinduism and Hindus
The word ‘Hindu’ is neither a Sanskrit word nor Pali nor Devanagrik nor Dravidian. The word ‘Hindu’ cannot be found in any Vedic texts – Vedas, Upanishads, Geeta, Sutras, Mantras, Puranas, Mahabharata, Ramayana or any other Vedic literatures considered to be ancient (Jayaram, 2000). The word ‘Hindu’ according to the linguists is a Persian word. “The earliest reference of word ‘Hindu’ can be found in the Avestha, the sacred book of the Zoroastrians. The word “Hindu ‘ush” was also found at least in two inscriptions of king Darius (early 6th century BC.), whose empire said to have extended up to the borders of river Sindhu” (Jayaram, 2000). The feudal Nepali Hinduism is intermingled with the ethnic beliefs, superstitions, rituals and rites even though some studies assume that in ancient Hindu epic Ramayana and crusade Mahabharata references are found regarding ethnic group of people such as Kiratas in the hills and Sakayas in the plains (Savada, 1991).
Ritual and physical purification: Caste members perform their caste-specific rituals and worship their caste specific deities. Castes, even the so-called lower castes, always ‘justify endogamy on the basis of putative biological differences’ (Gupta, 1991:37). As well ‘only after we accept castes as discrete are we in a position to understand why castes equally pure refrain from merging their identities (Ibid: 130).
First worshiping time to any God first should worship to Ganesh. Slusser (1998:328) points out, it is the female deities that are responsible for such diseases as cholera, malaria and meningitis. Children’s illnesses are particularly attributed to the chwÄsÄ AjimÄ-The Remains Deity (Nepali, 1965:335). In hierarchical caste system Brahman, Kshhetri, Baishya and Shudra are more or less following their own traditional culture. Mostly Nepali people have great faith over deities. For example medical treatment to recover from disease is sourced from worship of deities. In a way Hindu caste society has been influenced directly and indirectly from traditional religious and cultural aspects but now it is weakened.
Up until a few decades ago the Kathmandu valley was particularly susceptible to devastating outbreak of smallpox (tahkai). The disastrous epidemic at the end of the eighteenth century is particularly embedded in the collective consciousness of the people. It was this epidemic that king Rana Bahadur’s favourite queen died and, in a desperate attempt to keep his son from catching the disease, the king tried to expel all the children from the valley (Slusser, 1998:329). When vaccination became readily available, as a child was inculcated, family members would take offerings to AjimÄ.
The traveller Si-tu panchen (1700-1774) describes such an epidemic, which was raging in the summertime (though not in the winter) of 1723 when he was visiting. Once stricken by the disease most people died within thirty hours. The king reported that on a single night during the rainy season over one hundred dead bodies had to be removed from the town (Lewis and Jamspal, 1988:199). The king also told his guest that this had gone on for three years and that two-thirds of the population had perished. The cure for such illness is affected by the worship of the goddess who is considered to have brought the misfortune. Often Newars will also report at such times to a traditional doctor (Vaidya), a medium (dyah waimha), or other practitioner (Gellner and Shrestha, 1993, Gellner, 1994). Sometimes a CitrakÄr is called for healing purposes. He will paint powerful symbols, such as lions, on a patient with a skin problem (Toffin, 1995b:243).