Sunday, January 19, 2014

21st Day Funeral Celebration, Post I


In the morning as soon as we awoke we proceeded to Tubko (2nd brother, older than K)'s winter house (the family seat, where Apa Lorae died) to get to work. Or mostly I stood around, non-integrated into what was going on, and being more of a pest by asking to be given tasks than just staying out of the way. I did make myself a big hot cup of coffee which expelled a headache that had been threatening to take over my entire noggin. Thanks be for the healing power of coffee.
When we got there Rinchin and Jolo were still collecting Yak dung from the previous night

Damdentso and Ama Dunmajhet at the start of the day

A huge influx of people came to help. I didn't recognize some of them, Karjam said they were the sons of the patriarchs of the 34 households that make up the 'community' (a formal community that one cannot just move into or out of, having less to do with locality than historic ties and including the households of three of Karjam's siblings but not all), because today was going to be so much actual work that the sons were sent by the fathers. They worked on butter lamps (this had been started the day before, when 400 butter lamps were prepared), cleaned, reorganized the Buddhist ritual room, cooked (a heaping pile of momo -- meat filled dough-pockets to be steamed-- were made, meat was boiled on the bone, soup was made) and people spent quite a lot of time talking with each other (more sitting around and talking if they were older). I only had one long conversation with a person other than Karjam-- a relative who is nearing the end of high school (in his early twenties), who claimed a great interest in all things foreign. The people I felt closest to who were there were much too busy to stop and entertain me. The most delightful person present was clearly Tsela's illegitimate daughter who is being raised by Munjer and Darkojhet (Tsela's mother, Karjam's sister who is my age-mate). Reukshijhet is bright, social, very precocious, and cute as a freaking button.

Karjam and Reukshijhet

See how charming she is? 

The hazards of cooking outside. A sheep comes to try to steal food from Rinchin (but she's just pouring off tea)

When the lambs don't survive, they get skinned and given to the dogs. The skins are tanned, wool on. If a sheep dies with a lamb, they try to graft the motherless lamb onto a ewe who has lost her lamb. It sometimes works. 

Norzun (youngest sister), who has changed her name to Damdentso (to avoid her physical ailments, and her youngest son loudly reminds anyone who screws up of the new name, that of a healthy person), came with clothes for me to wear while I'm here, several of the things she brought were totally sweet/necessary-- a lower back-wrap made of lined silk, a fancy belt (mine are on Lopez), and work gloves. I had a chance to talk to Ama Dunmajhet about Apa Lorae, and how much my family and all Karjam's friends in the US are supporting her and sending good wishes. She has been eating only one meal per day as a fast (it's lunch, right at noon, as has Ahyangtso) since Apa Lorae passed.
Damdentso and her youngest son.

All the people (close to 30) spent the day preparing for the monks to come, which they finally did around 3pm. Today is the 21st day since Apa Lorae's death, and a crucial day (the first 21 of 49 days are all important, but this marks the end of the 21 days and hence is special). No one (including Karjam) really understood about the ceremony that day, so when I watched it I mostly understood that it was a day when 1,000 was important- burning 1,000 butter lamps, making 1,000 tsampa statues (I'll explain more in a second), etc. but the entire ritual was overseen by Karsang Danzen, Karjam's double first cousin (Jabu's younger brother), and later I got a chance to grill him about it, so I will describe it here with the extra benefit of that knowledge, not present in my actual diary entry from the 30th.

Tubko's oldest (illegitimate) son, and Zhyibuk's oldest legitimate son. 

Damdentso, Rinchin, and Tsebae

Many guests means a lot of tea and hot water going at once

So, burning the butter lamps was a big part of the day. The family wanted to find 1,000 lamps, but couldn't, so they instead burned 500 lamps twice. The lamps were all burned in the actual room/place where Apa Lorae died, the ante-room to the Buddhist Room, and by the end of the day the walls were nearly black with soot. During the day the heat was so intense, it was hard to walk through the room, but someone (a young man) had to stay inside the room the entire day to monitor the lamps and take care of things (as each first round lamp burned out it had to be quickly cleaned, re-wicked, re-buttered, cooled until the butter was hard, and circulate back into the room). Lamps could not go out before they were done, and the heat could make wicks droopy, so there was a lot of monitoring of lamps. One had to cover one's mouth to do this work, or to go near the lamps, out of respect.

Karjam helps line up the lamps for burning

Butter melting in a teapot next to other teapots on the stove

Before the lamps were lit, they were ritually purified with juniper smoke

Dorsey (1st brother's oldest legitimate son) pouring butter into the lamps

Lamps being lit (using incense sticks)

Ending the first round of 500 lamps

Onto the second round
Monitoring half the candles (the rest are to his left). The barrier is trying to keep drafts from blowing them out and also trying to direct the heat a little. 
[this is the first post of two detailing everything from this day, please read the second post, too]


Anonymous said...

So nice to see these people again. Your photos are warm and sweet!

cyberksmith said...

CedarBough, I feel like I just returned from a trip to Tibet. What thoughtful and interesting entries you have posted. With the incredible photos, you have a book ready to publish. Thank you so much for sharing!