Many ethnic art forms in Ladakh are dying a slow death for want of support and patronage by local people who have been handed down the practices from past generations. One of these is the practice of Onpos & the falling number of Onpos in Ladakh is distressing and how to sustain it is a big question.
Recently, Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art Culture and Languages organised a daylong seminar on Onpos on 6th June and discussed how to sustain it for long term. The main objective of the workshop was to provide a platform for discussion and interaction between the veteran and promising Onpo practitioners.
Astrologers are considered a vital part of the Ladakhi society and used on every occasion be it birth of a child, marriage or death ceremony.
At present, in the whole Leh District there are only 21 Onpos left including two monks.
Special Officer Culture Academy Leh, Tsewang Paljor said, "The vanishing practice of this traditional art is unfortunate as it is a stream of Knowledge and must be handled with utmost care.”
He felt administrative intervention is required to revive this art form. The encouragement of this traditional practice would not only create employment opportunities for the youths, but would also preserve the age old culture.
He said that policy makers should pay special attention to preserve the Onpo practice in Ladakh. He expressed disappointment over the fact that LAHDC Leh has no provision for preservation of Art and Culture in the Councillor Constituency Development Fund (CCDF). He further added, “They cannot spend a penny for the art and culture which is big floss in itself.”
It is not that people are not interested in pursuing it as a profession but it is the lack of facilities& poor standards that stops many people from pursuing it as a profession, said one of the Onpos.
Onpos staged a demonstration to explain various forms of Onpo practice. Besides an open discussion a question answer session was also held on the occasion.
This irrefutable fact is not only due to the amchis' poor standards or to their tendency... who has inherited his profession
from his father, as is usually the case
He pretended to ignore what I already knew, that hereditary amchis, the gyut-amchis (gyut spelt brgyud means lineage) are considered to be the best.
the onpo (astrologer)
Rtsikspas are astrologers as we know them in the West: according to dates, time, the
position of planets and stars, they determine the future of a newborn baby, the favorable
day for a wedding, etc.
Astrologers, soothsayers and even monks engage in the practice of exorcism and use one
of the two following methods:
― either the exorcist makes a statuette representing the demon the victim is persecuted
by, and then destroys it; the demon supposedly suffers a similar fate. This statuette is
called storma (gtor-ma);
― or he shapes a figurine, this time representing the victim. Deceived into believing that
the effigy is the actual victim, the demon throws himself onto it and the real victim is thus
released. This figurine is called lut (glud), sometimes translated into English by ransom.