ISLAM AND TIBET: Documents

The seventeenth century was an equally critical and transitional period in the political history of India, Central Asia, Tibet and China. The north-western Himalayan mountains, which formed natural barriers and vital points of trading contact between Mughal India, Central Asia and Tibet, were not immune to political transformations transpiring on either side of the Himalayan border. Ethnically and linguistically diverse polities are known to have formed around these frontier zones from the earliest times, flourishing along ancient and vital commercial passageways that linked subcontinental trade with transcontinental commercial networks, known as the Silk Routes. Increased economic interests and mercantile investments brought with them military and missionary missions turning these Himalayan border-regions into contested areas claimed, at different times, by new centres of political and religious authority. It is reported that the flow of internationally traded commodities included: livestock (sheep, yak, horses, ponies), fine items (Tibetan gold and musk, silver, turquoises from Persia, coral, different qualities of silk, yak-tails), medicinal substances (opium, cannabis), consumables (China tea, grains, herbs, fruits, saffron, raisins; pistachio nuts, salt from Chang-thang), wool, different kinds of leather, sulphur, borax from the Hundes lakes, colours and dyes, clothes, velvets, carpets from Khotan, women from Kashmir, weapons, and so forth.

In the later half of the seventeenth century, disputes between regional and national authority, religious conflicts, and between Lhasa and Leh escalated in the Tibet-Ladakh-Mughal War of 1679-1684. Interlocked in a game of overlapping power and profit, the Tibetan and Mughal Empires, the Kingdoms of Ladakh and Baltistan, and the Principalities of Bashahr and Kulu engaged in armed conflict over the shape, legitimacy, and organization of new territorial rights in the region. Some clues as to the principal agents for this War may be found in two signed after-war treatises: the Ladakh-Mughal Treaty (1683) and the Ladakh-Tibet Treaty (1684); as well as, in an clandestine agreement for mutual help dated sometime in 1679 between King Kehari Singh of Bashahr and the chief Military commander of Tibet and Jungar prince of the Hongtaiji family, Dga’ ldan tshe dbang dpal bzang.

At the aftermath of the war and the ensuing treatises new territorial arrangements included: the Muslim kingdom of Baltistan, conquered by Ladakh ten years before, was restored to their old sovereigns, the Mughals; Upper Kinnaur returned to the administration of Rājā Kehari Singh of the Hindu principality of Bashahr, as a tribute for assisting the Tibetans and honouring age-old safe trading passage; the Rājā Bidhhi of Kulu, a rival Hindu neighbour to the sovereign of Bashahr, usurped Upper Lahul; and the territories of mNga’-ris sKor-gsum (western Tibet) fell under the taxation and jurisdiction of the Central Tibetan Government in Lhasa. New commercial arrangements postulated that: wool trading benefits were to be granted exclusively to the Kashmiris with the Ladakhis acting as intermediaries in the lucrative wool sale between Chang-thang (north-western Tibet) and Kashmir and receiving exclusive rights to the fine wool produced in Ru-thogs (western Tibet); and trading and diplomatic missions to be fostered between Leh and Lhasa through the Lapchak missions. As a consequence of pleading for the assistance of the Mughals during the war, bDe legs rnam rgyal, the rgyal-po of Ladakh, had to accept Islam, at least nominally under the name of Aqabut Mahmud and issue coins in the name of Aurangzeb, the Moghul Emperor.

DOCUMENTS: ISLAM - TIBET: CULTURAL INTERACTIONS  (8th-17th centuries)

Background - Fieldwork

Rampur - Sarahan - Namgya - Nako - Rekong Peo - Leh
Lossar

Basgo - Langza - Kyi - Gomik

Alchi - Thakri - Hemis - Brag Thog


Fieldwork

In an effort to map the field, collect data, and initiate new avenues of interdisciplinary research, Dr Georgios Halkias embarked on two fieldwork assignments in North-west India and Nepal. Original material were collected during his visits at the National Archives in Delhi and Kathmandu, at important historical/religious sites, and along the ancient subcontinental trading routes connecting Shimla, Rampur, Sarahan, Sangla, Kamru, Rekong Peo, Namgya, Nako, Spiti, Lahaul and Ladakh.

Sunni Mosque, Leh

First Assignment (July-August 2007)

Synopsis of select findings:

Intensive research was conducted in the town of Rampur-Bashahr, Himachal Pradesh, India. On-site investigation focused on locating a unique set of Tibetan-style murals painted at the Shish Mahal Palace to commemorate a clandestine military alliance that transpired during the Tibet-Ladakh-Mughal war, 1679-1684.  The seventeenth-century murals were meant to celebrate a trading treaty that ensued at the aftermath of the war .

Second Assignment (June-August 2008)

Synopsis of select findings:

During this expedition Kanjurs and Tengyurs were discovered that date to the reign of Senge Namgyal (early 17th century) or his father, Jamyang Namgyal. Ladakhi Kangyurs were produced locally likely during the times of a religious and artistic renaissance initiated by Senge Namgyal and his ‘tiger-priest’, Stag-tsang ras-chen. With the exception of the Stog and Shey Kanjurs (‘palace Kanjurs’) there are exist a number of extraordinary Kanjurs at the disposal of Brugpa and Drikung Kagyu monastic establishments in Ladakh: namely at Bas-(m)go, Phyang, lCe-bde, and He-mis. All of them are skilfully hand-written, with the exception of the Hemis Kanjur which is a block-print edition, 101 volumes. The latter is said to have been brought from Tibet, possibly Tholing, sometime in the seventeenth century.

Data collected during these assignments are being deposited in the SAS E-repository. The material is catalogued according to region covering subjects of historical, religious and/or cultural importance in Kinnaur, Spiti, Lahaul and Ladakh. For further information contact Dr Georgios Halkias.



RAMPUR

Reception Hall at the Shish Mahal: http://hdl.handle.net/10065/669
Palace Compound at the Shish Mahal: http://hdl.handle.net/10065/670
Devtā Procession: http://hdl.handle.net/10065/683
Images from the town of Rampur: http://hdl.handle.net/10065/696


SARAHAN

Hanuman Temple in Bimakali Temple Courtyard: http://hdl.handle.net/10065/697
Bimakali Temple Museum: http://hdl.handle.net/10065/715
Entrance Gates to the Bimakali Temple Complex: http://hdl.handle.net/10065/722
Small Bimakali Temple, Bimakali Temple Complex: http://hdl.handle.net/10065/723
Inside the Bimakali temple Complex: http://hdl.handle.net/10065/773


NAMGYA

The Last Trading Post in Kinnaur.
Namgya Village and the caravan route to Tibet: http://hdl.handle.net/10065/695


NAKO

Nako Temple Complex: http://hdl.handle.net/10065/655


REKONG PEO

Snake Charmers at Rekong Peo: http://hdl.handle.net/10065/774
Tibetan Buddhist temples in Rekong Peo: http://hdl.handle.net/10065/775


LEH

Islamic Reception held in honour of HH 14th Dalai Lama. Leh, Ladakh, August 11th, 2007

http://hdl.handle.net/10065/897


LOSSAR

Lossar Rural Museum, Collections Part I: http://hdl.handle.net/10065/907
Lossar Rural Museum, Collections Part II: http://hdl.handle.net/10065/908
Lossar Rural Museum, Collections Part III: http://hdl.handle.net/10065/909

For a complete list of material available follow the link below to examine the documents now kept in the SAS E-repository:
http://sas-space.sas.ac.uk/dspace/handle/10065/580/browse-title

BASGO

Chamchung Lhakang:
http://hdl.handle.net/10065/932

Chamba Lhakang:
http://hdl.handle.net/10065/933

Serzang Lhakang:
http://hdl.handle.net/10065/934

Basgo Village:
http://hdl.handle.net/10065/935

Basgo Fort:
http://hdl.handle.net/10065/975

On the way to Basgo Fort:
http://hdl.handle.net/10065/976

Basgo Kanjurs:
http://hdl.handle.net/10065/1781

LANGZA

Langza, Spiti:
http://hdl.handle.net/10065/977

KYI

Kyi Monastery:
http://hdl.handle.net/10065/978

GOMIK

Gomik - New Monastery, Spiti:
http://hdl.handle.net/10065/979

Gomik - Old monastery, Spiti:
http://hdl.handle.net/10065/980

ALCHI

Alchi stupas: http://hdl.handle.net/10065/1777

THAKRI DOCUMENTS Documents in Thakri on Bashahr: hdl.handle.net/10065/1778 HEMIS Hemis Festival: hdl.handle.net/10065/1779 BRAG THOG Brag thog monastery: hdl.handle.net/10065/1780