Rituals of Rinchenling: A study of reciprocal relations between monastery and village in Limi, north western Nepal
Limi consists of three villages Til, Halji, and Dzang situated in the Karnali region in the far north western corner of Nepal. Each village has a monastery belonging to the Drigung Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. Rinchenling, the monastery in Halji, is the oldest and most important among the three and has roots stretching one thousand years back to the second dissemination of Buddhism in Tibet. The society is strictly regulated and virtually all aspects of religious and secular life appear to be organised according to a complex set of written or orally transmitted rules. The monastery is a very important local authority and has placed strict demands on the villagers in terms of recruitment and funding, but in return, it fulfils a wide spectre of functions. The most important of which is the performance of a set of elaborate rituals in order to protect the village and its inhabitants from misfortune. The relations between monks and villagers are complex, and include several levels of reciprocity, but the main focus of my project will be to explore this ritual-economic symbiosis. Methodologically, the project is based on twelve months of ethnographic fieldwork, supplemented by reading of local and regional scriptures. The study hopes to make a contribution to our knowledge about Himalayan frontier communities in general, but most importantly about the history and contemporary situation of the Limi people, and the specific ways they are maintaining and negotiating their religious traditions in a rapidly changing society.