Sweet & sour tones at the puja in Kaza

28 Jun

On top of the flight of steps leading into Kaza monastery were twenty pairs of tiny red rubber boots and colourful crocs. Undoubtedly, this morning's puja would be somewhat different.

The room inside was large, and because the windows and door faced the snow-capped peaks in front of Kaza, it was light and cheerful. The prayer was already underway, so we settled down in silence on the low couch running along the left wall of the room. Three rows of monks sat in front of us, all cross-legged on couches lined with Tibetan rugs, but with a narrow table running alongside them.

Yet, despite the familiar setting, something was different. Obviously different. For one, the monks kept nudging each other, changing places and giggling. Their red robes were attached with safety pins to thick puffer jackets and hoodies. And, the majority of them at one point gave up on following the prayer altogether in order to rather follow the bread basket around the room with their eyes.

In Kaza and its surrounding villages, it is tradition for the second son to join the monastery to avoid squabbles over land. The eldest son gets all the property and any younger brothers are hired by him to work on the land. The majority of the monks in front were therefore children, some of them barely reaching me to my waist.

The music did however ring a familiar bell. I recalled the cymbals and the drum from the pujas in the other monasteries. But Kaza was way cooler than a mere set of cymbals. The mantra here seemed to be a much more inclusive one; the more the merrier! Bring on the conch shells and the horns as well!

It was woooonderful. As we sipped hot milky tea saturated with sugar, the monks struck sweet, sour tones. After an uneven start, they eventually caught up with each other, only to let the music die out with one or two lingering on a bit longer. “It's like a school brass band”, I whispered to my boyfriend, who nodded cheerfully in agreement.

Prayer over, the young monks put on their woolen hats and left the hall. We walked towards our guesthouse to hear if there were any news about our evacuation from Kaza. On our way back, one of the Indians in our group pointed to the old monastery further up on the mountainside.

“Apparently there is an elderly monk there who holds a really good puja. But for this one, the entertainment value was very high”.


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