Wed. Apr 10th, 2024

International Conference on Spiti 2016 Booklet

The Spiti Valley Recovering the Past & Exploring the Present

Wolfson College
PDF Download

I am pleased to welcome you to the first International Conference on Spiti, which is being held at the
Leonard Wolfson Auditorium on May 6“’ and 7″‘, 2016.
The Spiti Valley is a remote Buddhist enclave in the Indian Himalayas. It is situated on the borders of
the Tibetan world with which it shares strong cultural and historical ties. Often under-represented on
both domestic and international levels, scholarly research on this subject H all disciplines taken
together — has significantly increased over the past decade. The conference aims at bringing together
researchers currently engaged in a dialogue with past and present issues pertaining to Spitian culture
and society in all its aspects. It is designed to encourage interdisciplinary exchanges in order to explore
new avenues and pave the way for future research.
There are seven different panels that address the theme of this year’ s conference, The Sp1’t1′ I/alley:
Recovering the Past and Exploring the Present, from a variety of different disciplinary perspectives
including, archaeology, history, linguistics, anthropology, architecture, and art conservation. I look
forward to the exchange of ideas and intellectual debates that will develop over these two days.
On this year’ s edition. we are very pleased to have Professor Deborah KlimburgeSalter from the
universities of Vienna and Harvard as our keynote speaker. Professor KlimburgeSalter will give us a
keynote lecture entitled Through the black lzght – new technology opens a Window on the I Oth century.
It is also our great honour to welcome Tenzin Kalzang Lochen Tulku Rinpoche — the current incarnation
of Lotsawa Rinchen Zangpo (958 — 1055) to the first international conference dedicated entirely to the
Spiti Valley, Rinpoche will deliver a final word at the close of this event.
I would like to take the time to thank the chairs of our panels for their implication. I would also like to
thank our generous sponsors and benefactors for their unflinching support: the Tibetan and Himalayan
Study Cluster (THSC), the Tibet Foundation UK, the Ti se Foundation, and our private donors.
I hope you will enjoy the conference! fill
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Yannick Laurent 5 J 3 él!*5f$? ‘
Conference Convener I
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Registration (Leonard Wolfson Auditorium)
Coffee & Tea (Buttery)
Welcome speech by Professor Ulrike Roelser (Oxford)
Keynote address by Professor Deborah Klimburg-Salter (Vienna/Harvard)
Through the black light – new technology opens a Window on the 10th
Convener’ s speech by Yannick Laurent (Oxford)
Henry L. Shuttleworth and the History of Spiti
Coffee break (Buttery)
Contesting Antiquity and development: an Interdisciplinary insight
into the rock art preservation in Spiti Valle y, Himachal Pradesh
Vijay K. Bodh (Panjab University), P. M. Saklani (Garhwal University), Ekta
Singh (Garhwal University)
Spiti valley in North Western Himalayan region falls under the
administrative unit of Lahaul & Spiti district in Himachal Pradesh.
Considerably Spiti hosted as an avenue for commerce and religious
teachings. Rock art in Spiti has been identified in several sites but due to
vacuum in the archaeology of Spiti valley very less work has been
mentioned up till now. Some references of this rock art have been
mentioned by few scholars but most of the earlier published petroglyphs
and pictographs sites have been shifted and some have disappeared from
their original habitat. The revelation of new rock art sites also reflect
towards the alarming situation being posed to the historical evidences. At
this stage when Spiti. is on the verge of reclaiming its antiquity back to
more than1000 years, a loss of one or two boulders could prevent us from
a better understanding of the social and cultural settings of the past. The
multidisciplinary paper indulges the expertise from archaeology and social
anthropology; it is based on a field visit to the rock art sites in Spiti valley.
It is a comprehension of the rock art sites identifying threat perspectives
to ancient art form to ensure better preservation and conservation efforts.

The paper adds a new dimension of hydroelectric projects and their direct
consequences onto rock art sites in Spiti valley. The paper enlists some of
the important rock art sites along with an inventory of potential threats
challenging the overall integrity of these sites and also enlists probable
solutions that could effectively sustain the tests of social and climatic
Over the Long Arc of Time: Cognate themes in Rock Art 0fSp1’t1′
extending from the Iron Age to the Buddhist Era (video conference

John V. Bellezza (Dharamsala)
This paper examines pervasive subjects in the ancient rock art of Spiti and
how these might be discernible in its extant cultural legacies. Spirit-
mediumship of the lus-g.yar, attendant traditions of the indigenous priests
(jo-bo), theriomophism in the local pantheon, and lore connected to wild
animals in contemporary Spiti are compared to potential cognate themes
in rock art. This line of inquiry suggests that cultural mechanisms related
to long-term continuity in the material and ideological spheres are in
operation in Spiti, bridging both the pre-Buddhist and Buddhist eras.
Postulating deep chronological roots for Spitian culture has important
implications for the identity of the region and its place in the historical
dynamics of the Western Tibetan Plateau. As this paper demonstrates, by
serving as an index of both endogenous cultural development and inter-
regional influences, rock art emerges as a vital resource in the elucidation
of the cultural history of Spiti.
§’§’§Av'</¢:?’a?:’4/’=7’§,/=7”:/’ (in Tibetan)
Nyen Thar (Banaras Hindu University)
Analysis and Etymology of the name “Spiti”
1) Identification of the place to which the name “Spiti” is applied.
Presentation of the territory scope and history of the land identified as
“Spiti”. 2) General analysis of the stages of development and of the
meanings of the different spellings of the name “Spiti”(Spyiti, Spiti, Piti).
Focus on the chronological order of these different spellings of the name
Spiti based on the relevant sources and analysis of some of their different
interpretations according to oral tradition and written sources. 3) The
reason Why this land has been called Spiti. Some geographical and
historical proofs of why this land has been called “Spiti” based on the
analysis carried out on point 2. 4) Conclusions derived on what I have
found from my own sources, especially on the chronology of the name
“Spiti” as it appears in the Tibetan language and the original sources.

When the name “Spiti” first appeared in the Tibetan language, what it
symbolised at that time, and what each part of the name meant. 5)
Introduction to the original sources of this research paper.
Lunch break (Haldane room)
Chair: Ulrike Roesler (University of Oxford)
Measure for Measure: Researching and Documenting Early Buddhist
Architecture in Spiti
Carmen Auer (Graz University of Technology)
Over the last 15 years, the University of Technology in Graz has conducted
several research projects on Buddhist Architecture in the Western
Himalaya. Funded by the Austrian Science Fund, these projects also cover
three significant and unique buildings in Spiti. The Temple Complex of
Tabo, the Ancient Monastery of Dangkhar and the Temple of Lalung all
mirror the early Buddhist architecture. They representatively display the
diverse architectural concepts that, initiated by the Kingdom of Guge, have
been developed and implemented in the Western Himalayas over several
centuries. Presenting the research results, we will deal with the following
questions: Which construction technology and materials were used to
build these sacred buildings? How does the surrounding topography
interact with the architecture? How can contemporary measuring
techniques help us in order to generate a significant building
representation? How do architectural plans and spatial models enable us
to comprehend complex building structures? How do they help in
integrating and locating the murals and sculptural details of the interior
into the architectural context?
How can 3D models provide us with a deeper insight into the spatial
configuration — especially given the effort of field research in Northern
India and Tibet and the difficult circumstances? What are the advantages
of documentation when it comes to describe the state of buildings as well
as building phases, the planning methods. and static systems? What is
essential when it comes to static and structural restoration of the historic
building structures? Why is an interdisciplinary cooperation crucial?
Which are the fundamental elements of such a cooperation? The research
results in Spiti show us how to professionally conduct a contemporary
building documentation, and how such a documentation maximizes any
architectural survey in challenging areas.

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Kalzang Tsultrim (Norbulingka Institute)
Houses in Spiti Although Spiti society offers numerous cultural elements
deserving to be discussed, the peculiarities of house construction in the
region call for a detailed analysis, as I will demonstrate in my talk.
The construction process of a Spiti house will be divided into three
different parts: The first part deals with the stages of house constructing:
from the transition from stone to concrete houses, to the way stones are
affected by the seasonal climatic changes in the Spiti region, and
concluding with examples of stone built fortress. The second part will
introduce the designs and shapes of the houses, taking into consideration
the painting colours, the varieties of painting styles and their cultural
meaning and the aspect of a typical Spiti drawing room. Furthermore, I
will offer examples of modern Spiti housest showing the actual disposition
of the elements previously discussed. In the third part, the influence of
colour texture and of natural elements and realms will be analysed, and
each perception of the implications of power, karma and destiny will be
related to the local culture. In short, we will see how the economic value
of a house depends on the structure, quality, colour of the building as well
as and its own history. It is Worth stressing furthermore that the house is
suitable for the extreme climatic conditions of the Spiti region, as
demonstrated by numerous scientific studies lately carried out on the most
distinguishing features typical of local houses.
Spatial Interaction.‘ The Stupa and the Lhathos of the Rigsum Giinpo
of Tashigang 1’11 Sp1’t1′
Gerald Kozics (Graz University of Technology)
The hamlet of Tashigang is located high above the upper Spiti Valley near
Ki Monastery. The site enjoys a tremendous view towards the mountain
ranges which flank the Spiti Valley to the left. On a rock above the hamlet
three lhatho-like steles painted in different colours (white, red and grey-
blue) literally watch over the site. Such composition is unusual for this
region of the Western Himalayas but compares to similar sets representing
the Rigsum Gonpo well—known from Mustang – only in the case of
Tashigang it is an unexpected representation of a specific group of
Dharmapalas. The most significant religious structure is a stupa probably
datable to the 15th century in the centre of the hamlet. This monument
too. recalls the Buddhist architecture of Mustang as it displays the vertical

re-white-blue/black stripes so common for the temple architecture of that
region. The architectural form of the stupa is based on an unusual five-
fold combination of a central stupa placed on a large base and four steles
in the corner positions. The elevated cult chamber of the stupa was
dedicated to a five-fold mandala composition of Amitayus. Today, the
chamber is almost sealed off by a wooden ceiling and the room below is
decorated with a completely new programme. The proposed paper will
present a complete visual reconstruction of the iconographic programme
of the stupa and discuss the spatial interaction between the internal
compositional order and the topographic and “sacred” environment with
specific focus on the three lhathos.
A “Road leading to Spiti from Demjok ” .’ Considerations about the
searcb for alternative routes between Tibet and Spiti in mid-19th
Diana Lange (Humboldt Universitéit)
In my presentation l will discuss different routes leading to Spiti from
Demchok in Western Tibet‘ These routes are shown on a set of so-called
picture maps that belongs to the British Library’ s Wise Collection. The
maps were drawn in mid-19th century by a Buddhist lama and
commissioned by an Englishman‘ They cover the areas of Lhasa. Central
Tibet. Southern and Western Tibet. Ladakh and Zangskari Placed side by
side, the maps present a nearly continuous panorama from the Yarlung
Valley in Central Tibet to Leh in Ladakh. Places on the maps are
consecutively numbered from Lhasa (No.1) westwards to the Parang La
(No.404) r the mountain pass on the “old established” border between
Ladakh and Spiti. The Western Tibet map ends to the west of Demchok and
shows different routes that lead from Demchok to the Spiti Valley. There
is one route that is difficult to reconstruct and that was obviously not used
or described by Western travellers in the middle of the 19th century. Did
the person who commissioned the maps asked for information about new
or other routes to Tibet? Was the “unusual” route between Demchok and
the Parang La a response to such a request? ln my talk I will introduce the
picture maps and reconstruct the “unusual” route on modern maps and
discuss these questions.
Coffee break

Chair: David Pritzker (University of Oxford)
Conservation Challenges of the Ancient Tabo Monastery due to
Climate Change
Virendra S. Verma (Institute of Chinese Studies – Delhi)
Tabo Monastery situated in the village of the same name lies at 3280
meters in Spiti valley which has remained quite secluded even in relation
to other Himalayan border lands. Spiti is semi desert with its own cultural
heritage along the river bearing same name and is encompassed between
Kunjum la (4590 m) in the west and a junction of Spiti river with mighty
Sutlej in the east. Based on ‘renovation inscription’ at the entrance of
the dukhang and biographical information on Ye-shes-‘ od and Rin-chen-
bzang-po it may be surmised that monastery was built in A.D.996 and
renovated in 1042. It is believed to be the oldest and still continuously
functioning monastery conclave in India and in Himalayas with its original
decorations and iconographic paintings, sculptures, inscriptions and
extensive texts intact which cover every inch of the wall space and have
survived climate and human ravages for a millennium. The monastery is of
singular importance not only of its beauty of its art but also of its role in
transmission of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism and culture in 10/ll century to
Ngari region in Western region. Keeping in view the immense
archaeological importance Tabo Monastery is a monument of national
importance now under the care and control of Archaeological Survey of
India since 1972. The monastery is made of earthen architecture with
wooden ceiling. The mud and wood lend itself to threats in conservation
which are intensified with phenomena of climate change. Rain and snow
are not rare phenomena which were not seen in the dry desert few decades
back though adjoining Kinnaur and Kullu-Manali are forested due to the
wet climate. Recent study of precipitation at Lahoul and Spiti have shown
‘increasingly wet conditions during the 20th century are found
consistent with other long- term precipitations reconstructions—due to
global warming.’ Some effect on the wall paintings and fragile mud
structure has started appearing at the ancient monument of great heritage.
It needs to be taken in all seriousness by national and international
scholars and concerned authorities.
On spatial relations between Tabo ‘ s monastic structure and its
surrounding village environment
Hubert Feiglstorfer (Austrian Academy of Sciences)

Buddhist monastic structures from the early West Tibetan period follow
individual geometrical and proportional concepts. Their threeedimensional
aspect which focuses on a geometrically defined common pivot stands in
an inseparable relation to its ritual use by pilgrims and devotees. As a
result of this programmatic and also practical unity monastic structures
such as Tabo are part of a larger whole which extends the spatial relation
on a village level and beyond. Particular places in the form of materialized
markers within the village compound follow this superior spatial concept
and define the pilgrims’ movement. Analysis of West Tibetan religious
structures and their comparison give an insight into such materialized
spiritual concepts. Beside the implementation of an ideal spatial
centralisation, the environment of the single religious structures which is
connected to this centralised idea shows village-specific patterns. These
patterns are harmonised with local characteristics, following social or
topographic parameters, inter alia. The architectural concept of Tabo
monastery related to its surrounding village environment gives a good
example for this kind of spatial organisation which will be discussed in
detail. To make its context to other early West Tibetan religious structures
understandable examples of other West Tibetan monastic structures will
be given and juxtaposed.
The Mandala Temple dkyil ’ khor 1ha khang at Tabo: historic and
iconographic analysis
Amy Heller (Nyon, Switzerland)
In 2010, Geshe Sonam Wangdu, Abbot of Tabo and Ven. Lama Zangpo,
Head Administrator, requested my help to document the present state of
the mural paintings and statues of the entire monastic complex in view of
long-term conservation. While the sculptures and murals of the gTsug lag
khang have been thoroughly studied by Tucci (1935), Klimburg-Salter
(1997) and Luczanits (2004), this is not the case of the “Mandala Temple”.
In 1935, Tucci published a brief description of the “Mandala Hall ” (dkyil
khang, dkyil ‘khor lha khang), where he also recorded the very few
inscriptions on the chapel Walls. Subsequently relatively scant additional
research concentrated on the iconographic program of this chapel due to
the poor state of conservation of the murals while the history of this
chapel was investigated in terms of architectural context by Neuwirth and
Auer (2006) and textual documentation by \/itali (1996). The initial
construction of the chapel has been tentatively attributed to the second
half of the 11th century while the extant mural paintings reflect
subsequent phases and renovations. Vitali’s study of certain historical

inscriptions on the murals leads him to conclude that these paintings were
created at the time of ll-la dbang blo gros, a disciple of Tsongkhapa and
mKhas grub rje active in mNga’ ris during the 15th century but other
murals appear to be earlier. I present here tentative iconographic analysis
and observations as well as the photographic data of 2010 in the hope of
contributing towards a better understanding of the history and successive
iconographic programs at Tabo.
Reception (Buttery) 18.00
Dinner 7 reservation required (Haldane room) 19.00
with a performance from Mongolian artist Bat-Erdene Nyamdavaa
Saturday 7“ May
Chair: Tsering Gonkatsang (University of Oxford)
Some remarks on Tabo Tibetan — a variety of the Tibetic language of
Veronika Hein (Solothurn, Switzerland)
This paper characterises the modern spoken language of the Spiti Valley
in a threefold way that represents the three main sections of the linguistic
description of Tabo Tibetan: phonology, morphology and syntax. In the
first part an introduction is given in the form of some language geography.
The borders of the area in which Tabo Tibetan is spoken are illustrated
with examples taken from the CDTD (Comparative Dictionary of Tibetan
Dialects by Roland Bielmeier et al, in print) and explained from the
perspective of diachronic phonology. The second part provides a short
introduction to the verbal morphology of Tabo Tibetan. As the verbal
system of TT has been found to be one of the most complex ones of all the
Tibetic languages described so far, it is worth having a closer look at it
and at the linguistic categories of evidentiality and modality. which have
proved useful for its description. The third part tries to provide some
insight into a coherent text. l will not give a linguistic analysis of sentence
structures in this part, but present the beginning of an episode of the local
version of the epic of King Gesar, which l audioerecorded in Lari/Spiti and
later transcribed and translated. Thus the spoken language is shown in the
form of a sound document and its written transcription, which allows us

to work out some more characteristics of the language under
consideration, especially also its usage in oral tradition.
5’§»?’g/1/’§’sA”<17’»?<1]’41]q'<v;fi:’q’ (in Tibetan)
Lhundup Tsomo (Tibetan Children Village School
On the Tradition of Chang (Wine) in the Himalayan Region of Spiti. When
it comes to the preparation, acquisition, and distribution of food and
drinks within the cultural and economic development of human
civilization, wine is certainly one of the most important beverages. Due to
the high altitude and extreme cold climate of the Himalayan foothills, the
inhabitants of Spiti 7 unlike people from other regions or countries 7
consider chang a very essential drink, regardless of the impact its
consumption has on their general wellbeing. I would like to briefly discuss
the cultural significance of chang for the people of Spiti by taking into
consideration the following points: 1. The relationship between chang and
the Spiti region. No written texts or books have ever been written on the
preparation of chang and on how the custom of chang drinking developed
in the Spiti region. There information at the core of the present paper have
been acquired simply through observation and examination. 2. The love of
the people of Spiti for chang. The paper presents the locals’ unparalleled
love for this beverage and their custom of chang drinking, the nature of
the surroundings in which they thrive, and the unwritten memories of the
old days through the words of the elderly people of Spiti. 3. Description
of the ingredients for the chang produced in Spiti and the methods used
to prepare it. Furthermore, the paper discusses the publication of books
on the flourishing of a chang drinking tradition in Spiti as well as the
methods used for acquiring chang yeast and for preparing it. 4. Chang
brewing season and how it is brewed. Despite being available all year
round, it is possible to identify three chang brewing seasons: Coon Losar
(winter New Year) Chang, Kyinda (Happy Archery) Chang, and Tonnam
(Autumn Season) Chang. This classification will be explained in more
detail.5. Varieties of chang and types of drinking style. As different
countries in the world have different landscape with varying climatic
conditions and different cultures and traditions, the people of Spiti have
different varieties of chang and various styles of drinking, which will be

discussed. 6. Chang songs and chang dances represent the uniqueness of
the music of Spiti. Chang songs and the dance moves associated to them
will be presented7. Chang and its relationship with local culture and
tradition. What kind of beverage chang was considered to be in the old
days, especially in comparison to other local traditions and customs. The
way people’ s perceptions and ideas on chang are nowadays changing will
be also investigated. The culture, customs, and ways of life e especially
those regarding the tradition of chang drinking — shown by the people of
Spiti are quite unique and hard to find elsewhere. In this abstract I tried
to outline the main points covered by the paper I am presenting today;
they are mainly based on my direct study of the rich chang tradition
peculiar to the region of Spiti and its associated culture. I was born and
raised in Ladakh, which share with other Himalayan regions such as Spiti
similar chang traditions; the exceptional joy and love convey by this
beverage are at the core of the paper I am humbly presenting to you today.
Coffee break (Buttery)
A dark light 1’11 a dark period (16804 710) 0fSp1’t1′ (video conference
Dieter Schuh (IITBS)
The paper discusses the historical importance of document No—no 4 from
the collection of No-no bSod-nams dbang-’dus photographed in Spiti in
May 2015. The legal document was issued 1686 in the name of the Ladakhi
King Nyi-ma rnam-rgyal in the Palace of Leh. It confirms the appointment
of lhaesras gaega ma-lig rNamergyal and his descendants as replacement
persons for the rDzong-dpon of Spiti. Moreover it tells us that 1686 was
year of the enthronement of Nyi-ma rnam-rgyal as king of Ladakh. No-no
4 is one of three documents attributed to Nyi-ma rnam-rgyal which bear
the same seals. A diplomatic analysis shows that all three documents were
certainly not issued in the chancellery of the king of Ladakh in Leh.
On the Scorpion ‘ s Back: Materialjzjng a Nyingma Presence 1’11 Spiti
Joseph Leach (University of Michigan)

In the last decade, Nyingma Buddhism has visibly expanded its presence
in Spiti largely due to the efforts of Yomed Tulku (b. 1962), the head of
Urgyen Sangnag Choling Monastery in the Pin Valley. Prior to the time of
Yomed Tulku, Geluk Buddhism dominated most of Spiti while Nyingma
Buddhism was primarily present in the Pin Valley. This recent expansion
beyond the Pin Valley is manifesting through building activities focused
on producing highly visible structures like temples, monumental sculpture.
and a new large-scale monastery, in locations such as Lari village in the
main Spiti Valley and the formerly Tibetan village of Gyu, in the contested
border region between India and China. This paper examines the
motivations for the recent expansion and the religious, political, and
economic implications it entails for Nyingma Buddhists in Spiti. I argue
that in the process of establishing these new structures, Yomed Tulku is
intentionally engaging with issues of nationality, sectarian identity, and
modernization to further the Nyingma cause in Spiti and foster a local
Nyingma presence. As Spiti garners increasing international attention, this
paper shows that the region, which is often described as a remote Buddhist
enclave, is a central site for understanding how contemporary Buddhism
negotiates key issues of modernity, post-colonialism, and nationality.
Lunch break (Dining hall)
Chair: Robert l\/layer (University of Oxford)
Kungrj Tsuglaklzang murals’ conservation-restoration project
Melodie Bonnat (Paris, France)
The lecture will present technical and conservation aspects of ancient
Buddhist murals painted in 17th century in a remote valley called the Pin
valley, in l-limachal Pradesh, in Kungri village. The wall paintings decorate
the most ancient temple of the valley called Tsuglakhang, dedicated to the
rare Nyingma Pema Lingpa tradition. The temple, a four pillar room is
entirely painted; the total surface is about 59 sq. m. The creation date is
based on the iconography study that show the value of the representations
connected to the ritualistic tradition still alive today. However, the
paintings study and appreciation is limited. It is known that a fire set by
Sikh plunder damaged the paintings in 1841. Since that time, the surface
is blackened by a thick soot deposit and the iconography is difficult to

A conservation-restoration project is projected by the monastery. This
work is a challenge both because of the remoteness of the site and the
technical difficulty of the soot removal. An international conservation
team is involved in this adventure and already carried out tests that
showed interesting results. The condition report was made in 2013 and a
preliminary mission was organized in July 2015. Conservators could
observe that the paintings were painted with a very fine style and exquisite
details. The painting technique consists of pigments probably with animal
glue binding media. Colours evocate gold and azurite but a technological
study is required to clarify the pigments” nature and certify the
paintings’ creation date. The project plans to set up a technological
study, carry out cleaning, paint layer and mud plaster consolidation with
natural products, reintegration of missing part in respect with the
conservation-restoration ethic. Specialized conservators are required to
complete this delicate work and restore this unique artistic heritage of the
Pin valley.
The origins of Padma gling pa ‘ s tradition in the Cloud Valley in Spiti
Henri Namgyal (INALCO)
For centuries, the bla ma-s of the Cloud Valley (Pin Valley; sPrin yul
ljongs) are practicing a spiritual tradition revealed by the fourth gter ston
king, Padma gling pa (l45O—l52l). The origin of this tradition, far from
its main diffusion centers in Bhutan and South of Tibet, was associated
with a group of 13 sngags pa-s that founded a retreat place called gSer
gling bde chen phug. So far, only the name of one of them was known
through the oral tradition: Byang chub bzang po but nobody could explain
where and who he received this tradition from. Thanks to some
manuscripts kept by the royal family (no no-s) of this Valley, we’ ll try to
date the introduction of this tradition in the Valley, present who were their
teachers, what they received from them and the traces they left in the
‘Buchen ‘ as storytellers, Pin Valley, Spiti
Pascale Dollfus (CNRS)
Described in early literature as “magicians”, “strolling monks”, or “friars”,
Buchen are lay religious specialists who regard themselves as the “great
sons” (Tib. bu chen) of the great siddha and bridge-maker Thangtong
rgyalpo (Tib. Thang stong rgyal po) (1361/65— 1480/86). They wander
from village to village, performing a spectacular ritual in which a heavy
stone is crushed onto the chest of a man to destroy a demon that has taken

up residence there. As this breaking-stone ritual has been discussed in
detail by other scholars, I will restrict myself to one of their other skills:
storytelling. In fact, Buchen are also professional storytellers, whose
repertoire not only contains the famous mantra of Avalokiteshvara (om
mani padme hum), but also dozens of biographies or namthar that belong
to the Tibetan Buddhist repertoire. From time to time, Buchen use
narrative painted scrolls that contain various scenes depicting the main
events in the life of the “hero”. Using recordings, films, and photographs,
I analyse the relationship between text, discourse, images in the
interaction between Buchen and their audience.
Documenting the material culture of the Buchen
Patrick Sutherland (University of the Arts)
The Buchen are performers of rituals, exorcists, actors, storytellers and
musicians unique to the Pin Valley in Spiti. Historically, Buchen troupes
have toured the villages of Spiti, Upper Kinnaur and parts of Ladakh (and
formerly western Tibet) to spread the message and teachings of the
Buddha through the medium of entertainment. Buchen are most famous for
performing the exorcism ritual entitled the Ceremony of Breaking the
Stone, photographed by john Coldstream a century ago, described in detail
by the Tibetologist Georges de Roerich in 1932 and contextualised in much
greater detail by Pascale Dollfus in 2004. Although the ceremony is now
well known and increasingly performed for visiting trekkers and film crews
or within local arts and cultural programmes, their winter tours, narrations
and theatrical performances of moral and religious folk tales are
significantly less researched and possibly disappearing. In 2014 I returned
to Spiti to photograph and record their material culture, specifically the
objects connected to Buchen performances and still extant within active
and dormant Buchen households: the narrative and ritual texts, thangkas,
musical instruments, statues, costumes, masks and ritual objects that
Buchen utilise. For a reportage photographer, this process of photographic
copying held precious little excitement, but the opportunity to talk around
the history and ownership of these objects and to delve into family
memories revealed some new understanding of Buchen history, roles,
interconnections and status.
Coffee break

Chair: Fernanda Pirie (University of Oxford)
Power transitions and social change in Sp1’t1′ Valley, India
Tashi Tsering (Mount Royal University)
Spiti has a remarkably long history as a frontier region with a traditional
Tibetan social structure. This talk will present a discussion of
administrative and frontier policies of changing regimes of power that
ruled Spiti Valley — from the old Tibetan empire (7-9th century) to those
of the Indian state ~ as main sculptors of Spiti’s changing social structure
and power relations.
<1]a)’a’47??’§’fir?’Q/’4r;§'<v741r:’ia’r7’q=:”1/avzgo/=v”1/’I7’g=7″<I’ (in Tibetan)
Thupten Gyatso (Sambotha Tibetan School)
Spiti’ s Ancient System of Succession. The System of Property Succession
in Spiti — This section covers the basics of Spiti’ s system of succession.
The eldest son is the heir of the family lineage and thus he inherits and
owns all of the family property, such as the family house, wealth etc. If a
family has more than one son, the eldest becomes the family’ s heir and
the others become monks. If a family owns a big and a small house; the
system of the inheritance of the big house and the entitlement to the small
house is clarified. 2. The Relation of the Property Succession System and
the Royal Law 7 This section mainly covers the system of property
succession prevalent among the subjects in Spiti and not among the other
two states of former Zhang Zhung. Garsha, Spiti and Khunu were the three
states of former Zhang Zhung. This system is found only in Spiti and shows
the strong link with the king’ s rule of that time. The rulers of Spiti of
that time introduced their property succession system not only in Spiti but
also in the territories controlled by them. It also shows the connection of
the property succession system with the particular time of royal lineage,
and the periods of dominance of Spiti by this lineage. 3. The Formation of
the Property Succession System by Royal Law P This section traces the
system of succession among many of the Kings who administered Spiti,
where the eldest son would become king and the others would become
monks. The interruption of this practice during a certain period of time
led to a meeting of nobles, ministers and the king to decide a strict decree
of law to uphold the tradition. The tradition that was practiced not only
by the lineages of kings but also by the ministers is clarified here. 4.
Reasons for the Establishment of the Royal Law of Succession 7 The Royal

Law of Succession was established to deal with the struggle between the
elder and younger princes for succession to kingship. As there were
similar struggles and complications to the inheritance of wealth and
property between the elder and younger sons in a commoner household.
it was decided to apply the Royal Law of Succession to the common people.
Another reason for the introduction of this property succession system
was to limit population growth to the state’ s economic income. 5. The
Relation of the Royal Law of Succession to its Ancient Tradition — In this
section, it is explained that the succession system of the royal lineage in
Spiti, with the eldest son becoming a king and the rest becoming monks,
did not arise for the first time in the Western Himalayan area of Mnga Ris.
This tradition was there in the early 9th century during the reign of the
king Mnga Bdag Khri Ral Pa Chen. 6. The Consequences of the Royal Law
of Succession 7 In this section, the consequences of the property
succession system are discussed. As a result of this system, many women
of Spiti stayed unmarried, and many men become monks. This led to a
decrease in population growth over the centuries. The reason why these
women did not agree to marry, and chose to live lonely lives, is also
discussed here.
Towards a History of Spiti.” Some Comments from the Perspective of
Social Anthropology
Christian Jahoda (Austrian Academy of Sciences)
To date no scholarly historical study has been published which deals
specifically with the historical development of Spiti and gives a
comprehensive survey of the history of this valley. A substantial number
of publications exists on the history of Tabo, in particular the Buddhist
monastery (its architecture, sculptures, paintings, inscriptions, collection
of manuscripts, etc.) and a few contributions on the history of Kyi
monastery, Dankhar and some other places. Despite this in certain periods
Spiti emerges only occasionally from the shadows of history so that many
questions are still unanswered. The appearance of previously unknown or
inaccessible historical sources, inscriptions, documents and
historiographical accounts (such as Pandita Grags pa rgyal mtshan’ s
“Royal Genealogy of the Solar Lineage” ) helps to shed new light at least
on certain periods in the history of Spiti. This necessitates not only a re-
reading and re-evaluation of past historiographical accounts and
approaches but allows also to formulate directions for further research. It
is the aim of this paper to discuss in particular selected research questions
and topics relevant for the understanding of different historical phases of
Spiti from the perspective of social anthropology. This includes a variety

of issues, such as kingship, social stratification (and related questions of
social, political and cultural belonging), sacred landscape, cross-border
interaction and transfer as well as fundamental characteristics and
changes of society over the past centuries and in recent decades.
Closing speech by Lochen Tulku Rinpoche (Kyi Monastery/Delhi, India)
Group picture
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Photo: P. H. Egerton, 1864

Acknowled e
gments and Sp
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Bat-Erdene Nyamdavaa
David Pritzker
Louise Gordon
Lucia Galli
Markus Weisskopf
Rachael Griffiths
Sam Cowan
Sam Leigh
Sangseraima Ujeed
Tashi Tsering
Tsering Gonkatsang
Ulrike Roesler
Yury Khokhlov
The Tibetan and
cial Thanks
Himalayan Study Clust
The Save Dan k ‘ ‘ ‘
g har Initiative
The Tibet Foundation UK
The Ti se Foundation
Wolfson College
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