Hidden land and changing landscape: Narratives about Mount Khangchendzonga among the Lepcha and the Lhopo

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Scheid, Claire S.
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ISASR in association with the Study of Religions, University College Cork.
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This article explores contemporary ‘hidden land’ narrative constructs of Máyel Lyáng and Beyul Dremojong in Sikkim, India, as conceived by the Lepcha and the Lhopo, two ‘scheduled tribes’. Lepcha and Lhopo narratives about these hidden lands in Mount Khangchendzonga inform us about their contemporary and historical, indigenous and Buddhist contexts and the interactions between these contexts. Lhopo perspectives on the hidden Beyul Dremojong echo classical Tibetan Buddhist ‘revealed treasure’ guidebooks and exist within the complex and reciprocal relationship between the Lhopo and the land they inhabit; development initiatives are understood to have caused illness and death in the Lhopo community of Tashiding, often referred to as the geographical ‘center’ of Beyul Dremojong. Contemporary Lepcha comprehensions of Máyel Lyáng, described in oral narratives within an ethnic community whose cosmology is intimately connected with Mount Khangchendzonga, today show some influence of Lhopo interpretations of Beyul Dremojong and the treasure texts; they also reflect Lepcha fears about cultural dispersion. Present-day narratives about both hidden lands reference notable political events in modern Sikkimese history (encounters with the British; the Chinese occupation of Tibet).
Lepcha , Lhopo , Treasure Texts (gTer ma) , Máyel Lyáng , Beyul Dremojong (sBas yul ’bras mo ljongs)
SCHEID, C. S. 2014. Hidden land and changing landscape: Narratives about Mount Khangchendzonga among the Lepcha and the Lhopo. Journal of the Irish Society for the Academic Study of Religions, 1(1), 66-89.
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©2014, The Author(s).