ORACLES OF LADAKH

HEALER ORACLE

In Ladakh and throughout the Himalayan Buddhist Kingdoms, there existed lay men and women oracles since ages, that had an important role in healing the patient both psychologically and physically and they still continue to render their service to this very present 21st century. Besides healing job they can be consulted for predicting the auspicious time for starting any enterprise, whether ploughing the fields, harvesting or any other farming activities, arranging a marriage or going on a journey- and advice as to the auspicious way of going about it. Lay men and women oracle holds one of the respectable parts of the Ladakhi society, although they aren't revered highly as the monastic oracle. In the Ladakhi dialect "Male Healer Oracle" is known by Lha-ba and "Female Healer Oracle" as Lha-mo.

Healer Oracles belongs to families, in which there have been several such receptacles of spirit forces. Others are diagnosed as such without any hereditary back ground. Once they have accepted, however, they undergo a process of initiation and training by monks and senior oracles, and only after this is completed may they start practicing. The effectiveness of their spirit- healing is an article of faith with the Ladakhi masses. It takes the Healer oracle about 15/20 minutes of chanting, ringing bells, praying, and beating drums to possess the wandering Holy Spirit. It is said that when oracle gets into a trance, a spirit enters oracle's body. The spirit that possess by Healer Oracles during trance states are usually said to be wandering holy spirits.

Once possessed Holy Spirit, Oracles perform therapy by sucking out disease-causing substances from their patients and later they show these substances-usually black mucus or little tar-like pieces-to the patient and audience, and then spit them into a bowl. Oracles also use straws or pipes for sucking out substances from patients, placing them directly against ailing body parts-for example, the chest of a patient suffering from Asthma. Healer's oracles also perform exorcism, expelling or controlling malign spirits believed to be in patients. In some cases oracles cough, shout, and beat their own bodies until bruises appear-to gain control over a spirit. Oracle healer even up to this present day is one of the most sought out profession among Ladakhi population particularly among old and rural folks, so a visit to witness live performance of healer oracle is a must for any tourist.

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MONASTIC ORACLE

In Ladakh and throughout the Himalayan Buddhist Kingdoms, the Oracles associated with monasteries are revered considerably higher than the 'Healer oracle' as the Monastic Oracle possesses the Holy spirits which belongs to the pantheon of Buddhist deities. Monastery oracle makes public appearance only one time in year that is during the mask dance festivals of the Monastery. The main purpose of the Monastic Oracles is to attempt to predict the futures of the coming year like natural calamities, crop yield, climatic conditions etc and protect the Buddha Dharma and its practitioners. Monastery oracles cure the ailments by blessings only, and do not act like the 'healers oracles'.

1. Matho Monastery Oracle- The most famous "Monastic Oracle" in Ladakh.

Prior to the Mask dance festival, Matho monastery selects two monks for the 'Kuten' (In the Ladakhi/Tibetan the word oracle is used for a spirit which enters those men and women who act as mediums between the natural and the spiritual realms. The mediums are, therefore, known as "kuten", which literally means, "the physical basis." of the protector deities of Monastery known as "Rongstan kar-Mar". Once monks are selected, monks meditate in complete isolation for a state of trance and invoking the spirit of the Rong-stan Kar-Mar. On the day of Mask dance festival, Oracle invokes and receives the deities' spirit and come into full spiritual trance and makes the public appearance. In a trance state, two oracles perform stunning acts. They run along walls and rooftops without falling off. They cut their tongue and hands with sharp knives, bleeding profusely and yet their wounds heal in a day. They walk about in masks without eyeholes, it is belief that Oracles see through the angry eyes of deities painted on their torsos. On the festivals final day, Oracles visit the shrine of Rongtsan Kar and Mar, push their heads into the abundant juniper bushes and emerge from their trance till next year. People from far and wide comes for blessing from oracles and hear the oracles key future events and to seek answers about their own future.

2. Stok Guru Tsechu Oracle

The Buddhist monks of Stok and Spituk monasteries in Ladakh celebrate the Stok Guru Tsechu festival for two days. The festival is almost celebrated in the same manner as the Matho Nagrang, with two "oracles" making a spiritual appearance before the public. However, the only difference in the case of Stok Guru Tsechu is that the oracles are not monks but laymen from the village, who are spiritually cleansed and trained by the lamas of the Spituk Monastery to invoke the deity and holy spirits. On the day of the festival, they invoke and receive the deities and come into full spiritual trance. They run over the high rise ramparts of the monastery, jump from one balcony to another and execute a number of acrobatic feats, all while blindfolded. People from far and wide come to hear the oracles predict key future events and to seek answers about their own future. A visit to witness monastic oracles of monasteries could enrich the experience of a traveler and can help one to foresee the upcoming events of life.

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