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India: Himalayan Buddhist Art and Architecture (Summer)

India: Himalayan Buddhist Art and Architecture (Summer)

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

This program examines art his­tory and Buddhism while traveling through the Indian Himalaya and onto the Tibetan plateau in India. The program allows students 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 takes place in classrooms, monasteries, temples, meadows, and on mountain­sides.

Major topics of study include:

  • 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
 

Camp in Sarchu, located at an altitude of 14,500 feet, where students spend a night.Study art history, architecture, and Buddhism across northern India on the Tibetan Plateau.

Learn inside and outside the classroom.

This program infuses learning in traditional and nontraditional formats as students 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.

Explore Vajrayana Buddhism.

Students examine the unique Vajrayana Buddhist culture, which has nourished a rich, visual tradition in sculpture, painting, and architecture.

Study rare art and art history in remote and beautiful areas of Indic Asia.

Students visit monasteries built into mountainsides as they 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.

Students with academic director, Dr. Mary Storm. Photo by Mark Mosrie.Travel the road across northern India on the Tibetan Plateau.

The program travels 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. The group crosses high-altitude passes close to 18,000 feet in elevation.

Students discover how Spiti, Ladakh, and Zanskar are regions that 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.

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.

Lecturers and Contributors
  • The program’s lectures are presented by the Central Institute of Buddhist Studies in Choglamsar, one of the preeminent centers for Tibetan Buddhist studies in India.
  • The program's academic director, Dr. Mary Storm, is a Buddhist art history scholar with many years of experience in this northern region of India. She will give some of the lectures along with other scholars and professors at the Central Institute of Buddhist Studies.

Independent Study Period

Near the end of the program, students are given a short independent period to research and write a research paper related to Himalayan Buddhist art and architecture. This provides a chance for students to sum up and evaluate their experiences and think deeply about Himalayan Buddhist art and architecture. Some students opt to join a trek to visit the 11th-century monastery of Sumda Chun, where they complete a site visit of plans, drawings, and assessment.

Prerequisites:

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

Access Virtual Library Guide

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.

Himalayan Buddhist Art and Architecture Seminar - syllabus
(ASIA 3000 / 8 credits / 120 class hours)
Himalayan Buddhist Art and Architecture Seminar - graduate syllabus
(ASIA 5000 / 8 credits / 120 class 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 study project, which focuses on some aspect of Himalayan Buddhist art and architecture.

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

Chorten, on the way to Kunzum-La.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. The group is on the road for nearly half the length of the six-week program. Students should expect long days with beautiful scenery and rough roads.

The group passes 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.

The program travels 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:

Shimla, Sarahan, and Sangla

  • Shimla, the former summer capital of the British Raj, with many remnants of the colonial period
  • Sarahan, where students visit the Bhima Kali temple 
  • Sangla (Kinnaur region), a beautiful, unspoiled green valley on the monsoon side of the Himalayas, surrounded by very high snow-capped peaks, where students see the beginnings of Hindu-Buddhist syncretic culture

Nako and Tabo

  • Students experience the tiny village of Nako, home to a sacred glacier lake and a number of 12th-century temples and monastic structures.
  • Students also visit the quiet and remote town of Tabo, the jewel of ancient Vajrayana Buddhist art and architecture.

Tea and Noodles at Bharatpur.Sarchu, Tsokar, and Tanglang La

  • Sarchu is a high-altitude (14,500 feet) grassy plain set in a valley surrounded by high peaks. The group camps there for one night. There is a good chance to spot marmots and blue sheep.
  • At Tsokar Lake students have a chance to see the endangered black-necked crane as well as wild asses. The group camps there for one night before driving to Ladakh. 
  • The program crosses the Tanglang La. At 17,582 feet in elevation, it is the second highest motorable pass in the world.

Leh (Ladakh Valley) and Zangskar Valley

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.

Highlights of the program period in Leh include:
  • Trek and excursion to Alchi and Basgo. Alchi has the most significant wall paintings in the Himalayan region. Basgo is an important site for the study of Himalayan architectural conservation.
  • Trek to the villages of Sumda Chen and Sumda Choon across the 16,070-foot-high Konzeke La. These villages house 1,000-year-old monasteries with remarkable artistic treasures rarely seen by foreigners.

Nubra Valley

After the group rests up and settles in to Leh, it visits the Nubra Valley for two nights. En route, the group crosses 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 StormMary Storm, Academic Director 

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.

Arjun Chauhan SinghArjun Chauhan Singh, Administrative and Financial Assistant 

Mr. Chauhan is in charge of logistics and finances. He first joined SIT New Delhi in the fall of 2007. Mr. Chauhan 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.

Prayer wheel overlooking the Indus River.Experience daily life with a Buddhist family in the Ladakh Valley.

Students 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 provides students with the chance to intimately observe and participate in the unique Ladakhi Buddhist culture of the Himalayas. Students meet families who still live according to time-honored Buddhist values of the Himalayas.

Homestay activities can include:

  • Participating in daily life by helping with farm chores like herding and milking cows
  • Learning local cooking and gardening practices
  • Attending family Buddhist devotions

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.

Program Dates: Summer 2015

Program Start Date:  Jun 15, 2015

Program End Date:    Jul 27, 2015

The dates listed above are subject to change. Please note that travel to and from the program site may span a period of more than one day.

Student applications to this program will be reviewed on a rolling basis between the opening date and the deadline.

Application Deadline:   Apr 1, 2015

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.

Tuition: Not yet available.

The tuition fee covers the following program components:

  • Cost of all lecturers who instruct 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: Not yet available.

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
  • 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

International airfares 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: Not yet available.

Immunizations varies

Books & Supplies : Not yet available.

Discretionary Expenses

Personal expenses during a semester abroad 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.

 

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