The Medicine Men Of Himalayan Tribes

Babit Gurung
Jan 30
The Journey Exploring the Medicine Men of the Himalayan Tribes. The shamans, the spiritual healers, and the herbal medicine men. This Journey is all about the perishing culture of Himalayan Tribes.
The glimpses through the window of a car

After pick up from the nearest airport (Bagdogra), Railway station (NJP or New Mal Junction), drive towards a remote place called Dalgaon, a remote village set up by the oldest Cinchona Plantation of West Bengal that once served the only Anti- Malaria medicine-Quinine, to the whole world duringwars. The accommodation will be arranged at Mechilingma Home stay. It’s a beautiful wooden house decorated with colorful flowers, and it can be a cozy abode for the travelers who truly love to sit on the lap of nature. The lunch will be arranged on the way to Dalgaon, because the drive may take up to 3 hrs. from the nearest airport. The evening can be spent visiting the nearby view point and the village culture by doing short village trek.

Dalgaon: A village set up by one of the oldest Cinchona plantations of whole India.

A short trek towards the nearby forest to enjoy bird watching before breakfast will give a good start to the day’s schedule. After enjoying a hefty cultural breakfast, move to the fields of cinchona plantation and see the culture of a cinchona plantation village. The work schedule and nature has never been changed for more than 120 years where you still see people assembling to give their attendance before their supervisors assign them to different work that still is done manually. Some of the works can be hand weeding, digging, planting, and manuring. Return for the lunch to the homestay and get ready for exploring the Cinchona factory where the saga of hand processing is still continued without any innovation of machines. The local workers and supervisors can truly demonstrate a technique that has been passed through generations without any change for more than a century. Acquiring some basic knowledge of processing and plantation of different medicinal plants that serve many pharmaceutical companies of the world, can really be a knowledgeable experience.

Back to Homestay.

After the day ends you can be back to the homestay with all the other laborers and call it a busy day after a sweet rejuvenating cultural dinner. 

Kumani: A visit to a local medicine man

After breakfast drive to Kumani and on the way visit River Jaldhaka, a river that serves as a territory between India and Bhutan. Kumani is a forest village. You can visit the local hospital of a local medicine man. The man is not a medical doctor but has acquired the knowledge from his ancestors to identify the herbs that can cure all the bone problems like fractures and cramps. People from all the surrounding areas visit the place and get the treatment without relying on any other medical therapies. Due to the huge number of attendees and the problem of accommodation, the man has opened his own hospital for the patients where they can stay till the time they don’t get fully cured. You can spend a whole day in the hospital watching the simple man using some herbal pastes and chanting some mantras to rejoin the fractured bones that surprisingly gets cured after few days when the patients happily leave the hospital thanking the doctor for his cheapest treatment. The lunch can be arranged in Kumani forest village at a local villager’s house. In the evening you can again come back to the homestay and wait few moments for the dinner.

Back to Mechilingma Homestay.
Samsing Visit: The Neora Valley Nation Park 

On the third day drive from Dalgaon after the breakfast towards Samsing (A small village adjacent to Neora Valley national park) to meet a person who cures sinusitis by just holding the skin of the patient’s forehead and reciting a long story based on sinusitis. Many patient visit the man to get the unbelievable treatment of sinusitis. The patient is just made to sit and listen to the long story recited by the medicine man. The therapy is usually practiced for 3- 4 days till the patient is fully cured. Till then the patient visits the medicine man every day and gets the therapy. The lunch will be prepared in a homestay at Samsing and after the lunch you again visit another person who cures yellow fever (Jaundice) just with the help of a bowl of mustard oil that he keeps on the head of the patient. It is believed that the yellow fever is sucked by the oil and the oil too becomes yellow. After visiting two persons you can now return to Mechilingma Homestay

Back to Mechilingma Homestay
Visit to Batabarie, to meet an Ojha (A Medicine Man)

On the 4h day you can again visit Batabarie (A tea Garden of Jalpaiguri district plains) and meet a local Ojha, (Ojha means medicine man in Muslim Community) who has been serving the needful patients with his own ritual techniques. He more often uses alive ducks and enchants some mantras to cure any type of diseases of the patients. The best part is that he never demands any compensation and does it just to provide his services using the powers he has been blessed with. The Ojha too has built a small accommodation for the patients who get the treatment and leave the place after getting cured. The Ojha has been practicing his therapies for years and till date has never received any complaints. After the visit you can again return to Mechilingma home stay to spend a night watching a local Bijua (A medicine man of Rai Community) perform a ritual ceremony wearing ritual dresses to cure patients who feel like they have been possessed by some negative energy. The ritual ceremony starts with an arrangement where the Bijua continuously beats a drum and a metal plate with a stick chanting mantras and even giving sacrifices of a rooster cock.

Back to mechilingma homestay.
Lepchakha: A village names as the heaven of Doors (Doors means “Gateway to Bhutan”)

After the breakfast check out from Mechilingma Homestay and drive for three hours through the forests of Chapramari and Jaldhapara national park towards Lepchakha, a remote village in the middle of Buxa Tiger Reserve forest of North Bengal. The place is often called the heaven of Doors. The village is inhabited by the Dukhpa Community of Bhutan because the village falls on the Indo- Bhutan border. The villages are isolated from the road connectivity, so the travelers have to trek for 2 hours after reaching the zero point of road connectivity that is Santalabarie, a forest village on the way to Lepchakha. The trek through the jungle after giving a short visit to the abandoned Buxa fort that speaks the history of British empire will be truly a resource full time to spend getting closer to nature and reliving the history. The lunch can be done in the Buxa Village before starting the trek towards Lepchakha. After reaching Lepchakha home stay the evening can be spent enjoying the amazing playfulness of golden sunrays turning the dense green forest covered hills into gold from a beautiful hilltop of the village. The best part of the village is that the whole village runs on solar energy because the electrification has yet not reached the remoteness of the village. The day will end after having a hefty Dukhpa Dinner.

Minchchu – A stone bath treatment practiced by the local medicine man of Lepchakha.

In the morning after the breakfast, a short trek will be organized to the nearby stream escorted by the Local medicine man to watch them practicing the therapy called Minchchu in their Dukhpa language. The people from surrounding villages come to the village to get the treatment that cures several diseases like Joint Pains, Neck Pain, digestion problems, chest pain and even some skin diseases. It is an ancient method of treatment practiced by the Dukhpa and Lepcha community, where the patient is made to sit in the wooden box filled with sacred water (Normally assisted by the Medicine man). Then the medicine man chooses some sacred stones and heats it in the fire. Then the medicine man drowns it in the water where the patient would be sitting and does it continuously till the water becomes extremely hot. The community believe that the water and stone of the sacred place of lepchakha cures many diseases. The lunch can be arranged inside the forest as a picnic. Then in the evening, you can return to the homestay for Dukhpa Dinner.

The Journey to Takdah Cantonment

Checkout from lepchakha and trek down to Buxa. You can then drive towards Takdah Cantonment, Darjeeling to visit the Darjeeling Heritage Railway and to explore the legendary beauty of queen of Hills. The drive will take around 5 hours and on the way you can truly see some magnificent views of Teesta River flowing through Sikkim towards West Bengal.

About Takdah Cantonment

At a distance of around 2hrs drive from the main Darjeeling Town, the destination provides some of the best luxurious heritage bungalows for accommodation to the travelers. The Bungalows were once the residence of the Army officers of British Army who has set up their cantonment at Takdah. This gave the name to this place as Takdah Cantonment. Reaching this place is not so tough.

Explore Darjeeling and its Rural Beauty

The nearby destinations around Takdah Cantonment are Tinchuley, Bara Mangwa, Lamahatta, Rangli- Rangliott tea garden etc. The beautiful thing about this place that you will certainly catch is the view of Tea gardens. The mounds of landscapes carpeted with the green Tea gardens with a smoky background of clouds rising far down from the Valley of Teesta River is something that will seem like a dream to you. For photographers, if you are looking for some really good shots of cloud photography then just put Takdah Cantonment on your list. After the return for Breakfast and visit the botanical garden and the only zoological park that does the captive rearing of Red Panda (the first panda discovered in the world). The zoo has some of the most amazing animals like snow leopard, clouded leopard, Tibetan wolf and the pheasant birds. The Lunch will be arranged in the marker where they serve Momo, thukpa. The evening can again be arranged at the hotel blended with music and dance.

Check out.

The checkout will be after the breakfast and drive —through will be covering Makaibari Tea Estate, the same tea that is renowned for best quality Tea in the whole world. Makai Bari Tea was even selected as special supply for the recent football world cup that happened at Brazil. The drive will also be from another town of Darjeeling- Kurseong. «So would it be one of best memorable tours to North Bengal, India?»