An ethnographic study of the Mūl Dīpaṅkara shrine in Bhaktapur (Nepal): the relationship between people and place


Andrea Wollein

  • Betreuung: Martin Gaenszle

This thesis presents locality specific research in the form of an ethnography that draws both from fieldwork and published scholarly literature. The inter-disciplinary research is contextualized within the wider field of South Asian Studies and pertains to Himalayan, Buddhist and Newar Studies as well as to Tibetology. It is specifically concerned with the socio-religious dimension of Newar Buddhist monasteries (Skt. vihāra, New. bāhā and bahī), the Buddhist deity Dīpaṅkara and the configuration of the relationship between the two of them as found in the setting of the Mūl Dīpaṅkara shrine in Bhaktapur.

Since there has been no previous detailed investigation of this shrine, the thesis shows how it brings to bear vital importance in Newar Buddhism and why it is regarded as center of Newar Buddhism in Bhaktapur. After establishing the context, the place, its people and the associated activities are successively introduced based on new research. Apart from a description of the shrine’s spatial aspects and its history, the various actors are discussed, highlighting the crucial role which the site plays both for residents and pilgrims. The shrine’s unique authority structures are analyzed and a sociodemographic survey of regular visitors, along with detailed information about Tibetan pilgrims is provided. Lastly, the periodic activities related to the site are explored, with a particular focus on the Pañcadān festival of 2016.