A bond of a lifetime

Festival Issue 121 Nov, 2011
Text by Anubhuti Poudel

Friends promise on being with each other forever. What if they do?

In an age when making a friend is just a click away, when you can “follow” another person with an online name and an internet connection, a lifelong bond of friendship seems redundant. However, the trend of creating a kind of spiritual kinship, commonly known in Nepal as Mit Laune is not unheard of. The idea was popular in the past; even king Prithvi Narayan Shah of Gorkha and the crown prince of Bhaktapur were bonded by this custom. The popularity and more importantly the significance of this trend today however, is something worth discussing.

Two prospective spiritual brothers/sisters or mits are chosen mostly by the family members. Usually, these two are friends who are intended to be bonded by a relation much stronger. So in the presence of a priest and family members, these two are bonded together by a process that differs for different cultures. There are however, practices like exchange of gifts between these two during the ceremony and the much popular practice that everyone associates with this custom – a slow striking of one person’s head with the other’s. The ceremony itself is a short procedure but what follows is a lifetime of friendship that goes beyond just these two and binds the families and friends of each other.

Subash Rijal and Paras Adhikari have been bounded for years now. “I have had him as my Mit jyu for about 25 years now. We were young when our families decided to bind us together this way. I do not remember much of the ceremony but after that day I have always had him around,” shares Paras adding, “It isn’t just a union of two people. Our families are close too. We celebrate Bhai TIka together and my sister puts tika on both of us. In a way, we are family. We celebrate Dashain together too by putting tika on each other.”
In some cases, even grandchildren of the spiritual brothers and sisters celebrate cultural and religious festivals together. While it is an obligation that the two spiritual brothers or sisters invite each other in all the functions of the house, there are instances that demonstrate how the bond compares to a blood relation.
There are some guidelines. The spiritual brothers or sisters are to address each other by adding a term of respect, such as ji, and it is expected that that each will involve the other in all big and small family functions and festivals.

In a time where social network has made friendship so easy and convenient, the importance of such a trend might be questioned. However, this traditional practice has been in our society for a long time now and there are reasons. One is that, the bond is for life, which gives an individual a person he can rely on for forever. Second, it is not just a union between two people of two families. There are instances where the grandchildren of spiritual brothers/sisters participate in cultural and religious festivals of each other. Therefore, it is a union of two families and societies. Marriage is a strong bond that unites two families; mit laaune might be a weaker bond but is definitely worth considering.

Mit laune might slowly be losing its importance in our society but one must understand the possible reasons of starting the tradition at the first place. It could be considered to be one of the first social networking trends in our society and a really strong one at that for it has been carried out over centuries.