GNLF holds bonbo festival in Darjeeling chowrastha

Like subash, Mann Ghisingh starts GNLF Bonbo (nature worshippers) festival in Darjeeling Chowrastha
It has taken the Gorkha National Liberation Front more than a decade to restore the Bonbo (nature worshippers) festival in Darjeeling Chowrastha, a legacy which many in the hills believe was a diktat started by Subash Ghisingh to make the case for including the Darjeeling hills in the Sixth Schedule.

Before signing the Memorandum of Agreement in 2005, the GNLF chief had asked the hill people to start nature worship and encouraged 'jhakris' (shamans and witch doctors) to hold bonbo worship. Ghisingh contented that all Gorkha tribes follow the same culture and religious beliefs and come under bonbo worshippers, or people who worship nature including stones, rivers and trees.
In 2002, Ghisingh organised the first Bonbo National Tourist Festival at Chowrastha in Darjeeling but it was discontinued from 2005, apparently not feeling the need for such a show as a MoA on the issue was signed on December 6, 2005.
Today, the women’s wing of the GNLF organised the festival under the banner of the Gorkha Rasthriya Janjati Bonbo Mahotsav at Chowrastha that began by a cultural rally from the railway station in the morning. “We are celebrating the festival after 11 years, the last time was in 2005. The message is to state that we Gorkhas are tribals and nature worshippers. In fact, as per the 1931 census,  the British had put us under the hill tribe status,” said Manjila Tamang, president of the Gorkha National Women Organisation.
Advocates of the festival say the jhakris retire into caves at the start of the monsoon season and come out on Guru Purnima day, which fell today. On this day, 'pitri' (forefathers) puja is also offered for the  well-being of departed souls. Shamans and witch doctors from across the hills participated in today’s bonbo festival and were an elated lot. “It is important to preserve our culture and traditions.
And this festival gives just that impetus. After the festival was stopped for whatever reasons, we (shamans) observed it in our own places of worship,” said Ruben Thakuri, a shaman from Rishihat.
Another jhakri from Darjeeling praised Ghisingh for taking the initiative to start such an event.
“The bonbo celebrations during Ghisingh’s time used to be massive. We used to converge here (Chowrastha) from all over the region from early morning. We were appreciated by the people and officials.
I felt sad when the bonbo festival was stopped but now that it has re-started, I will definitely participate every year,” said 66-year-old Lal Bahadur Thami of Kakjhora.
M.G. Subba, the GNLF’s Darjeeling branch committee chief convener, said, “He (Ghisingh) had given a lot of thought before starting the bonbo festival. The event was based on the Sixth Schedule  demand our party president had taken up with the central government. Since our demand remains for including the hills under the Sixth Schedule, we will continue holding the bonbo festival in the coming years." (EOIC)

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