Khali Khane/Bayu Utarnu Tradition In Nepal: Ghost Exorcism and Sacrifice

Khali Khane is the initiatory fire ritual practiced in Nepal. It is the oldest Shamanism(system of religious practice) rite to distinguish between the malignant possessing spirits and good-intentioned ones from the lineage or other helpful spirits of nature and deities.

Mostly it is called Bayu Utarnu. Bayu Utarnu is a sacrifice that achieves a transformation of the spirit of the deceased.

This tradition has been followed for thousands of years since around 1979, this tradition is kept alive to identify the future Dhami, it is done due to whose souls remain in samsaric and realism and wondering around, those who died due to some accident, murders or suicide. The Vayus, wandering souls are called and interrogated. The Dhami called the wandering souls to his Chelas-Neoplastic and asked them the reason for their death or how they were dead. If there is no evidence or proof of incorporation, the fire walking ceremony is organized to liberate the wandering souls.

With long observation and tests, the master guru- Dhami- shaman takes the Neophyte into his/her tutelage and imparts necessary teaching and preparation before going on the ‘fire ordeal’. To make fire 108 bundles of firewood were used to make fire and 108 myrobalan leaf scoops and varieties of flowers were used. Khali Khane ritual is not only for recognition of the new dhami-shaman but also to separate the malignant forces and help the distracted souls and spirits to cross over the ‘Baitarni Nadi’. The river separates the defunct from the living.

Out of hundreds and animistic and shamanistic traditions, this is one of the living traditions of Nepal practiced by khasa /khass and some other groups of Nepal.

The story  behind which start Khali Khane is to be said that

In late 1968, a person named Krishna committed suicide by hanging himself. His death was “ill-timed” “unnatural” or “bad omen” death. As a result, His family and his other kinsmen frequently encountered problems dealing with his spirit, they were not certain the proper observance of the mortuary rituals would be effective in transforming him into an ancestor bound to be eventually reborn.

It was likely that his spirit would remain a bayu(ghost) wandering from dusk to dawn around his former house, where he had died.

Still, they performed the mortuary rituals, but six years later, after a string of misfortunes -sick cows, poor crop yield, and frequent illness among the children of the households- a specialist dealing with ghosts was consulted by Krishna’s wife and his brother.

Khali Khane
Image: Khali Khane Rituals, Walking on a Fire (Source: Asian Heritage Treks and Travels)

As many suspected, the mortuary rituals had failed to transform his spirit into an ancestor, and the specialist identified the trouble caused by Krishna’s ghost trying to remind his close kin of his plight. As a ghost, he would inevitably be forgotten because his kinsmen would not offer him food at the annual worship of his ancestor.

Consequently, a bayu Utarnu ritual was performed to exorcise the ghost (kacho bayu) and transform it into a deity-like spirit (Pako Bayu) that is worshipped daily by its household. Over time it may become the focus of a cult for its lineage and their descendants and thus be remembered for many generations by their worship and food offerings.

Ending of the Ceremony

The Bayu Utarnu for Krishna’s ghost lasted nearly five weeks. The specialist used their powerful mantras and chants and with the aid of his tutelary spirit, got the Bayu to summon a close male agnate, who acted as a spirit medium. Through the medium the ghost related to his kinsmen and relatives the circumstances surrounding his death.

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Once this happens, the exorcism reaches its climax, the rite known as Khali Khane. On the selected night, the controlled person by spirit, medium danced on the hot coals of a sacrificial Hom fire, thereby transforming the ghost into a pako bayu who would no longer bring misfortune to his household.

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