Meeting the Tharu Guruwa; a spiritual healer

Tharu women Dashain
Dashain festival 2016 – Bardia National Park
October 17, 2016
Khaptad National Park
Trekking in Khaptad National Park
May 22, 2017

‘The Guruwa laughs laudly when we ask him how a ghost can enter your body.

It is obvious that we still have to learn a lot about the ‘supernatural world’.

Our village is mainly inhabited by the indigenous Tharu people who have their own customs and beliefs closely linked to nature. They visit the traditional healer, in Tharu language named the ‘Guruwa’, if they have physical or mental problems. Maybe caused by a ghost who entered their body. Time to learn more about the world of the ghosts and the spirits.

On a late afternoon in November 2016 I walk, together with my American friend Krista and my Nepali husband Budhi, to the house of the Guruwa who runs a small shop.  The Guruwa is around 57 years old and has a friendly lively expression on his face.  He is willing to answer our curious questions.

The Guruwa explains that in the early days there were no doctors in the Tharu community and people turned to the Guruwa when they felt sick. All though people turn more and more to western methods of healing, still on average 15 to 20 people come to see him every month.  He doesn’t ask any money for his treatment. It is his role in the community to help people with his knowledge and skills.

In our neighbourhood there are five Guruwas who have their own specialization and techniques. The one who will heal the physical problems of the sick person by using herbal medicines. Some of them are also specialized in treating snake bites. And the one who will heal the person by using mantras to liberate the people from ghosts. This last one is his specialization, but he can also help people who have physical problems by using mantras.

The Guruwa laughs laudly when we ask him where a ghost comes from and how a ghost can enter your body. It is obvious that we still have to learn a lot about the supernatural world.

So first a little backgrond of what the Tharus believe. They believe in the existence of malevolent spirits known as ‘bhut’ which have the power to do evil or bring misfortune to human beings. A ‘bhut’ is essentially the spirit of a human being who had died an untimely dead or whose funeral rites have not been performed in the prescribed manner. They are primarily creatures of the forest.  You can’t see the ‘bhut’ (ghost) but you feel that something is wrong inside of you. Maybe you feel restless, weak, scarred or not happy at night.

The Guruwa tells that the best time to treat people is in the evening when the sun goes down. A treatment can consist of several short sessions sometimes lasting for weeks, depending on the problem. To find out whether a ghost is inside your body, the Guruwa will start to filter rice in front of you, to see if there is pattern in the rice that tells him something. He will sing a mantra to connect with the ghost. This mantra is in Tharu language and it is important that the patient understands this mantra and that he can repeat the mantra at home. If you miss some of the word the mantra is not working and the ghost will not listen to it.

The ghost respects and obeys the Tharu gods. Names of gods are therefore used in the mantra. If the Guruwa is connecting with the ghost, he listens to what the ghost is asking for. Like bringing an offer to the gods by killing a goat or doing an offer ceremony in the river. If you can make the ghost happy, he will leave your body.

Time to experience the treatment of the Guruwa ourselves. Because we do not feel that we have a ghost inside of us he will check Krista her back pain. He puts some fire ashes in his hand, makes a wrist and pushes this against the painful part.  For five minutes he holds his hand against it, singing a mantra that goes very fast.  When he stops Krista opens her eyes and says that her back is not hurting anymore. The next morning she goes back for another 5 minutes session. For a few days her pain has gone.

Written by Sonja from Bardia Homestay

(Because of privacy reason we could’t publish pictures of the Guruwa and Krista)