Colloque 2015 compte rendu et résumés

Pole of excellence
Pole of excellence « Asia and Europe in a global context, Heidelberg University

Opening session with Pr. Kellner and Pr. Grenet

Conference room

Christian Luczanits and Pr. Kellner

Participants surrounding Pr. Kellner and Pr. Grenet

Le quatrième colloque international de la SEECHAC : Religious revivals and artistic Renaissance in Central Asia and the Himalayan region – past and present , s’est tenu à Heidelberg du 16 au 18 novembre. L’institution hôte était le pôle d’excellence « Asia and Europe in a global context » de l’Université de Heidelberg, l’organisation (exemplaire) ayant surtout été assurée par Birgit Kellner, professeur d’études bouddhiques, qui va maintenant rejoindre à Vienne l’Académie des Sciences d’Autriche pour diriger l’Institut d’Histoire Culturelle et Spirituelle de l’Asie.

Le colloque accueillait un public nombreux et motivé, jeune en général, où dix nationalités étaient représentées, dans le cadre à la fois fonctionnel et agréable du « Forum International de la Science ». Parmi les vingt communications, toutes en anglais, se dégageaient surtout les thèmes suivants :
– les décors bouddhistes (principalement mahāyāniques) dans l’Himalaya occidental et les oasis du Tarim ;
– la réappropriation des héritages culturels par les sociétés et les États des républiques post-soviétiques d’Asie centrale ;
– les rituels des populations est-himalayennes, tibétaines et mongoles: renouveaux récents, réinterprétations, innovations.

Ce dernier ensemble de recherches, sur lequel l’école de Heidelberg est aujourd’hui très active, a été particulièrement bien illustré au colloque, qui de ce fait a eu une coloration plus « contemporanéiste » que les précédents.

Le programme laissait un temps substantiel aux discussions, aussi animées qu’amicales. En plus des communications nous avons entendu deux conférences, l’une par Christian Luczanits, « Processes of revival in Himalayan art : imagining Kashmir and Nepal in the 15th and 17th centuries », l’autre par Harry Falk, « Royal inthronisation rites from Commagene to the Kushans and beyond ».
On peut certes regretter l’absence au colloque de chercheurs tibétains et la quasi absence de chercheurs des républiques d’Asie centrale (à part une collègue du Kirghizistan), lacune qui n’était certes pas imputable aux organisateurs mais découlait de certains facteurs contingents : non-prise en charge des missions par les institutions de rattachement, difficulté d’obtenir les visas de sortie pour les ressortissants de la République Populaire de Chine.

Dans la discussion finale il a été unanimement souhaité que puisse paraître un volume issu des travaux du colloque, comme cela a été le cas pour le colloque de Vienne dont la publication verra le jour au début de l’année prochaine. La possibilité sera activement explorée, avec une bonne chance de succès comme l’a laissé entendre Birgit Kellner.

Frantz Grenet,
Président de la SEECHAC


Strategies for the revival and survival of Tibetan Buddhist monasteries during the 17th century and beyond.

At first glance, when considering Tibetan Buddhist monasticism, one is often struck by the sheer magnitude of the phenomenon: there once existed more than 6000 monastic institutions throughout Central Asia and the Himalayas and at a certain point in time up to 20% percent of the male population in Central Tibet was ordained. Furthermore, Drepung monastery, with the inhabitants estimated to be around 10.000 in the beginning of the 20th century, could be said to have once been the largest monastery in the world. However, while a relatively small number of monasteries truly flourished under the Ganden Phodrang government established in 1642, many others struggled to survive the changing times. There existed various reasons for the problems faced by these institutions. When confronted with such issues, monastic leaders often decided on a management overhaul or on policy-changes, which one can find articulated in the monastic guidelines (bca’ yig), often composed specifically for this purpose. In this paper I will discuss the various socio-religious strategies contained in these works that were aimed at revival for the sake of survival. I will further argue that an examining these policies from a ‘Buddhist studies’ perspective, rather than seeing them as being solely politically or economically motivated, offers a more complete understanding of the societal role of pre-modern Tibetan Buddhist monasteries.


Donyi-Polo, a reformist and revival « tribal » and « indigeneous » religion in Arunachal Pradesh, North-East India: two approaches to discuss.

I propose in this paper to analyze and observe the revival phenomena or rather the «creation » of Donyi-Polo, a religious practice of the Adi (major tribe) of Siang valley in Himalayan region of Arunachal Pradesh. The project, based on a two months fieldwork in the area between February and April 2015, will look at various aspects of this religious practice. This topic is an entry to observe social and cultural change among the Adi, an ethnic and linguistic Tibeto-Birman group (Blackburn, Post 2010). Donyi-Polo has been analyzed as an animistic and/or spiritual practice (Fürer-Haimendorf, 1957) and not a religion in its Durkheimian or Maussian definition. However, since the late 80’s, a certain form of revival and institutionalization of Donyi-Polo, also called « Donyi-Poloism » has been observed but seldom studied (Blackburn 2010, Chaudhuri, 2013).
After some contextualization and a descriptive introduction on Donyi-Polo, the practice and discourses I would have collected from the field, I propose to discuss two approaches in my paper. Firstly, I would like to debate the influence and the social role of such a revival religious form in a fluid and fast-moving geopolitical and social context. What is the role of Donyi-Polo in the Adi society ? Could we consider that its religious shape is leading to defining a new ethnoscape and eventually, a change in the perception of a collective identity (Appadurai, 2001, 2005) ?
Secondly, I would like to develop the ongoing issue of saffronisation in Arunachal Pradesh through Donyi-Poloism, bringing forward the role of the Hindutva in Indian tribal context (Sundar, 2002) as well as the element of an « indigeneous religion » and its political use. This approach follows the studies on hinduization and sankritization in the Himalayan context (Berti, Jaoul, Kanungo, 2011) and question the notion of indigeneism in its essentialist vision.

Jonathan SAMUELS

Religious Revival or Religious Conversion?

Any popular account of religious revival is likely to present the identities, allegiances, and motives involved as straightforward and unambiguous. Any critical examination, however, inevitably reveals a far more complex picture, in which religious affiliations, like ethnic ones, are subject to manipulation, and rediscovered (or newly-found) ‘faiths’ may appear to serve as symbols of resistance, or are employed creatively to help in the construction of identity.
Reported cases of religious revival in the Tibetan cultural borderlands, ranging from Sichuan and Yunnan in the PRC to the Southern areas bordering India and Nepal, are no exception. The Tamangs are the largest ‘tribal’ group in Nepal. Officially (at least according to the Nepalese Census of 2011) the population is predominantly Buddhist. The influence of Tibetan (particularly monastic) Buddhism amongst the Tamangs continues to grow. Various Tamangs present this as a rediscovery and re-engagement with their own traditions. However this clashes, to some extent, with narratives and attitudes to borderland populations and cultures emanating from the Tibetan ‘centre’.
This paper, based upon findings of research conducted for my PhD thesis (2014), will introduce some of the complexities of the Tamang situation. I shall not present specific case- studies, nor subject the identities and traditions of the Tamangs to a withering deconstruction, as has perhaps sometimes occurred in the past. Instead I shall attempt to illustrate how the present situation regarding the Tamangs must be seen within a far broader, and largely unwritten, cultural and historical context. The principal aim is to demonstrate how this can be used to challenge standard representations of Tibetan religion in the Himalayan region.

Joona REPO

The Pure Dga’ ldan Lineage: The « Revival Movement » of Pha bong kha Bde chen snying po.

Pha bong kha Bde chen snying po (1878-1941) was one of the most popular Dge lugs teachers in the Lhasa Valley during the first half of the twentieth century. His students ranged from high ranking aristocrats and government officials to ordinary monks at all of Lhasa’s most important institutions. Pha bong kha presented his teachings as being exclusively Dge lugs, emphasizing in particular Tsong kha pa’s unique interpretation of emptiness, as well as a selection of tantric practices, most notoriously that of the protector Rdo rje shugs ldan, all of which he saw, contestably, as being uncommon features of this « pure » lineage stemming from its fourteenth-century founder. The repercussions of his « revivalist movement », as it has been called, have had long-lasting effects on an international scale in the form of the well-known controversy surrounding Shugs ldan. Perhaps more importantly his teachings have fundamentally effected the way in which the Dge lugs teachings are now presented as hardly any Dge lugs teacher outside of Tibet today can deny holding lineages stemming from Pha bong kha. In this paper I will question the extent to which Pha bong kha’s was a « revivalist » movement, and if indeed it could be termed a « movement » at all. Areas that will be explored, albeit briefly, include his Collected Works, as well as the various writings of his teachers and students, his patronage and student base, as well as his views of other Tibetan Buddhist sects.


Religious Revival in 19th Century Tibet and the Spread of a Mahāyāna Classic.

The Bodhi(sattva)caryāvatāra (BCA) by the Indian master Śāntideva is without doubt one of the most fundamental works of Buddhism, in particular, when one considers its long history of transmission, translation, and transformation in various local contexts. It is also of high relevance to the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, attested – for example – by the enormous production of Tibetan commentarial literature on the BCA from the 11th that the BCA gained importance only by the 19th century. As will be shown, this development can be linked to Rdza Dpal sprul O rgyan ‘jigs med chos kyi dbang po (1808–1887), a charismatic yogin, scholar, and exponent of the so-called « ris med movement, » a network of religious luminaries active in the area of Derge in Eastern Tibet.
Promoting a closer exchange between different religious traditions, especially among proponents of the Sa skya, Bka’ brgyud, and Rnying ma schools, members of this network engaged in the collection, production, and transmission of Buddhist teachings, and thereby contributed to a wave of religious activity that must also be seen as a counterbalance to the dominion of the Dge lugs tradition in Central Tibet.
In my talk, I will first provide a survey of the production of BCA-related texts that point to a connection to Dpal sprul, and then try to evaluate these processes by looking at details of his biography, but also by relating them to the religious climate of his times.

Clara MA

Early Regionalization in Western Himalayas: Development of Mahākāla Images in Alchi.

Western Himalayas as a hub of Indian, Tibetan and Central Asian Buddhist art, has incorporated and developed its distinctive regional tradition of Esoteric Buddhist art during the 10th to 14th centuries. The wrathful deity Mahākāla was introduced from India to the Western Himalayas under this flow. In the Alchi complex, Mahākāla is prevalent and appears above the doorways of Dukhang, Sumtsek, Lhakhang Soma as well as Lotsawa Temple. As each Mahākāla comes from different stage of Alchi, their representations vary from the Kashmir-inspired style to Central Tibetan style. At the same time, the Mahākālas incorporate secular themes such as elaborate channel ground, local royal riders and “peacock lady.” These Mahākāla images in Alchi provide a chronological framework with which we can study the local development and regional characteristics of Buddhist iconographies in the Western Himalayas.
Contemporary studies of the Western Himalayas focus on how external influences from India and Central Asia affect the art form. How far should we see its art as a subset of its neighbors, or as its own visual form? The paper explores this debate from the perspective of iconography. It compares the depictions of Mahākāla in Alchi to the description in Buddhist text, and contemporary Mahākāla images from India and Central Tibet. It highlights how artists incorporate local themes and the specific discourse of Mahākāla in Alchi. Although the iconography of Mahākāla came from Indian and Central Tibetan traditions, it was never consistent in Alchi and perceived differently than its original sources.


An Analytical Approach to The Contribution of Uygurs in The Renaissance of Mahayana Art in Turfan.

Turks contributed highly in development of Buddhist religion, philosophy and culture in Turkestan and China starting from the dynasties they established in North China, i.e. Northern Liang and Northern Wei. Many of the first Buddhist sutras were translated from Indian languages to Chinese and the first Buddhist cave temples, i.e. Mogao and Longmen, were built under the patronage of these Turkic sovereigns. Buddhist Uygurs made great contributions, especially to Mahayana Buddhism in Turfan and Dunhuang, too. The renaissance of Mahayana Buddhist Art, flourished in Northern India by another Inner Asian people, Kushans, happened in Turfan since Xth century. This artistic revival in the old Buddhist center depends highly on the stress of the Buddhahood and paradise themes, highlighted by R. Petrucci and E. Esin as being the first artistic representations ever. Pranidhi scenes, which was recently dated back to Kızıl wall paintings from Vth century by I. Konczak, gained their gigantic dimensions with Uygur Buddhist art. The emphasized artistic themes and their new representations have strong links with old Turkic culture and religion, which shaped mainly Turks’ beliefs survived even after their adoption to other religions. Manichaean art themes and symbol partly impacted Uygur Buddhist art too. In this paper, will try to analyze the emergence of some important Turfan Buddhist artistic themes and symbols and its links to the past.


Buddhist Procession and Performance in Central Asia and North India in the 5th Century – According to Faxian´s Travel Report.

The Chinese Buddhist monk and scholar Faxian (approx. 342-423) set forth on travels from China in 399. He reached India over central Asia (today China, Afghanistan and Pakistan). During his 14 years long travels Faxian visited almost all Buddhist sacred sites, where he also had the opportunity to observe Buddhist procession and performance. Thus, Faxian´s travel report Foguoji (compiled in 414) contains the earliest references to the religious life, art and rituals once practiced in these countries.
The focus of my paper is Faxian´s description of ritually procession and theater art of Bud¬dhists in the beginning of the 5th century. In comparison with later accounts such as written by Xuanzang e.g., who traveled to India roughly 230-250 years later (629-645), the historical development in Central Asia and North India will be obvious.
The first passage from the Foguoji, which will be discussed in details, deals with an im¬pres¬sive Buddhist procession, which Faxian attended in the kingdom Khotan, the former Mahāyā¬na centre in Central Asia.
Furthermore, six years after Faxian left China, he finally arrived in Mathurā in the year 405/406, when the Gupta Empire was flourishing under King Candragupta II (375-413/415). Faxian´s report on the Buddhist community in North India is of particular importance. In this regard, I would like to stress only one point, namely the oldest account for the performance of the Buddhist plays; Faxian might have watched the Śāriputraprakaraṇa when he attended a Pra¬vā¬ra¬ṇa ceremony, which largely took place in Mathurā together with a folk festival.

Liying KUO

Buddhoṣṇīṣa-vijayā-dhāraṇī wall-paintings in Dunhuang caves and their religio-political aspects.

The Sanskrit Buddhoṣṇīṣa-vijayā-dhāraṇī -sūtra (Sūtra of the dhāraṇī of the victory from the Buddha’s head-summit) was first made known in Tang capital, Chang’an c. 679 AD.
Within 32 years, it was translated five times into Chinese. The first, second and fourth translations were made by the translation bureau of the Tang imperial court. The renowned pilgrim Yijing did the fifth in 710, most likely from the Sanskrit text brought back by him from India. Of these five translations, one only was circulated and copied all over the China and even beyond, the third one, the preface of which states that the manuscript of the Sanskrit text was brought in 683 to Chang’an by an Indian Brahman called Buddhapālita.
Buddhapālita, who had come for the second time to China, had the sūtra translated into Chinese with the help of a Chinese monk called Shunzhen. Within less than ten years, Buddhapālita’s translation was engraved on a wall of a Longmen cave near by Luoyang. The inscription is dated 692. From 702 on, this same translation was engraved, some times with its preface, on the so called “Buddhoṣṇīṣa-vijayā-dhāraṇī pillars” erected almost all over China, and also in Korea, Vietnam and Japan. At about the same time (early eighth century), the sūtra and Buddhapālita’s story were the subject of several wall-paintings in Dunhuang caves.
In the middle of the tenth century, two wall-paintings representing the Buddhoṣṇīṣa-vijayādhāraṇī
sūtra were commissioned by three local Dunhuang Cao rulers, each one in a newly excavated Dunhuang cave. This paper will discuss different interpretations of these wallpaintings and try to find their hidden religio-political motivations.


The Fourteenth-Century Re-birth of Tibetan Historiography after the Period of Mongol Hegemony

Tibetan national historiography changed enormously after the twelfth century. the Mongol empire offered Tibetan Buddhists a new means of both self-legitimisation and narrating the past, and the gradual decline of Buddhism in India left Tibet as a key holder of the flame. The fall of the first period of Mongol hegemony in Tibet (1240–1340s) saw a revival of historiography in the fourteenth century that I wish to explore in this paper.
Mongolian literature offered new, foreign paradigms of national identity, power and patronage to Tibetan religious leaders and later historians. Some schools jostling for Mongolian patronage had already rewritten their histories to legitimise their own Indian lineages. Mongolian forms of writing also influenced other histories, such as the Deb ther dmar po (1346–1363). Others, such as the rGyal rabs gsal ba’i me long of 1368, positioned itself between the Mongols and the Phag mo gru pa, while emphasising Tibet’s older indigenous traditions.
The main focus of this presentation, however, is the Padma bka’ thang “discovered” by O rgyan gling pa (b. 1323). This (auto)biography of the eighth-century Indian master, Padmasambhava, offered readers in this period as well as the later biographical tradition a new vision of its protagonist as the predestined and eternally fully enlightened saviour of Tibet. O rgyan gling pa incorporated the twelfth-century Zangs gling ma into its bKa’ thang. Yet he also expanded the opening section to encompass a wider geographical and cosmological worldview, and added Padmasambhava’s detailed poetic prophecies of the difficult times ahead for Tibetans under Mongol-Sa skya hegemony. These details offer insights into the relationship between O rgyan gling pa and the Phag mo gru pa’s Byang chub rgyal mtshan (1302/3–1364), about which later tradition offers different opinions.
An exploration and philological comparison of the narratives in all these histories can lastly show how fourteenth-century Tibetans reinvented their history in divergent ways to suit a new post-Mongol cultural outlook, and find their place in the world again.

Daniele CUNEO and Camillo FORMIGATTI

The Malla Renaissance : towards a Literary and Cultural History of Nepal in the 14th-18th Centuries.

The importance of the Nepalese manuscripts in the Cambridge University Library collections has already been recognized by many scholars, mostly thanks to the Catalogue of the Buddhist Manuscripts (1883) by C. Bendall, and more recently to the Sanskrit Manuscripts Project, Cambridge. The importance of colophons for the reconstruction of the history of Mediaeval Nepal cannot be underestimated. In fact, colophons (and inscriptions) rectify the information on the dynasties and their dating given by the other main source for Nepalese history, i.e. the Vaṃśāvalī s, “Genealogical lists”. According to these sources, the history of
Nepal can be roughly divided into four main periods:
1. Licchavi and cognate dynasties (c. 386-750 AD)
2. Transitional period and Karṇāta-Malla dynasty (c. 750-1482)
3. The three Malla kingdoms (1482-1768)
4. The Gorkha dynasty (after 1768).
The present paper is the first step in the a larger project –to be submitted to the AHRC, the ERC or a similar institution– in which we would like focus on the cultural history of the third period of Nepalese history, the “three Malla kingdoms” (1482- 1768). However, we plan to examine also the end of “the transitional period and Karṇāta-Malla dynasty” (c. 750-1482), since we think it is necessary to start our study with the reign of king Jayasthitimalla (1382-1395), for two reasons: first, during our cataloguing work we noticed that the CUL hosts unique manuscripts of unpublished Sanskrit works composed in Nepal during this period. Second, a dynastic change occurs with Jayasthitimalla, which marks a cultural change as well in terms of a strong revival of a sort of brahmanical orthodoxy. The aim of the project is to investigate the political empowerment and cultural legitimisation of the Malla dynasty through its linking to a mythological and poetical past, revived through the study of literary classics and the production of new literary works. This cultural enterprise will be investigated through the philological studies of some instances of ornate poetry (kāvya) and through the analysis of manuscript production and diffusion. In particular, among the numerous dramas composed from the time of Jayasthitimalla’s reign onwards, many of which are re adaptations of Rāma’s story, the present paper will focus on the Rāmāṅkanāṭikā by Dharmagupta (1360 CE), of which the Cambridge University Library preserves the autograph. Furthermore, the continuous interest for Rāma’s story in the Malla period is also witnesses by the numerous manuscripts of the Raghuvaṃśa produced up to the 17th century, as well as by the composition of commentaries, like the one by Vaidyaśrī garbha, whose preliminary study will occupy the second part of our paper.


Aspiring to Enlightenment: Practicing Purification in Postsocialist Mongolia.

Before the socialist period Buddhist institutions were the custodians of enlightenment, reincarnation lineages, and of the knowledge and practices needed to become enlightened. In the 1930s, as the socialist government brutally repressed Buddhism, the term enlightenment (gegeerel) was appropriated to mean secular education (Sneath 2009). As such, enlightenment was no longer under the control of the monasteries and high lamas. It became a pursuit not only available to all Mongolians but morally incumbent upon them.
This talk will discuss how enlightenment in the Buddhist sense, once restricted to temples in the presocialist period, and suppressed, coopted and mystified during socialism (Højer 2009), is now a concept that, although confusing and contested, is available to many urban Mongolians. It will describe how Mongolian ideas about enlightenment are often related to ideas about purification, and, with the introduction of countless New Religious Movements and Christianity, is no longer simply the domain of high lamas within Buddhist institutions. The city now contains, amongst a plethora of others, several vegetarian New Religious Movements offering purification through meditation and the eating of vegetarian or ‘white foods’ (tsagaan hool).


Phurdok ritual (PHUR-PA PUJA) and reconstruction of the Hyolmo Identity.

Ritual Phurdok (phur-pa puja) was renewed by spiritual leaders of one of the Hyolmo communities (Boudnath, Kathmandu, Nepal) about one decade ago, and now it became an important part of the identity of this Hyolmo lineage.
Field research by the authors (2007, 2009 and 2012) allowed gathering rich audio, video and photo materials on the ritual, as well as oral information on its meaning, mythology, history and sacred geography.
Ritual Phurdok ideally should last for 9 days, but in reality it lasted 5 (2007) and 4 (2012) days only. Music and text, visual arts and sculpture represent all forms of traditional Tibetan arts typical for arrangement of a ritual.
Authors are going to concentrate on the musical part of the ritual and to examine its musical structure which directly corresponds with a meaning of the ‘mantras and tantras’ (as our informants call the sacred texts recited during the ritual). General musical organization of the ritual fits Tibetan musical theory, so the question about relationship between the Hyolmo’s ritual practice and traditional musical theory was one of the most important. During the last expedition we were lucky to get some more information on this subject.
Our studying of the musical organization of a concrete ritual confirms Ter Ellingson’s opinion about rich vocal repertoire of Tibetan ritual music (Ellingson 1979: 112). Moreover we may stay that music of the Phurdok ritual represents one of the numerous local variants of the Great tradition.

Davide TORRI

The Importance of being a beyul: Landscape, Buddhism, Shamanism and Identity among the Nepal´s Hyolmo.

The valley of Helambu is becoming the focus of a local Buddhist revival, tied to the identity awareness movement of the Hyolmo of Nepal. Buddhism is at the forefront of their movement, and it is through a Buddhist framework that they conceive their specific identity vis-à-vis Nepalese state, civil society and neighboring communities. In fact they trace back their origin as a community to the opening of the beyul by tertön Ngagchang Shakya Zangpo in the 15th century, and the establishment of temples and shrines over a sacred geography prepared and configured by Padmasambhava and Milarepa. The legacy of the Buddhist masters of the past is still alive and even growing, since the identity movement relies and try to exploit the religious value inherent in the Buddhist heritage: many places related to the activities of the Buddhist saints are recovered to the cult and worship of the believers not only on a local scale, attracting foreign pilgrims and visitors, too. At the same time, the revival of Buddhism as the key factor to assert identity is putting pressure to the followers of the Hyolmo shamanic non-Buddhist religion to conform and to normalize, leading to the dismissal of several rituals and to the further marginalization of the shamanic bombo on a social, ritual and religious level.


Bhakti and Shamanism: Josmani Influence on the New Kiranti Religion.

Though Kiranti religion is still largely an oral tradition, the importance of script and writing is increasing since the last decades. It is well known that the Satyahangma movement of Phalgunanda Lingden, a Limbu religious reformer from Panchthar in East Nepal, has been a driving force in this development. Taking inspiration from developments in Darjeeling he propagated the use of the Srijanga script as the symbol of the reformed Kiranti religion, which still retains certain shamanic features. What is less well known is the important influence which the Josmani, a Bhakti “sect” which had spread throughout Nepal in the 19th century, had on this movement. The Josmani had started as a Brahmanic Sant tradition but increasingly opened up to the lower castes, including many Rai and Limbu, for whom it was a novel encounter with a reformed religion. Phalgunanda grew up with these ideas and apparently integrated them in his movement. The Josmani tradition became regarded as “oppositional” during the Rana times and therefore its followers were often prosecuted. Some escaped to Sikkim, where we still find a relatively large community. The paper looks at the religious sites and shrines of both Josmani and followers of Phalgunanda as well as his successor Atmananda. It is based on research in Panchthar and Southern Sikkim.

Harry FALK

Royal inthronisation rites from Commagene to the Kushans and beyond.

From the early 1st century AD onwards, the Kushans had themselves installed from Bactria down to the Ganges valley. With the growth of their imperium they developed a sense for how others should perceive their grandeur. Parts of this management of perception included their large family sanctuaries in Bactria and Mathura. Power was said to have been conferred on them through the gods, with one female deity being pivotal; Nana. This deity first occurs on the coinage of Kaniska and on texts describing his accession to the throne. To understand how Nana became active we have to understand a very similar procedure which was first applied in Commagene in the first century BC. The comparison shows how we can understand the astral nature of Nana and how her activity was turned into a spectacle that could have reached and impressed a wide public.
Under Kanishka’s son Huvishka, Nana seems to have lost her consecrating function, being replaced by a male deity. Nonetheless, Nana continued her activity in Kashmir and north of the Himalaya in Sogdiana with an iconography directly drawn from Huviskha’s Nana on Lion. It may be suspected that not only the iconography remained the same in Sogdiana and beyond but also her function as marker of a particular date of the year, particularly important for rulers.


Timurid Neo-Renaissance in Independent Uzbekistan after 1991.

After 1991 political and cultural elites of independent Uzbekistan adopted Amir Timur (1336-1405) as the epitomy of Uzbek national identity. Timurid heritage, in turn, became the visual protagonist of a nationalist rhetoric. As a result, in 1996 the surviving Timurid monuments were restored for the celebrations of Timur’s 660th birthday and later on in the 2000s for the 2750th anniversary of Timur’s capital Samarqand. With the alluring persona of Timur used as a symbol, meaning is produced through Timurid artefacts, i.e. architectural monuments. In this sense, their architectural and epigraphic restorations foreground the link between politics and symbolism within the ethno-nationalistic discourse. Timurid architecture, as part of the country’s “golden heritage”, is used to boost the Uzbek population’s sense of belonging and pride through the construction of an ethno-national identity.
The socio-political importance of Timurid monuments and their post-Soviet restorations remain largely unstudied. The latest Uzbek study The Architecture of the Timurids (Shukur Askarov 2009) stages Uzbekistan as the cradle of Renaissance across Eurasia. Tsarist and Soviet restoration policies towards Timurid architecture have been discussed in articles by Charles Shaw (2011), Igor Demchenko (2011) and Svetlana Gorshenina (2013, 2014), but they do not cover the post-Soviet period and in particular the new architectural additions.
In this paper, I discuss the recently restored Timurid dynastic mausoleum of Gur-i Amir with a special focus on the newly created epigraphy.


Sacred geography of Kyrgyzstan: linking spirituality and arts.

The long-term study of the sacred sites in Kyrgyzstan conducted by Aigine Cultural Research Centre in 2005-2014, has resulted in shaping the Sacred Geography of the country. Sacred Geography is a cultural and natural phenomenon in one representation. It is an assembly of sacred territories where people make a pilgrimage. These places are areas of dry land, water, buildings and things exhibiting features of sacredness in local community’s perception. This paper is aimed at conceptualizing the phenomenon of sacred sites pilgrimage from two angles: studying diversity, meanings and functionality of rituals carried out at sacred sites and understanding the role of rituals and beliefs in development of artwork.

Sophie ROCHE

The Qalandar Khona in Khujand facing the wave of Islamization.

Sufi orders have long played a central role in Central Asia; mainly the Naqshbandi but also Qalandar Sufi orders were taking over the spiritual lead of the population. In urban centres religious lineages were at the same time spiritual leaders as they were political leaders and economic players. This was also the case in Khujand, a city at the door of the Ferghana valley in Central Asia. The qalandar khona (house of the qalandar) is one of the places where a Tūra lineage cared for sick and elderly people. The women of this qalandar family held a central role in this context looking after sometimes hundreds of people staying insider their compound. They also conducted rituals like the bib seshanbe social events which were widespread in the lower lands of the Bukharan Emirate. In these rituals women found relieve from their problems, asked for assistance for future tasks and socialized with other women in an otherwise masculine controlled public space. While the qalandar khona was stripped of its authority as caring and political institution with the arrival of the Bolsheviks, the women, that is, the daughters and sisters of the Tūra qalandar family, continued to receive women every Wednesday and at demand. Secretly, as well from their husbands as from political authorities, they came to the house of the qalandar in order to lit a candle and take blessings.
Since independence the qalandar khona has become a public place again visited by several hundred women every Wednesday performing the bibi seshanbe ritual. This ritual is thought of as Islamic ritual but is shaped by the women in a creative way. Candles are lit, women bring water, cloths, bread, money purses, photographs and many other items that they open before them in order to receive blessings. I attended the ritual every Wednesday for two months witnessing the ritual and the constant changes introduced by the women. Every Wednesday the bibi otin explained that all they do is in line with Islam, that nothing is sorcellery here. The very fact that they had to tell this, reflects the aggression they experience today. In fact, the mullahs of the main mosque had launched a campaign along with the state to ban such rituals of women, declaring them shirk. The women were constantly being aggressed by the new masculine Islamic fashion that sees its main enemy in such rituals.
Russian scholars have played their part in this process not as religious authorities but as ethnographers taking apart rituals into different elements. One of the exercises was to define shamanic elements in Islamic rituals. Thus the Islamization wave that we can currently observe in Central Asia uses ethnographic arguments as well as arguments from various religious reform movements, most of them with a Wahhabi character even if not necessarily openly linked to this school. In this paper I will first present a short visual impression of the ritual and then discuss the new wave of Islamization in Central Asia and its creation of an enemy, the Sufi women and their ritual practices.


Mapping Bukhara. Understanding Urban Neighbourhood Principles in the Light of Soviet Ethnographic Reports

Ethnographic expeditions enjoyed government patronage in both Imperial and Soviet Russia.
Their reports were a valuable source of knowledge about the Empire’s remote areas. Their importance thus increased in the aftermath of imperial expansion, as they helped to administer the newly acquired areas. As such, they can be seen as a communication between a Russian metropolis that belonged within European civilization, and a growing colonial periphery. In contrast to the maritime colonization of the western powers, frequently associated with brutality and violence, Russian colonization of Asiatic territories was overland and seen as an organic process referred to as “the construction of geographical space”1. And the colonies were not far away domains, but supported a constant flux of people, material culture and ideologies. The ethnographic reports under discussion in the proposed paper focus on the period following the Soviet acquisition of Bukhara in 1920. They could be the result of short-term assignments, and take the form of qualified memoranda by government emissaries. But they could also rely on long-term academic research and appear as scholarly works. The latter will be discussed here. I will scrutinize a report in which the entanglement between craft-oriented industries and urban neighborhoods is central. Sponsored by the Academy of Sciences, it was assembled as a piece of scholarly research animated with a view to reorganize labour along Marxist principles, which de facto meant organizing a new society, in a place that the Bolshevik elites considered an Oriental backwater. I will show how the reports serve as a prerequisite to understand the entanglements between Russia’s European and Asiatic part, and more specifically, the rhythms and mechanisms of communication between Muscovite center and Oriental periphery in the twentieth century.


Revival of Miniature Painting In Post-Soviet Tajikistan: An Artistic Renaissance Heralded By Olim Kamalov

Tajikistan, the smallest republic of Post-Soviet Central Asia has a strong Persian lineage and therefore a rich heritage of miniature painting. This specific style of painting was largely popularized in the pre-modern Muslim world of Arab, Persia, Egypt, Turkey , Central Asia and India. However, with the advent of Western modernism of some or other variant in the previous century this style lost its relevance and receded to the museum walls as a phenomenon of the bygone days. But the legacy of Kamaloddin Behzod, a 16th Century painter and his immortal creations were strong enough to be reinvigorated. His works as independent pieces of art as well as illustrations for treasured manuscripts are preserved in British Museum, Museums of St. Peter’s Burg, Egypt and many other places. His place of origin was Mavrunnahar ( a cultural space embracing large parts of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan) , that rendered him as a collective heritage of all three nations today. After the fall of the Soviet power in 1991, there had been much initiative to revive the Behezod school of art in Uzbekistan under state initiative.In Tajikistan also the name of Behezod received much acknowledgement and veneration and the National Museum of Art was named after him. But, the real initiative to revive his style in miniature art was taken up by an individual Tajik painter Olim Kamalov. His paintings are the modern day attributes to Behezod that carry exotic oriental flavor, the message of the bygone days, yet thrive at contemporary thematic and creative reorientation. Miniature paintings are known as ‘mino’ in Tajik-Persian language. Olim Kamalov founded an Academy of Mino Art that began to produce a number of promising artists agile in ‘ mino’ style. On the context of cultural renaissance of Central Asia their story of reviving a legacy of a forgotten tradition deserves a respectful space.