Healing By Being Awake: The Shamanic Rite of Jagar in the Himalayas

The whole Himalayan village of Dunagiri was on fire, it seemed. Along with it, my body was ablaze with fever. Already mid-June and the monsoon rains hadn’t yet arrived. And along with the feeling of no-relief in sight, I’d been suffering with amebic dysentery for several months. Daily my fever was rising along with the hot season temps. 

I wasn’t alone in my suffering. Our cook, Panditji, had lost several cows due to suspicious illnesses within the same time. And his elder brother’s son had run off suddenly for no reason. 

These were no coincidences, Panditji assured me. An ancestor must be disturbed. We needed to find out what they wanted—and all our problems would be solved. 

I wasn’t shocked by his proclamation. I’d already lived in this remote Himalayan village for six months and I was used to the proximity of spirits. The villagers live side by side with these invisible residents who range from their departed relations to small-time gods whose job is to watch over tiny allotments of private property. Every year in the month of Shravana before Diwali, the disembodied are welcomed into the house to take part in the life of the family. They eat together. They join in the daily activities. And then they’re shown the door to haunt the jungle again with the return of the light. 

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