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Art of Buchen from the Valley of Clouds in Spiti, Western Himalayas

Buchen. © Pascal Dollfus

Buchen. © Pascal Dollfus

“For the well-being of men and the flourishing of the doctrine”, the art of Buchen from the Valley of Clouds in Spiti, Western Himalayas.

by Pascale Dollfus, Center for Himalayan Studies, CNRS. UPR 299.

In the Valley of the Clouds at Spiti, men who call themselves the disciples (Tib, bu-chen, lit. “great sons”) of the Tibetan yogi Thangtong Gyalpo (1361-1485) still perpetuate the art of their master, an atypical religious to whom tradition attributes the invention of suspended iron bridges but also that of the theater. Handling paradoxes, excesses and laughter, they provide a deep but accessible education to all, going from village to village to tell edifying stories. Whether readings, recitations accompanied by painting, or skits belonging more to pantomime than theater, the depictions of the buchen generally conclude with a ritual of spectacular exorcism specific to them, during which the principal officiant breaks with a round and dense stone a long block of schist, placed on the abdomen of a sidekick lying on his back, in order to kill the demon who is locked up there.

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