“Cock---a---doodle---doo”. This sound was coming from the middle of the dense forest and we were following the sound eagerly, making a small path by clearing bushes and thorny plants with the help the ‘khukuris’.

As it was the middle of June, all the tree-leaves were beginning to decay due to the heavy rain. We moved ahead carefully through the slippery path clearing the soaked tree-leaves. The small black leeches were raising their heads from the tree –leaves in search of a good opportunity to suck the blood from our body. Colorful wild flowers were spreading their scents to attract our attention and the foxes, deer, monkeys were escaping from us hearing male voices and the sounds of male-boots.

After an hour-long problematic walk in the dark green forest, we took a long breath when we found a beautiful path covered with flat stones to reach at the top of the small green hill in front of us. We were completely tired and willing to take a rest. For that, we walked for five minutes and finally reached at the top of the hill where nature had spread a wide green meadow - on this we kept our baskets and laid down on it to decrease our fatigue.

Male members went to the river to take bath and we females, began to light fire. Some of us collected green leaves in order to make ‘taparis’ (plates) by joining them with the help of the small sticks and some collected dry woods. I remained busy in fetching water in a small bamboo-made gallon from the river. An aunt was trying to light fire, making her eyes red and her cheeks wet with tears because the soaked woods were producing dark smoke instead of fire. Pit-pit” was the sound coming from the fireplace with red flames.

As women were strictly prohibited to enter into the worshipping place, only men had gone there (which was in another edge of the river). There was a large oak tree in another edge of the river. A mysterious cave-like gloomy place was under that oak tree where our fathers and fore-fathers had been worshipping for years. I could not see what was inside the cave but I saw some trishuls and bells hanging in every roots of that tree. Once, my father had told me that there was a big statue of a Goddess and several statues of different Gods and Goddesses around it, inside the cave. As a reply to my curiosities and queries, he had said that they worshipped Gods and Goddesses because they are the creators of all creatures; they preserve nature; they save us from natural disasters; they support us in agricultural fields by making the rain on time and by making the sun shine on time.

God knows what was the fact but I used to enjoy that pooja as a yearly picnic. I was not concerned about the Gods, Goddesses and pooja but was shocked and amazed with the mysteriousness of this place where the same hill was equally divided into two pieces with a small river. A piece of the hill was cheerful and beautiful, where anyone could enter and enjoy its beauty. But on the other hand, another piece of hill was gloomy, mysterious and dangerous where no one could enter except men. Different shapes and pictures were naturally carved on the outer wall of the cave. Even the roots of the tree seemed to create mysterious shapes and pictures. A big round-shaped object (like a honeycomb) was on the top of the cave which was producing a “ding—ding—ding”  sound (like the sound of a clock tower or of a drum) when it was hit.

After some preparation and discussion, the main worshippers (pujarees) entered inside the cave, taking all the pet animals (a goat, four hens and a pair of black pigeons) together with them and disappeared for some time. Ten minutes of silence was now transferred by the terrible sounds produced by the dying goat, hens and pigeons. Within a few seconds, some headless things were kicked out of the cave. They flapped their wings and jumped on the land for some seconds then strange sound came from their throats and could not move at all. Meanwhile, the bell-ring overcame the silence as well as death.

After the completion of the first step of pooja and sacrifice, it was the time for the next step, but this step was for different purpose. In this step, parents and guardians of disabled and unhealthy children used to worship at that temple for their children’s well-being and physical progress. For that, they used to sacrifice innocent pet animals and birds to please the Gods and Goddesses to fulfill their wishes. A mother of a five year old son, was worrying about her son, stating that he could not speak even at the age of five. She had attended there believing that her son would speak as soon as possible after pooja at that sacred place.

Another woman was stating that her daughter was ill for two months. She added that she brought several ‘dhami-jhankris’ for her treatment but her condition was weakening day-by-day instead. She believed that her daughter would be healthy due to the power of ‘Almighty Goddess’ of that temple. Both of these women prepared taparis full of rice, flowers, coins and eggs. Two boys came and took these taparis, two hens, and a pair of white pigeons trapped in a bamboo-made cage, along with the sick children to the temple. I saw them disappearing inside the cave and I too disappeared within myself imagining that these live birds will return back from the cave being headless…flapping their wings…their legs will not support them to walk and jump…and at the end they will lie down on the land and will take a long breathe forever…what about the children’s diseases?...

A “tuck---tuck “ sound suddenly awakened me from the world of imagination and monologue. Then I gave a sight at the corner from where that sound was coming. I found a man, chopping the flesh of goat and hens… another man was in the fireplace, burning the legs and wings of them (goat and hens). He took those well-burned flesh on green tapari and moved to the temple to devote them to the Gods.  Then the remaining flesh was fried in a big pot very well. As the rice was already cooked, we put it on taparis and divided them to all participants equally. Only two taparis were remained untouched. Where were their owners?

Just after the completion of lunch, the sky began to toss two huge stones and covered itself with black clouds. Thundering, lightening and windstorm threatened us. Meanwhile, the strange sound (like that of a gun) came from the northern part of the cave/temple. Some men ran away to investigate and a few minutes later, they returned back carrying a dead body in their shoulders. Our eyes became wide-open, foreheads wrinkled, lips parted, heartbeats became unusual when we saw that dead body of a man of forty, who was also our companion and had disappeared for twenty minutes from the temple without informing [anyone]. According to a small child of ten, he had disappeared in the northern part of the temple carrying a gun and had stated that he would kill a deer. According to the main poojarees, he (the dead man) committed a great crime  by hunting the wild animals of that area since hunting was forbidden in that sacred place. What was the fact?

God knows.

My name is Sapana Rai. I'm from Nepal and I’m sharing a short essay containing the existing superstitious practices in my community.