Explore the history, arts, architecture, and religions of the Himalaya.

*Graduate credit available.
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  • Study rare art and architecture in remote and beautiful areas of Indic Asia.

    The program’s unique design allows you to experience Buddhist art and architecture as a living tradition in historical and contemporary contexts. You’ll learn in classrooms, monasteries, temples, and meadows, and on mountainsides.

  • Travel through the valleys of Spiti, Ladakh, Nubra, and Zanskar on the Tibetan Plateau.

    You will be at 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. 

  • See the stunning natural landscape and unique wildlife of the western Himalayas.

    The area is home to 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.

  • Learn about the ancient civilizations that thrived in the Himalaya.

    You will visit mountainside monasteries and learn about the ancient civilizations of the Himalayas. You’ll meet people who have reconstructed this history, those who are creating new history, and those who preserve remaining art.

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    Research and write a paper on Himalayan Buddhist art and architecture a short period of independent study.

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    Learn introductory Hindi, the national language of India.

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    Discover the symbolism and cultural and religious significance of ancient Indian art nestled in remote locations.

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    Read and discuss Buddhist texts, including the Bodhicharyavatara.

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    Explore Vajrayana Buddhist culture’s rich tradition of sculpture, painting, and architecture.

Critical Global Issue of Study

Media | Arts | Social Change

Media | Arts | Social Change

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Prerequisites

None required, but a background in history, Asian studies, religious studies, architecture, or art history is strongly recommended.

Key Topics of Study

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Key Topics of Study

  • Traditional and contemporary issues in Himalayan art history
  • Stresses of tourism and environmental degradation
  • Art historical conservation and restoration
  • Ancient and modern history of the region
  • Social and political issues

Coursework

coursework

Coursework

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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.

The following syllabi are representative of 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.

Himalayan Buddhist Art and Architecture Seminar – syllabus
(ASIA3000 / 8 credits / 120 hours)
Focus on the history, arts, architecture, and culture of the Himalayas. Topics include traditional and contemporary issues in Himalayan art history, stresses of tourism and environmental degradation, conservation and restoration of threatened structures, ancient and modern history of the region, and social and political issues. A methods component helps students develop field study skills in observation and interviewing, gathering and organizing research materials, and maintaining a work journal. As many of the sites that students study have not been surveyed, the component also covers art historical conservation and restoration. The program concludes with an opportunity for a five-day independent study project, which focuses on some aspect of Himalayan Buddhist art and architecture.
Himalayan Buddhist Art and Architecture Seminar – syllabus
(ASIA5000 / 8 credits / 120 hours)
Graduate level. Focus on the history, arts, architecture, and culture of the Himalayas. Topics include traditional and contemporary issues in Himalayan art history, stresses of tourism and environmental degradation, conservation and restoration of threatened structures, ancient and modern history of the region, and social and political issues. A methods component helps students develop field study skills in observation and interviewing, gathering and organizing research materials, and maintaining a work journal. As many of the sites that students study have not been surveyed, the component also covers art historical conservation and restoration. The program concludes with an opportunity for a five-day study project, which focuses on some aspect of Himalayan Buddhist art and architecture.

Excursions

excursions

Excursions

Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.

himalayasThis 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 of the six-week program—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 different from anywhere else in India. You will travel by train and four-wheel-drive through high mountain passes, valleys, and beautiful wilderness areas.

Following a short orientation in Delhi, travel commences with visits to:

Shimla, Sarahan, and Sangla

Kaza MonestaryShimla is the former summer capital of the British Raj, with many remnants of the colonial period. At Sarahan, you’ll visit the Bhima Kali temple. Sangla is an unspoiled green valley on the monsoon side of the Himalayas, surrounded by high snow-capped peaks. In Sangla, you will see the beginnings of Hindu-Buddhist culture.

Nako and Tabo

You will experience the tiny village of Nako, home to a sacred glacier lake and a number of twelfth-century temples and monastic structures. You will also visit quiet, remote Tabo, the jewel of ancient Vajrayana Buddhist art and architecture.

Sarchu, Tsokar, and Tanglang La

SarchuSarchu is a high-altitude (14,500 feet) grassy plain in a valley surrounded by high peaks. You will camp here for one night with the group. There is a good chance you’ll spot marmots and blue sheep. At Tsokar Lake, where you’ll camp for one night, you’ll have a chance to see the endangered black-necked crane and wild asses. The program will cross the Tanglang La; at 17,480 feet, it is one of the highest motorable passes in the world (you’ll get to cross an even higher one later).

Leh (Ladakh Valley) and Zangskar Valley

You will spend two weeks in the traditional Tibetan Buddhist community of Leh. From here, you’ll have lectures at the Central Institute of Buddhist Studies in Choglamsar, a town outside of Leh. You’ll also have a short homestay in nearby villages.

Highlights in Leh include:

  • A trek and excursion to Alchi, where you’ll see the most significant wall paintings in the Himalayan region, and Basgo, an important site for the study of Himalayan architectural conservation
  • A trek across the 16,070-foot-high Konzeke La to the villages of Sumda Chen and Sumda Choon, which house 1,000-year-old monasteries with remarkable artistic treasures rarely seen by foreigners

Nubra Valley

After a rest in Leh, the program spends two nights the Nubra Valley, once an important Silk Road link between India-Tibet-China and Central Asia. En route, you’ll cross the Khardung La, which, at 17,582 feet, is one of the highest motorable passes in the world.

Faculty and Staff

staff

Faculty and Staff

Arjun Singh Chauhan, Administrative and Financial Assistant

Arjun SinghArjun holds a He holds a BA in vocational training from the University of Delhi, and is a certified Wilderness First Responder. He is in charge of logistics and finances. He first joined SIT in the fall of 2007. He enjoys basketball, travel, music, and good food. He lives with his family in South Delhi and is the father of two children. Arjun loves animals and would love to have a farm.

The program’s lectures are presented by the academic director and experts from the Central Institute of Buddhist Studies in Choglamsar, one of the preeminent centers for Tibetan Buddhist studies in India.

Independent Study

ISP

Independent Study

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 the subject. You can also join a trek to visit the eleventh-century monastery of Sumda Chun, where you will complete a site visit of plans, drawings, and assessment.

Homestays

homestays

Homestays

The homestay is an integral part of the SIT experience. During your homestay, you’ll become a member of a local family, sharing meals with them, joining them for special occasions, talking with them in their language, and experiencing the host country through their eyes. Homestay placements are arranged by a local coordinator who carefully screens and approves each family. Students frequently cite the homestay as the highlight of their program. Read more about SIT homestays.

You will spend four or five days living with Ladakhi Buddhist families whose roots to their particular village extend back many generations. The homestay villages are 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 observe and participate in the unique Ladakhi culture. You will meet families who still live according to time-honored Buddhist values of the Himalayas.

Homestay activities may include helping with farm chores like herding and milking cows, learning cooking and gardening practices, and attending family Buddhist devotions.

Students 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 onto 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.

Cost and Scholarships

costScholarships

Cost and Scholarships

SIT Study Abroad is committed to making international education accessible to all students. Scholarship awards generally range from $500 to $5,000 for semester programs and $500 to $3,000 for summer programs. This year, SIT will award more than $1.5 million in scholarships and grants to SIT Study Abroad students. 

SIT Pell Grant Match Award. SIT Study Abroad provides matching grants to students receiving Federal Pell Grant funding for the term during which they are studying with SIT. This award can be applied to any SIT program. Qualified students must complete the scholarship portion of their application. View all SIT Study Abroad scholarships.

Tuition: $7,250

The tuition fee covers the following program components:

  • Cost of all lecturers who provide instruction to students in:
    • Traditional and contemporary issues in Himalayan art history
    • Traditional and contemporary issues in Himalayan Buddhism
    • Stresses of tourism and environmental degradation
    • Conservation and restoration of threatened structures
    • Ancient and modern history of the Western Himalaya
  • Independent research project in the Leh area
  • All educational excursions to locations such as Shimla, Sangla, Spiti, Lahaul, Ladakh, Zanskar, Manali, and Mandi
  • Course readers
  • Health insurance throughout the entire program period

Room & Board: $2,725

The room and board fee covers the following program components:

  • All accommodations during the entire program period. This includes during orientation, time in the program base (Delhi/Leh), on all excursions, and during the evaluation period.
  • Homestay in Ladakh Valley (4–5 days)
  • All meals for the entire program period. Meals are covered either by SIT Study Abroad, directly or through a stipend, or through the homestay.

Estimated Additional Costs:

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.

Visa Expenses: $125

Immunizations: Varies

International Phone: Each student must have a phone in each country. Cost varies according to personal preferences, phone plans, data plans, etc.

Discretionary Expenses

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.

Speak With An Admissions Counselor

Speak With An Admissions Counselor

Contact A Former Student

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