The Sacred Geography of Yolmo Gangra


Zsoka Gelle

  • Betreuung: Klaus-Dieter Mathes

The dissertation examines the significance of sacred space in Yolmo, an area of eastern Nepal, situated on the upper reaches of Melamchi Kola and Yangri Kola, also known as Helambu. Some previously unpublished prophecies of the Northern Treasure (byang gter) tradition of the Nyingma School and seventeenth to eighteenth century biographies of Yolmo lamas are used as sources in order to understand the preeminent role held by "hidden lands" in Tibetan and Yolmo thought. As is well known, "hidden lands" refers to remote valleys and hills, which are believed to have been concealed along with spiritual treasures by Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) in the eighth century in the borderland of Tibet and Nepal.

The first part of the dissertation is concerned with treasure texts related to Yolmo Gangra. They are mostly attributed to Rigzin Gödem (1337-1408), and belong to the Byang gter lugs kyi rnam thar dang ma 'ongs lung bstan collection. They give a visionary description of the hidden land, and not only suggest ways to get there, but also provide instructions of how the land could be tamed, in which places temples should be built, or where lamas need to establish a religious community. The second part deals with the activity of Tibetan lamas visiting Yolmo in search of the hidden land from the sixteenth century onwards. The main focus is to find out how much these lamas were aware of the prophecies mentioned above and followed their instructions. Among other works, the main sources used for this part of the dissertation are the biographies of Tenzin Norbu, Zilnon Wangyal Dorje, Nyima Sengge and Karma Chosang, who came to Yolmo in the seventeenth to eighteenth centuries to find and reestablish the hidden land.

The dissertation will address the question of antiquity and concomitant authenticity of treasure texts related to Yolmo Gangra, and examine how sacred space and temporal power influence and react to each other, with consequent effects on issues of legitimation, status and identity.