Rural Arunachal Pradesh, Dec 2011\nThis was an encounter that took me by surprise and swept me off my feet! When I think back, it is difficult to imagine the odds of being blessed with such an encounter with a Shaman priest of the Danyi Polo religion, in the middle of a field who was conducting his ritual for a very short time.\nThe window of time-space in which our worldlines could have crossed was not really a window \u2013 but a thread-thin sliver\u2026. and yet our paths crossed and I witnessed the glory of a Shamanistic ritual as he sacrificed the heart of a chicken to save a tribal man\u2019s life! Am indeed fortunate to have witnessed this. The images follow\u2026\nBut first a little about rituals of the Danyi Polo religion that is practiced widely among the tribes of\u00a0 Arunachal Pradesh.\nCeremonies are conducted by Shamans or priests. And the markers of the ceremonies are large straw weavings and bamboo structures placed outside the home.\n\nStraw ritual object kept outside the home during a ceremony.\n\n\nEggshells are an important part of the object\n\n\u00a0At the time of death, after the burial a tower is constructed around the fresh grave. The structural design of the tower varies from one tribe to another.\n\nA straw and cane tower set up after the death of person at the site of his burial. This structure is conical.\n\n\n\n\n\nA small cuboid tower\n\nThe following images shows the grandest burial tower I saw in those 2 weeks. The umbrella is used to protect the man in his after-life, just as it did when he was alive.\n\nA grand tower built around the grave of a man who had died 2 weeks ago.\n\nHis favorite objects are placed on the structure so that he may use them in the after-life. His bison or mithun is sacrificed during the funeral ceremonies and the horns are placed on the structure. And his slippers are added to comfort him as he walks on into the next world.\n\nThe horns of the Mithun or Bison\n\n\nThe slippers of the deceased\n\nAll the above were simply present in the daily scheme of life of the many villages I crossed. And there was nothing \u2013 like a board or a reading or a tour guide \u2013 that drew attention to them. But the uniqueness of these structures aroused my curiosity and I stopped the friendly villagers to ask around and learnt about these. The journey of chance discoveries is indeed a delightful one.\nIn the same way, as I crossed a plateau from one village to another, in the middle of the fields on the plateau was a little hut with a single person performing actions in a curious way.The driver stopped and we walked through the field to find out what was going on.\nWe approached and even though we were within meters of him, the man paid us no heed and continued his activity.\n\nHut in the middle of an empty field\n\n\nIt was only when I observed him for a few seconds from within 5 feet, that I realised what it was that I was witnessing!\n\nThis was a Shaman \u2013 a priest \u2013 in the middle of a worship ritual!!!!\n\nThe Shaman or the Priest of the Danyi Polo sect\n\nI was in awe and wanting to be non-intrusive I stood in one spot without moving further and clicked the surrounding structure he had created.\n\nThe decorated straw objects required for the ritual\n\n\nEggshells needed for the ritual\n\n\nArticles critical to the ritual\n\n\n\nThe beautifully woven straw ritual objects flying in the wind\n\nI pretended that if I did not look at him directly, he would not see me either. And clicked whatever else was around.\n\nJaw bones of a previously sacrificed animal\n\nAll this while I could hear him murmuring chants but I did not dare to look at him directly in the fear that he might ask me to leave.\nAfter the first few uncomfortable moments passed I gathered courage to look in his direction hoping to catch a momentary but direct glimpse of his face, his hand movements and the objects he held.\nAnd once again I thank my stars that I looked when I did \u2013 or I would have missed the sacrifice altogether!!\nHe held a little chicken in his left hand and he had used his right hand to open it up and take out the heart (or liver maybe?) !!!!\n\nThen, as he chanted his prayers softly he sprayed some of the ritual straw objects with blood.\n\nThe ritual objects now sprayed with sacrificial blood\n\n\nBlood sprayed objects\n\n\nSacrifice of the heart and liver\n\nThe momentary glimpse that I had intended, had turned into a stare for as long as I was there.\nNormally my camera clicks incessantly in any interesting event \u2013 so that I get to select the image with the best angle, the best sharpness, the best framing etc, later on.\u00a0 But of the actual sacrifice I have only 1 image\u2026I was simply too mesmerised to click.\nThe Shaman finished his ritual and he packed up the remains of the chicken in a plain plastic bag. Even though we were the only people in the middle of this huge field that extended in all directions, he was totally disinterested in my presence. In the next few seconds, without a word or glance of acknowledgment,\u00a0 he finished, picked up his bags and left.\nThe entire episode from the time I arrived at this prayer hut to the time he left lasted about 4 minutes.\nI had just witnessed a spectacular event. In its un-rehearsed un-staged splendour! No grand orchestra playing in the background, no dramatic build up to the finale. Just a flow of events, set in the silence of the huge field and accompanied only by the chill wind. An event that could so easily have gone unnoticed.\nEven as I write this a month after the event, I am struck by the awesomeness of the probabilities that favored me and conferred upon me the chance to witness it.\nThis sliver of opportunity \u2013 is exactly like every other experience I had in Arunachal Pradesh. The experiences are all out there \u2013 waiting \u2013 happening silently \u2013 but it is for the traveller to seek them out and seize every potential sliver to make the most of the offerings of Arunachal Pradesh.\nAnd of course, if the traveller believes in prayer \u2013 then she must pray for gifts from serendipity.\n***\nAdded : A video I\u2019d taken on my phone but forgotten about\u00a0 is available Here on youtube.\nAntique Shaman textiles are available here\u00a0 on my antique textile gallery wovensouls.com\nOther articles on Arunachal Pradesh can be found here:\nGlimpses of a contented People\nHunter-Gatherer-Weavers\n\u00a0Innovative housing\nThe Gaanv Boodhas or Village Headmen of Arunachal Pradesh\nTribal signatures \u2013 Face Tattoos of the Apatanis\nFierce Nocte Headhunters\nHead Hunting Trophies\njm\nJanuary 2012\nThe post A chance encounter with a Shaman Priest during a sacrifice ritual appeared first on The Art Blog by WOVENSOULS.COM.