Posted 02 July 2011, by Kinley Wangmo, Kuensel Online, kuenselonline.com
Thimphu, Bhutan – There’s more to mountains than its magnificent form. To find out more through resource and knowledge sharing, 220 scholars from more than 150 universities are in Thimphu participating and presenting papers at the Mountains in the Religions of South and Southeast Asia: Places, Culture and Power conference.
Scholars attending the four-day 4th South and South Asian Association for the Study of Culture and Religion (SSEARSR) are anthropologists, sociologists, economists, folklorists, Tibetologists and Indialogists among others.
Is separation of regions in Bhutan, caused by mountains, the major reason for regional variation in the way Atsara work? by Hakan Sandgren, from University of Queensland, Australia, a study of ritual texts for mountain deity in Tibet and Himalayas, by Yumjeap Rwa, Northwest University for Nationalities, Gansu, PRC and the Vindhya mountains in the religious imagination of Indian Buddhist scriptures by professor Karen Lang, university of Virginia, US, were three of 220 papers presented at the conference.
“The conference will lead to syncretism, a blend of different religion, culture and school of thoughts,” said a member of SSEARSR Lungtaen Gyatsho, also the director of Institute of Language of Cultural Studies (ILCS) in Thimphu.
Mountains in south and southeast Asia are prominent features. “It’s an engulfing theme under which politics, civilisation, sociology, anthropology, history and religion comes,” Lungtaen Gyatsho said.
“The conference would help establish Bhutan in the global academic map,” he said. “We’re known mostly to tourists or politicians. But the conference will leave an academic footprint and ILCS and RUB will be introduced to leading universities around the world.”
Dr Francoise Pommaret, a member of the organising committee, said the conference is an academic pursuit where scholars come together to understand better each others’ religion and academic work. “You exchange with people you may not have met otherwise,” she said.
The bonus for Bhutan, Dr Pommaret said, was it encourages Bhutanese scholars to participate, comment, listen, share perspective and develop the link between mountain and religion, which many don’t realise. “It would also put Bhutan in the larger map of himalayan countries,” she added.
Dr Pommaret presents a paper today on Deylok, a topic on which she did her doctorate research 20 years ago. “Gender is a sub theme and Deylok are women found in himalayan countries,” she said. “One of my hypothesis is that women are the link between ordinary people and religion for conveying message from the hell to those living. It also presents how women in mountainous regions have the role, which is perhaps, not given by official establishment.”
On the first day the communications secretary, Dasho Kinley Dorji, delivered a keynote speech on GNH, author Kunzang Choden, Khenpo Phuntsho Tashi and director of media foundation Lily Wangchuk also made presentations.
More Bhutanese scholars will be making presentation over the next few days. The conference ends on July 3.
From the 220 papers presented at the conference a select number will be published in SSEASR journal organisers said. The event is a regional conference of the International Association for the History of Religion. In Bhutan it was organised by ILCS and Royal University of Bhutan.