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A series of lectures about North East India

VP tartu lekt2019 m. rugsėjo 19 d. 16:30 Japonų auditorija

Magicians, were-tigers and assistant spirits in vernacular Hinduism of Assam

‘Vernacular religion’ as a category and methodological approach was initiated by Leonard N. Primiano in his research on ‘lived’ and ‘individual’ dimensions of religion, and its ambiguous relationship with the hegemonic and the authoritarian. Vernacular beliefs are often expressed in narrative forms and this storyworld is in constant variation, often contradicting the concept of stable truth. How is vernacular knowledge of the supernatural produced if there is no authoritarian control over religious discourse and even the factual data in experience narratives is subject to constant variation? The lecture addresses these problems, focusing on beliefs, magical practices and storytelling tradition in Assam, North Eastern India.

Ülo Valk is a professor of Estonian and comparative folklore at the University of Tartu. He studied folkloristics at the University of Tartu from 1980 until 1986 and later worked as research assistant, research fellow and senior research fellow at the folklore department of the Institute of Language and Literature. Since 1993 he has been teaching at the University of Tartu, where he defended his Dr. phil. dissertation on the image of the Devil in Estonian folk religion in 1994. In 1995 he became professor extraordinary of Estonian and Comparative Folklore, and in 1998 full professor. During 2000-2001 he worked as visiting professor of folkloristics at the department of anthropology, University of California, Berkeley; during 2003-2004 he was Fulbright Fellow at the Center for Folklore and Ethnography, University of Pennsylvania. During 2005-2009 Ülo Valk served the International Society for Folk Narrative Research (ISFNR) as its president. His research has mainly focused on genre theory of folklore, belief narratives, religious folklore in social context, and folk religion of South Asia. Currently he is working as the principal investigator of the institutional research project "Tradition, creativity and society: minorities and alternative discourses” (2013–2018).


2019 m. rugsėjo 20 d. 13.00 val. Japonų auditorija

Introduction to Beyul Demojong (The Hidden land of Fruitful Valley): The Lhopo (Bhutia) Kingship and the Sense of Belonging in Sikkim

In the Eastern Himalayan belt of North Eastern part of India lies a tiny second smallest state of Indian Union, Sikkim. It is sandwiched between the Tibet autonomous region on the North, Bhutan on the west and Nepal on the east. Until 1975, Sikkim was the independent Himalayan Kingdom for 333years, ruled by the monarch who were the descendants of Tibet. On 17th July 2016, Sikkim, it’s sacred landscape and the rich biodiversity has been included as the first World Heritage Site under the mixed category, which includes both nature and culture. The main focus of my presentation is to situate and unfold the sacred landscape of Sikkim according to belief narratives which revolve around the advent of Guru Padmasambhava, also known as Guru Rimpoche or Second Buddha. In the History of Sikkim 1908 compiled by His Highnesses the Maharaja Sir ThutobNamgyal, and Maharani Yeshay Dolma of Sikkim, “In the Tibetan Chag-rta (Iron-Horse) year, King Khri-srong-Ideu-btsan was born and in the sa-glangyear (Earth-Bull), Guru Padmasambhava was invited by him from India in 749 A.D to Tibet (Namgyal 1908:5). It is believed that it was during this time, when Guru Padmasambhava on his way to Tibet, passed by the Hidden land of Demojong (valley of rice, valley of fruits) and sanctified the land and tamed the supernatural beings by turning them into the guardian deities of the land and hid ter ma (Buddhist religious scriptures) in the different parts of lands. I will further display, how these myths sanctified the landscape and drew the sacred geography of the land which was again turned into the pilgrimage places for the people of Sikkim.

My focus lies more on the contemporary spirituality and local belief narratives about the sanctified sacred landscapes and how pilgrimage plays a vital role in maintaining, continuing and renewing these beliefs system. Thus, this paper remains an introduction to Sikkim and my research work as a whole in which I am developing into different aspects of belief narratives as a part and parcel of the everyday practices and belief of the people.

Kikee Doma Bhutia is a final year PhD Student at the Department of Estonian and Comparative Folklore, University of Tartu, Estonia. Her PhD research, more broadly, concentrates on belief narratives and is an exercise in the vernacular theorizing of Buddhist lifeworld in Sikkim. She is particularly interested in yul lha gzhi bdag (guardian deities), religious folklore, and in cosmic-politics. Her research is an exploration of – the beliefs, values, stories and rituals she grew up with and so she sees her research as both an academic endeavor and a quest for discovering and understanding ‘the self’.

Besides academics, she also acted in a movie called Dhokbu- The Keeper & D2 – The Quest for Mayal, both of which is also about the deity and a researcher’s quest for discovering supernatural world.

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