Sounding the body in Buddhist Nepal: Neku horns, Himalayan Shamanism, and the transmigration of the disembodied spirit

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Abstract

In rituals following a death in the Kathmandu Valley, members of the Buddhist Manandhar (Oil Presser) caste of Newars sound the neku buffalo horn, a specially venerated, even deified instrument. The horn is likened to a relic of the dead person through mythical and symbolic identification of the buffalo as a person's incarnation. Many practitioners believe that the neku sound is heard and recognized by the dead person as he or she journeys through the murky stages of death, disembodiment, and re-integration into a new mind-body complex. It is recognized as a helpful sound heard during previous transmigrations, when neku rituals also were performed. The dead person, whose progress toward rebirth may be hindered, follows the sound to find advantageous rebirth, and the living find healing, peace, and religious merit. Its mystical familiarity transcends the usually inscrutable boundaries of death and rebirth, and as Manandhars contemplate it, they reconceptualize their own bodies and actualize Buddhist soteriological beliefs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)93-114
Number of pages22
JournalWorld of Music
Volume44
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Music

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