Purum - Religion and Expressive Culture



Religious Beliefs. Purum religion has been influenced on many levels by Hindu belief and practice. Hindu gods are Present in their pantheon along with indigenous deities. The major gods in the Purum pantheon include the following: Nungchungba (the most important of the Purum deities—sometimes spoken of as the patron god of the village); Lamhel (a spirit connected with the jungle surrounding the village); Lamtaiba (a jungle spirit similar to Lamhel); Sabuhong (an agricultural god believed to preside over crops) ; Senamahi (a house and sib god); Panthonglakkpa (the god in charge of the gates of the village); the sun and the moon (two astral deities worshiped only in connection with the onset of labor during pregnancy); and the stars (worshiped for the purpose of securing recovery from sickness and ensuring village bounty). Spirits of a beneficent and capricious character (particularly disease-inflicting spirits) are also believed to inhabit human realms. Some of these represent the deification of forces in the natural world (e.g., forest, water, and the four compass directions). The spirits of deceased ancestors are also venerated periodically.

Religions Practitioners . Several classes of individuals officiate at various Purum magicoreligious ceremonies: village officials (e.g., the khullakpa and the khunjahanba); the oldest male in the village (also called the thempu, he plays an Important role at the ceremony that accompanies the entering of a new house, the first hair-cutting ceremony of a child, the name-giving ritual, the cleansing of a house in which a death has taken place, the purification of those who have buried a woman dying in childbirth, and at the installation of a new village officer); individual male householders (who officiate at family-based ceremonies); the pipas (who officiate at the offering of first fruits to the god Senamahi) ; and the maipa (the medicine man, who, in addition to officiating at Sacrifices offered to disease-causing supernaturals, also acts as priest when worship is directed toward Hindu gods brought into the Purum pantheon).

Ceremonies. Magicoreligious ceremonies accompany the major events in the individual life cycle (e.g., marriage, birth, child naming, ear piercing, first haircutting, and death).

Arts. Evidence of the visual arts is less well attested (unless note is taken of Purum industrial arts such as basketry and weaving) than that of music and dance, both of which are an important element in the magicoreligious ceremonies of the Purum. Among the genres represented within Purum oral literature must be noted magicoreligious incantations and myths of origin.

Medicine. Illness is believed to be caused by supernatural forces, and the maipa (medicine man) is the magicomedical official responsible for determining the nature of the sickness and prescribing the sacrificial measures necessary to alleviate it.

Death and Afterlife. The souls of those who have led exemplary lives and die natural deaths (i.e., who do not die Because of misfortune, in childbirth, or by attack of wild animals) go to the Khamnung (the afterworld located in the sky). The souls of those who die of unnatural causes and those who have performed grave misdeeds in their lives are turned into evil spirits and roam the jungles for eternity.

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