Banjhakri Falls

 

                                                        Bhanjhakri Falls Energy Park 

Dr.Pawan Chamling, Hon’ble Chief Minister of Sikkim, conceived and mooted the Bhanjhakri Falls Park to give visitors from all over a glimpse of the flora and natural beauty of the states As well as to showcase and enlighten visitors and peoples of the other cultures the dying ethnic practices and beliefs of the Shamanism.

During his foot tour of Ranka on the 28th of September 2004, a visit to the falls gave the ideal opportunity for the selection of the area to be developed into nature park so that all could enjoy its sub-lime surroundings. The Rural Management and Development Department was given the onus of getting the project off the ground immediately then.

Banjhakri Falls stands out as being exclusive. The place has a nature in all its majesty, greenery and vibrancy with diversity and richness of the Sikkim Himalayan flora and avi-fauna. Its beauty and serenity are some of the unique attributes the park offers to the visitors.

To have a holistic approach towards the project during the course of implementation, ideas and inputs from all quarters were invited so that innovative features could be included making the best use of the available opportunity. With an area of two acres the natural features were first worked on through landscaping. Ornamental plants, tress and flowers were planted all over the foot trails, foot bridges and gazebos constructed. Lush lawns were created and small water body existing inside the park area further developed into a large pool adorned by a dragon at the center. There is a splash pool for small children at one end. Besides the natural surroundings, the parked is themed around ancient human traditions of appeasing spirits by Shamans or better locally as jhakris, Bongthings, Bijuas, Phedangbas, etc. These Shamans perform rituals to enhance and enrich their occult powers so that they can better ward off evils and epidemics of disease.

The park comprises of the water falls, beautiful landscapes and well laid out trails to wander about. Gazebos in local design are scattered around the location from where one can marvel at the view of the falls and stream waters gushing by. There are foot bridges in Sikkimese style spanning the meandering stream and connecting one
 enchanting spot to another. Dotted all over the park are exquisite varieties of flowers arrayed in multiple mosaic- from ardesia to acer , garden is to poinsettia camellias,  angelicas’,  hydrangeas and tebuchinies with a host of flowering trees. Children can have a great time at the splash pool adorned by a dragon in the center, while art and artifact buffs can enjoy the ethnic statues and figurines of the Jhakri culture. Visitors can pose for the local photographers who will provide traditional attire and take back snaps as a memento of their visit. Rumbling stomachs can be
an excuse to taste the local a-la-carte in the park cafeteria.

For the more curious minds there is an information kisosk below the café which provides an depth knowledge of the Shaamanic practices. Moreover, there are shops where one can buy souvenirs. Tourist can also try their hands at fishing local trout at designated spots.

As the name suggests, Ban Jhakris being Shaamans of the Himalayan region, components on the theme were added to enchance the hue of the complex. Statues of a Jhakri, a Bongthing, a Phedangba and a Bijuwa have been placed in a typical village styled thatched house showcasing a healing ritual of a sick person. There are other statues and figurines related to the Shamanic information kiosk for those wanting additional information on the Shamans.

The park sustains its energy needs through renewable energy sources like solar lamps and has mini hydel station making it totally eco friendly. There is also a display by the Sikkim Rural Energy Development Agency (SREDA) on sources of the energy exhibits at the exhibition hall.

A visit to ban jhakri falls is a must to experience the kaleidoscopic reflection of nature and culture of Sikkim and will surely beckon you once again in the future.

Shamanism

The entwinement of Shamanism with the mighty Himalayans is inseparably complementary. It roots to times when worship of the nature and spirits stood to be the core of the religious beliefs and practices of the various ethnic and communities of the region.

The natural topography of the Himalayas so binds the Shamanic practices of its inhabitants that travelers of the yore through the ages have always related their mystic experiences with awe. Nature is the central tool in this practice. The belief entails all aspects that one experiences during ones journey in life from birth to death and for illness, foretelling and communicating with loved ones from the underworld.

It is believed that Shamans are born power gifted. They possess abilities to host spirits and bring about a metaphysical transformation to themselves. With such abilities as to be able to look into the beyond during their state of possessed trance, they guide and help troubled sprits to rest, show dead ones the path to the other world and also identify causes and reasons to happenings and events. Their healing powers of illness was also much sought after. Shamans have played a central role in the lives of all ethnic communities and tribes of the Himalayan region. They are also very knowledgeable in the medicinal and healing properties of wild herbs and plants.

Local folks stories recounts numerous colorful instances of the Jhakris (Shamans) chasing away Bhoots (evil spirits) and Bokshis (witches) for casting splles to cause illness and ill happenings. There are instances where when some folks are suddenly possessed by the sprits, it is the Shamans who come into a dialogue and communicate with the unknown and through such conversation, the sadness and unfulfilled wishes of the departed soul revealed.

Sikkim nestled in the high Himalayas under the protective gaze of Mount Kanchendzonga, her guardian deity, is inhabited by the people of various ethnic communities which practice this belief.  Every community has their village Shaman, who could be from either gender. In terminology terms , for if the lepchas call him Bomthing, the TsongsPhedengba, the kirat Rais-Mangpa, the Mangars, Gurungs, Tamangs and the rest Jhakris , Dhamis or Bijuwas. With all the natural elements available within the environment of the state it is imperative to showcase this religious practice which is still a very prevalent core cultural signature of many ethnic Himalayan communities.

The Bankhakri Falls Energy Park epitomizes this cultural and belief of the various tribes and communities of the ethnic people.

Shamanas in Ritual

The four statues depict a Jhakri, Phedangba, Bijjuwa, and a Bonthing, all Shamans (Tantric  practitioners) of the Himalayan region, in a state of trance possessed by sprits during a healing ceremony of a sick person.

The Shamans and is consulted not for his  wisdom  but for his power wherein he submits to his ancestral or initiatory deity and summons up occult forces. The spirit and leads to a controlled,  ritualized, appeased possession. The sprit grant the Shaman power and protection needed to perform the dangerous complicated rites involved in appeasing or destroying the spirits of illness.

During the healing ceremony, the Shamans journey on the magical fights in pursuit of the lost souls and in search of medicinal knowledge concerning their patients. He travels through both physical and metaphorical worlds and may communicate with supernatural beings inhibiting and representing such domains. This itinerary is to effect the subjective experience of the patient, who ruminates over the images and events articulated by the Shamans. The Shamans magical flight provokes a healing transformation in the patient.

During possession, the Shamans quivers, a sign of his state, and flies into bouts of violence and range that he has difficulty controlling. Blood thirsty spirits torment the Shaman and are appeased only by the sacrifice of the chickens, which the neophyte often tears apart with his teeth. However an experienced Shaman is able to master these violent natural forces.

The phenomena of trances and possession attributable to this religious belief  are the foundation of this mystic experience. The Shaman have many tasks to perform, from healing or accompanying souls into kingdom of the dead. He is the bridge, the link, the mediator between the real and in visible worlds.

Gaze at the 1:1 life statues. Notice the facial features and expressions, body postures, costumes, ritual paraphernalia and the offerings. Welcome to the world of the traditional beliefs and practices and for a brief moment, pause to understand the psyche of the Himalayan Shamans.

Renewable Energy Resources

The entire energy requirement of the banjhakri Falls Park is met from renewable sources of the energy. The river that runs below the falls has been harnessed in the park to light up the cafeteria and souvenir shops. Solar Streets lights provide for outdoor lighting. An exhibition hall displaying various renewable energy devices such as models on Solar Power Fencing. Future Energy World, Energy Transformation, Geothermal Energy, Solar Cooker etc are to be found in the exhibition hall. Some of the outdoor exhibits that can be seen in the Park are Grassfire, Solar Water Heater, Solar Powered Cars, Energy drum, Glass climbing wall and Wind Aero generator.

The Banjhakri Falls doubles as the Energy education centre that helps in the sensitization and promotion of the renewable energy technologies and its importance. Considering the real threat that is being posed by Climate Change and Global Warning the Park plays an important role in creation of the awareness of our environment.


                                             

 

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