In my paintings, I aim to showcase the rich cultural heritage of the Rai or Kirat Rai community in Sikkim. This indigenous ethnic group has been an integral part of Sikkim's history since ancient times. The Rai's priests, known as Mangpas and Mangmas, play a crucial role in their society. They perform traditional rituals like the Samkhalung, which are meant to appease household deities and ensure the well-being of family members.
What makes the Mangpas and Mangmas truly remarkable is their dual role as both faith healers and traditional physicians. Using herbal medicines, they possess the knowledge and skills passed down through generations to offer medical treatment. Their expertise goes beyond the physical realm as they possess a unique spiritual power to conduct the Chinta ceremony - a form of shamanic ritual specific to the Rai community. During this ceremony, they can prophesy and provide insights into the family and society.
Interestingly, their spiritual abilities are often hereditary, but it is not uncommon for individuals outside the bloodline to also possess this power. When possessed by the Tshee spirit, they can reveal hidden secrets of the past and present. Additionally, they are responsible for conducting funeral rites and death-related rituals, where they are believed to be a conduit for the deceased person's spirit to communicate with their family.
The religious beliefs and practices of the Rai community are deeply rooted in the Mundhum, an oral tradition that encompasses appeasements to deities, evil spirits, supernatural beings, and ancestors.
Through my artwork, I hope to capture the captivating essence of the Rai community's unique culture, spirituality, and profound connection with their ancestral traditions.