The Navel of the Demoness: Tibetan Buddhism and Civil Religion in Highland Nepal

Hardcover | December 24, 2007

byCharles Ramble

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This groundbreaking study focuses on a village called Te in a "Tibetanized" region of northern Nepal. While Te's people are nominally Buddhist, and engage the services of resident Tibetan Tantric priests for a range of rituals, they are also exponents of a local religion that involves bloodsacrifices to wild, unconverted territorial gods and goddesses. The village is unusual in the extent to which it has maintained its local autonomy and also in the degree to which both Buddhism and the cults of local gods have been subordinated to the pragmatic demands of the village community. Charles Ramble draws on extensive fieldwork, as well as 300 years' worth of local historical archives (in Tibetan and Nepali), to re-examine the subject of confrontation between Buddhism and indigenous popular traditions in the Tibetan cultural sphere. He argues that Buddhist ritual and sacrificialcults are just two elements in a complex system of self-government that has evolved over the centuries and has developed the character of a civil religion. This civil religion, he shows, is remarkably well adapted to the preservation of the community against the constant threats posed by externalattack and the self-interest of its own members. The beliefs and practices of the local popular religion, a highly developed legal tradition, and a form of government that is both democratic and accountable to its people all these are shown to have developed to promote survival in the face of pastand present dangers. Ramble's account of how both secular and religious institutions serve as the building blocks of civil society opens up vistas with important implications for Tibetan culture as a whole.

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This groundbreaking study focuses on a village called Te in a "Tibetanized" region of northern Nepal. While Te's people are nominally Buddhist, and engage the services of resident Tibetan Tantric priests for a range of rituals, they are also exponents of a local religion that involves bloodsacrifices to wild, unconverted territorial go...

Charles Ramble is Lecturer in Tibetan and Himalayan Studies, University of Oxford.
Format:HardcoverDimensions:408 pages, 6.3 × 9.09 × 1.42 inPublished:December 24, 2007Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195154142

ISBN - 13:9780195154146

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"There are ethnographies and then are ethnographies. The Navel of the Demonness is a first-rate and pathbreaking comparative ethnography of the people of Te and other communities that lie nestled among the mountains of Upper Mustang, along Nepal's border with Tibet... Happily combiningfieldwork with information culled from especially indigenous archival documents, Charles Ramble has succeeded in writing both a synchronic and a diachronic cultural ethnography of the area. Moreover, he has done so using a diction that is as refreshingly lucid as it is informed by his obviouslyprofound learning. As such, his study is free from the obfuscating jargon that so often accompanies superficiality. I dare say, The Navel of the Demonness is one of the best books on Nepalese and Tibetan anthropology to appear in years." --Leonard W.J. van der Kuijp, Professor of Tibetan andHimalayan Studies, Harvard University