The Monpas, the tribe to which Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu belonged, has a tradition of chopping the body of the deceased into 108 parts and immersing them one by one in a river as one of their last rites.

The person who chops the body is called ‘Thampa' in the Monpa language. However, as tradition has it, no one is allowed to witness this funeral rite performed exclusively by the Thampas.

Explaining the rationale behind this funeral rite, Sahitya Akademi award winner Assamese writer and novelist Yeshe Dorje Thongshi, who was among the mourners present at the Raj Bhavan helipad here to pay their tribute to the departed Chief Minister, told The Hindu that the Monpas believe that human beings should be useful to other living beings even after death.

Mr. Thongchi is also author of the Assamese novel Sava Kota Manuh (Thampa) in which he has given a description of this custom prevalent among the Monpas.

He said that besides the custom of chopping the body, the Monpas also have other funeral rites of burial and cremation, as also of keeping the body on a mountain peak for birds like eagles and vultures to feed.

The Monpa monks after some rituals tell the family of the deceased which rite is to be observed. Mr. Thongshi said Khandu was opposed to the custom of chopping the body into 108 parts and favoured cremation.

It is not yet known which custom will be followed for Khandu.

The body of Khandu will be taken to his ancestral village Gyangkhar, a few kilometres away from the frontier town bordering China for completion of the last rites.