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Examine art history and Buddhism while traveling through the Indian Himalaya and onto the Tibetan plateau in India. The program’s unique design will allow you to experience Buddhist art and architecture, not just in the classroom or through text, but as a living tradition in historical and contemporary contexts. Learning will take place in classrooms, monasteries, temples, and meadows, and on mountainsides.
This program provides learning in traditional and nontraditional formats as you travel from Delhi across remote areas of northern India. In-classroom lectures are interspersed with site visits, readings, Hindi language classes in overnight camps, hikes, treks, picnics, and painting excursions.
You will examine the unique Vajrayana Buddhist culture, which has nourished a rich, visual tradition in sculpture, painting, and architecture.
You will visit monasteries built into mountainsides as you learn about the ancient civilizations that once thrived in the Himalayas. The program engages with those who have reconstructed this history, those who are creating new history, and those who preserve the art that remains.
You will travel through the valleys of Spiti, Ladakh, and Zanskar, situated on the Tibetan Plateau, with an average elevation of between 11,000 and 12,000 feet, crossing high-altitude passes close to 18,000 feet in elevation.
Here, you will discover how the Spiti, Ladakh, and Zanskar regions remain culturally intact, their ancient monasteries and distinctive secular communities vibrant and creative. Often referred to as “Little Tibet,” the region has been an important part of Buddhist and Silk Road culture for hundreds of years. Many of these areas have only recently become accessible by road.
Besides having a spectacular natural landscape, the western Himalayan area is also significant for its unusual wildlife, including the Himalayan wild ass (kiang), wild yak, ibex, golden marmot, and blue sheep (bharal). Many unusual birds, including the Himalayan snowcock and the enormous lammergeier and griffon vulture, are also seen in the region.
Near the end of the program, you will be given a short period to independently research and write a paper related to Himalayan Buddhist art and architecture. This will give you a chance to sum up and evaluate your experiences and think deeply about Himalayan Buddhist art and architecture. You can opt to join a trek to visit the eleventh-century monastery of Sumda Chun, where you will complete a site visit of plans, drawings, and assessment.
None required, but a background in history, Asian studies, religious studies, architecture, or art history is strongly recommended.
This course surveys a broad spectrum of topics related to the Himalayan region in northern India, from Shimla to Ladakh. To study the art and architecture of the region, students also examine political, social, and religious issues of historical and modern import. The seminar includes traditional lectures and classroom time, as well as cultural experiences, expert presentations, self-directed investigations, and independent research.
Links to syllabi below are from current and forthcoming courses offered on this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term.
The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.
Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.
In many ways, this itinerant program involves one long, continuous excursion from Delhi up to the remote city of Leh, with stops along the way. You will be on the road for nearly half the length of the six-week program. You should expect long days with beautiful scenery and rough roads.
You will pass through the green North Indian side of the Himalayas to the Tibetan Plateau, where the landscape, culture, and customs are quite different from anywhere else in India.
You will travel by train and four-wheel-drive vehicles, through high mountain passes, valleys, and beautiful wilderness areas.
Following a short orientation in Delhi, travel commences with visits to:
Students typically spend two weeks in the traditional Tibetan Buddhist community of Leh. During this period, students have lectures at the Central Institute of Buddhist Studies located in the town of Choglamsar (outside of Leh). Students have a short homestay in villages near Leh.
After resting up and settling in Leh, the program visits the Nubra Valley for two nights. En route, you will cross the Khardung La, the highest motorable pass in the world, at 18,379 feet in elevation. This area was once an important Silk Road trade link between India-Tibet-China and Central Asia.
Mary Storm has a PhD in Indian art history from the University of California, Los Angeles, and an MA in East Asian studies, Japanese Buddhist art, from Stanford University. In a previous life, she acquired a law degree and a diploma from Le Cordon Bleu, Paris. Dr. Storm has lived and worked in India for more than 20 years, roaming the back roads of India from West Bengal to Rajasthan and from Ladakh to Tamil Nadu in search of archaeological adventure. She is married to Guy McIntyre, a British art dealer. They live in New Delhi with Frida, their Great Dane, and their cow, Gulabi.
Mary has taught at various American institutions, and most recently at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, where she was a Ford Foundation Visiting Fellow and associate professor of art history. Sometimes she gets the urge to paint, and is proud to report that her watercolor paintings are exhibited on refrigerator doors throughout the world. She has published numerous articles on Indian art history. Her book, Head and Heart: Valour and Self-Sacrifice in the Art of India, was published by Routledge India, an imprint of Taylor & Francis Books, in 2013.
Mr. Singh is in charge of logistics and finances. He first joined SIT New Delhi in the fall of 2007. Mr. Singh is a graduate of the Delhi College of Vocational Training and is a recently certified Wilderness First Responder. He enjoys basketball, travel, music, and good food. He lives with his family in South Delhi and is the proud father of two children. Arjun ji loves all animals and would love to have a farm.
Experience daily life with a Buddhist family in the Ladakh Valley.
You will spend four or five days living with Ladakhi Buddhist families whose roots to their particular village extend back many generations.
The short homestay takes place in a series of small farming villages north of the town of Leh, at an elevation of approximately 13,000 feet. SIT often arranges for two or three students to stay with one family in a large ancestral house.
Living with a host family will give you the chance to intimately observe and participate in the unique Ladakhi Buddhist culture of the Himalayas. You will meet families who still live according to time-honored Buddhist values of the Himalayas.
Homestay activities can include:
Students also typically have the chance to view traditional Himalayan art and architecture preserved and nourished in a continuing pattern of ancient patronage.
The villages of the Himalayas have held on to their traditional architecture, arts, and crafts, unlike many other areas of India. Ladakh is prosperous, and villages throughout the valley have used their relative wealth to embellish village temples and family shrines.
Student applications to this program will be reviewed on a rolling basis between the opening date and the deadline.
Application Deadline: Apr 1, 2016
SIT Pell Grant Match Award. SIT Study Abroad provides matching grants to all students receiving Federal Pell Grant funding; this award can be applied to any SIT semester program. View all SIT Study Abroad scholarships.
The tuition fee covers the following program components:
The room and board fee covers the following program components:
International Airfare to Program Launch Site
International airline pricing can vary greatly due to the volatility of airline industry pricing, flight availability, and specific flexibility/restrictions on the type of ticket purchased. Students may choose to take advantage of frequent flyer or other airline awards available to them, which could significantly lower their travel costs.
International Phone: Each student must have a phone in each country. Cost varies according to personal preferences, phone plans, data plans, etc.
Personal expenses during the program vary based on individual spending habits and budgets. While all meals and accommodations are covered in the room and board fee, incidentals and personal transportation costs differ depending on the non-program-related interests and pursuits of each student. To learn more about personal budgeting, we recommend speaking with alumni who participated in a program in your region. See a full list of our alumni contacts. Please note that free time to pursue non-program-related activities is limited.
Please Note: Fees and additional expenses are based on all known circumstances at the time of calculation. Due to the unique nature of our programs and the economics of host countries, SIT reserves the right to change its fees or additional expenses without notice.