Published: 10th August 2018
This IIIT-Hyd professor is heading to Spiti Valley to study its monasteries
He has also received a grant of Rs 15 lakh from Indian Council of Social Science Research for it
Famed English writer Rudyard Kipling described Spiti Valley, the mountain valley located high in the Himalayan mountains to the northeast of Himachal Pradesh, as "a world within a world". And Prof Aniket Alam, an Associate Professor from the Centre of Exact Humanities, IIIT-Hyderabad is on a mission to explore this world. Along with Dr Neekee Chaturvedi, a historian, who has studied the various forms of Buddhism in the Himalayas and Ayushi Negi, a lawyer in the Himachal Pradesh High Court, Prof Alam was granted a ₹15 lakh grant in May from the Indian Council of Social Science Research for a two-year research project to study the valley, focusing on its monasteries.
This project is two-years-long. They will put out a formal publication of the project report at the end, along with appropriate research papers
Prof Alam, who was born in Shimla, has always been fascinated with the Himalayas, so much so that his first doctoral research was based on the broad history of Western Himalayas. He even published a book about it —Becoming India: Western Himalayas during British Rule. Coming to his current research, he says, "Not only was the Spiti Valley an important trade route, it was also the route through which Buddhism travelled to the country. Since the last 50 years, due to constructions of roads, schools and the increase in tourism, a lot of changes have taken place in this trans-Himalayan area," he says. And the professor wants to understand these changes.
Spiti Valley is cut off and is viewed as a peripheral area, but it is actually a bridge between India and Tibet
Prof Aniket Alam, IIIT-Hyderabad
The professor tells us how Guru Rinpoche Yomedr (the reincarnations of Guru Padmasambhava), at one of the monasteries of Spiti Valley, is trying his best to curb caste and gender discrimination by encouraging Buddhist nuns to rise in their ranks and encouraging anyone who wants to be a monk to pursue the field, even if they are blacksmiths, carpenters or drummers. The research team even discovered a different style of Buddha statues, which are usually found in Odisha and Bihar. "We are also trying to use Big Data analysis and other technology to make the utmost use of what we have," concludes the 46-year-old professor, stating that this is just the beginning.
The research will look at five of Spiti Valley's most important monasteries — Tabo, Dhankar, Key, Komic and Kungri
For more on him, click on iiit.ac.in/people/faculty/