- Living Treasure
- Cover Page
- Title Page
- Table of Contents
- I. Women, Gender, and Sexuality
- The Revenge of the Demoness
- The In/Visibility of Nuns and Yoginīs in Dudjom Lingpa’s Songs of Advice
- Tibetan Nuns Writing on Equality and Education
- Samtha/the Borderlands of Tibetan Translation
- Sex, Part Two
- The Possibilities of Emptiness and the Realities of (Trans) Gender
- II. Biography and Autobiography
- How I Fell into Tulkuship: A Childhood Memoir from Northeastern Tibet
- Auto/Biography for the End of the World: A Treasure Theory of Reading Revealed Life Stories
- A Biography of Zur Chöying Rangdröl by the Fifth Dalai Lama
- The Eleven Acts of Padmasambhava
- III. The Nyingma Imaginaire
- “Karma and Aspirations Converge”: On Tendrel, Tsok, and Two Portraits of Jigmé Lingpa
- Jigmé Lingpa’s Theology of Absence
- Introductions in Order and Matter Out of Place: Entangled Epiphanies Between Mind and Matter
- Divine Creation and Pure Lands in Renaissance Tibet
- Evoking the Divine Human: An Appearance of Suchness: Ornament of the Sacred
- IV. Literature, Art, and Poetry
- What Did Śāntideva Learn from Lovers?
- On Gutsiness: The Courageous Eloquence of Pöpa Chenpo
- The First Tibetan Orthographical Dictionary: Dag yig nyer mkho bsdus pa (Précis of Essential Orthography)
- What Language We Dare Learn and Speak: Decolonizing the Study of Tibetan Poetry
- The Immortal Ring of Love, Karma, and Poetry
- A Sad Song of Jonang
- Two Sculpture-Portraits of the Fifth Dalai Lama, His Dedications, and the People to Whom He Bestowed Them
- Some Observations on the Buddhāvataṃsakasūtra in Tibet
- V. Early Modernity: Human and Nonhuman Worlds
- Tendrel: Being Human in a More-than-Human World
- The Poetry of Being Human: Toward a Tibetan Wisdom Literature
- The Buddhist Aesthetic of Replication
- Knowing Knowledge: Geluk and Sellarsian Epistemology and the Emergence of Tibetan Modernity
- My Life as a Parakeet: A Bönpo Version of the Conference of the Birds
- From the Blue Lake to the Emerald Isle via the Kingdom of Sikkim: An Offering to Janet Gyatso, a Dear Friend in Mindful Travels Around the Land of Snows
- Janet Gyatso’s Major Publications
- Tabula Gratulatoria
- Contributor Biographies
The Revenge of the Demoness
José I. Cabezón
AMONG JANET GYATSO’S many important contributions to the field of Tibetan studies, her early article on the myth of the taming of the sinmo (srin mo) demoness is one of my personal favorites.1 It is one of the first mature pieces of scholarship to show how the analysis of gender can illuminate Tibetan religions. Widely cited, it has influenced several generations of scholars. Thirty years after its publication, it is still discussed in the Tibetan blogosphere.2 Gyatso’s “Down with the Demoness” has certainly influenced this essay, which examines the case of a demoness who hails from Gilgit.
According to the Tibetan sinmo demoness myth—or at least one version of it—Kongjo, the Chinese queen of Songtsen Gampo (seventh century), discerned that the land of Tibet was actually a supine demoness who was impeding the introduction of Buddhism (see figure 1). The solution, she divined, was to build temples at specific sites throughout Tibet to pin the demoness down and render her powerless. A fourteenth-century Tibetan historian tells us that the temples acted as twelve nails (gzer) to render the demoness immobile.3 Although supposedly subduing the demoness for eternity, her subjugation had to be ritually renewed on a regular basis. For example, before 1959 the Tibetan cabinet convened annual prayer assemblies, offered juniper incense, and hung prayer flags on mountains associated with the twelve sites.4
Rakṣa/rākṣasī (srin po/mo) demons of the type found in the Tibetan myth are only one of a number of different types of spirits found in the Indo-Tibetan pantheon, which also includes nāgas, piśācas, bhūtas, yakṣas, and others. Yakṣiṇīs (gnod sbyin mo) and their male counterparts, yakṣas (gnod sbyin), the 32kind of demon that most interests us in this essay, have a long history in Buddhism. They are usually malevolent, but the Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinayavastu contains various tales of the Buddha “taming” (’dul) these creatures.5 For example, on the Buddha’s visit to the city of Kuntī, he learns that the local yakṣiṇī and her hordes are abducting and eating newborn human children.6 The Buddha addresses her and asks whether she will mend her ways. She agrees provided that the locals build her a temple. The Buddha encourages the city dwellers to do so, and she is thus “tamed.”7 These stories may be the Vinaya’s way of incorporating local Indian spirit cults into Buddhism by having the Buddha sanction their propitiation and giving him a role in the founding of their temples. As in the Tibetan demoness myth, the building of temples is very much a part of the Vinayavastu’s yakṣiṇī-taming narratives, but rather than forcing a yakṣiṇī into submission, as in in the Tibetan sinmo myth, the Vinaya instead pacifies her by giving her a home, figuratively bringing her from the wilds of nature into the sedentary life of a home-bound spirit. In any case, the Vinaya does not advocate the kind of violent subjugation of spirits that we find in the Tibetan demoness myth.
Figure 1. A painting of the supine demoness in a mural at the Khyichu Hotel, Lhasa. Photo: J. Cabezón.
Violence is, however, one of the ways that the tantras deal with malevolent spirits. One of the best examples is the myth of the taming of Rudra in the Sūtra that Gathers the Intentions (Mdo dgongs ’dus), purportedly translated from Burushaski (Tib. Bru sha skad), one of the languages of northern Pakistan.8 33The violent suppression of demons is also found in other tantric works like the Mahāmāyūrī Vidyārājñī, a dhāraṇi text in which the Buddha teaches his audience mantras and prayers to protect them from malevolent spirits, thieves, witchcraft, diseases, and other calamities. The sūtra begins on a pacific note but later takes a more violent turn, threatening the evil spirits that their heads will burst “into seven pieces like bunches of breadfruit” if they do not obey.9 Three copies of the Mahāmāyūrī dating to around the seventh or eighth century have been found among the Gilgit manuscripts. That same text also contains a long list of the names of various yakṣas who protect different cities or regions of India, including the yakṣa Mandāra, who belongs to Darada—in its broadest sense, northern Pakistan—which may help to explain the popularity of the text in this region.
Dardistan and Gilgit
Gilgit belongs to the area of the upper Indus River in what is today northern Pakistan (figure 2). It is a part of a larger area inhabited from ancient times by a people known as Dardae (Greek), Darada/Daran (Sanskrit), or Dards, the anglicized form used since the time of the British.10 The boundaries of greater Dardistan are vague,11 but in this essay it refers to northern Pakistan and far western Ladakh.12
In Chinese and Arabic documents of the eighth century, the eastern half of Dardistan is called Bolor.13 The word Palola or Paṭola found on rock inscriptions near Gilgit refers to this same area. Chinese sources divide Bolor into two parts. “Little Bolor” refers to greater Gilgit, from Chilas up to and including Hunza in the north, and perhaps even Yasin. The language of ancient Bolor was Burushaski until the arrival of Shina-speaking people, perhaps in the tenth century.14 Today, Gilgit is mostly Shina-speaking, while Hunza is mostly Burushaski-speaking. “Greater Bolor” is Baltistan, where Balti (Tib. Sbal ti), a form of Tibetan, is spoken. There are, however, alternative theories about the precise boundaries of ancient Bolor and its Little and Greater divisions.1534
Figure 2: Map of northern Pakistan and surrounding areas. Modified from an original color map, “Afghanistan and Pakistan Atlas Wall Map,” https://www.maps.com/products/afghanistan-and-pakistan-atlas-wall-map-910xhu.
The kingdom of Darada is mentioned in a few Sanskrit works translated into Tibetan.16 But Tibetan sources mostly speak of the kingdom of Drusha (Bru zha or Bru sha), which corresponds to Little Bolor.17 The History of Domé identifies Drusha as part of Ngari (Mnga’ ris), making Drusha a part of Tibet (Bod yul), which of course it was for periods of time during the heyday of the Tibetan empire.18
The Karakorum Highway, which passes through Hunza Baltit, Nagar, Gilgit, and Chilas, was an important trade and pilgrimage route since ancient times, and inscriptions in Kharoṣṭhī and Brāhmī dating to before the Common Era—not to mention tens of thousands of petroglyphs—are found at various sites. Because it connected China, Tibet, Sogdiana, and the other kingdoms of the Silk Road to Gandhāra, Swat, and Kashmir, it was also strategically important and the site of many battles.19 Tibetans sporadically controlled portions of Dardistan up to Kabul from the mid-seventh century,20 and Tibetan 35inscriptions are found at several sites. The Paṭola (or Palola) Ṣāhi kings, a Buddhist dynasty responsible for some of the Gilgit manuscripts as well as many religious images, ruled greater Gilgit from the sixth century, or perhaps earlier, though often as vassals of other more powerful states, including Tibet. The Old Tibetan Annals tells us that the Tibetan army conquered Gilgit in 737,21 that the Tibetan princess Trimalö (Khri ma lod) was given in marriage to the king of Drusha in 740,22 and that in the same year Drusha was lost to Chinese forces.23 The Tang Chinese army withdrew from the region in 755 to deal with the An Lushan Rebellion, and the Tibetans likely held all of Gilgit and Baltistan from that time until the Tibetan empire collapsed in the mid-ninth century. After that, it seems that local Buddhist kings ruled Gilgit until it again came under the control of the Gugé (Gu ge) court of Western Tibet in the eleventh century.24
The history of Gilgit after the twelfth century is uncertain, and there are contradictory accounts.25 One tradition, which is only preserved orally, mentions a local dynasty of Buddhist rulers called the Shahrais, whose last king, Shri Badat, was deposed, perhaps in the fourteenth century, by a Persian Zoroastrian prince, ushering in Gilgit’s Trakhané (or Tarakhané) dynasty.26 There are divergent accounts of when Islam entered the area, but by the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries, the cities of Gilgit, Nagar, and Hunza were under the control of various Muslim rulers. They held power for about two centuries, often feuding with one another, until the area came under the control of Sikh forces in the first half of the nineteenth century.27 After the defeat of the Sikh empire at the hands of the British, Gilgit came nominally under the control of the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, but from 1889 was administered by the British, who exerted increasing control over the region. After partition, it became a part of Pakistan.36
The Religious Landscape of Gilgit
It hardly needs saying that eastern Afghanistan and northern Pakistan—in ancient times the regions of Bactria, Gandhāra, and Swat—were important Buddhist centers from before the Common Era. Though often overshadowed by Gandhāra, Dardistan too was an important hub of Buddhism. A prince of Dardistan, the son of King Sindhugiri (“Indus Mountain”) is even mentioned in the Questions of Śrīvasu, a Mahāyāna sūtra.28 The Prophecy of the Arhat Saṃghavardhana portrays Drusha as a gathering place for monks facing persecution in other kingdoms,29 and the Khotanese Prophecy identifies it as one of four kingdoms where there were many scholars learned in subjects besides Buddhism.30 The Avadāna Kalpalatā of Kṣemendra (eleventh century) mentions that the Buddha “tamed two guhyakas [that is, yakṣas] who were Dards,” suggesting that Dardistan was also known as a land of malevolent spirits.31
The form of Buddhism practiced in Dardistan was mostly of the exoteric variety, but the dhāraṇīs and vidyās of various deities (Hayagrīva, the Pancarakṣa, etc.) have also been found among the Gilgit manuscripts.32 We have already mentioned the Mahāmāyūrī, and as we have seen, the Sūtra that Gathers the Intentions claims to be a translation from Burushaski. All of this suggests the presence of Vajrayāna in Gilgit from the seventh century. Despite claims that Hinduism became widespread after the decline of Buddhism, I have not found the evidence for this very convincing.
Islam entered Baltistan in the fourteenth century, carried there by Sufi preachers from Persia and Central Asia, like the famous Sayed Ali Hamdani (1314–84), who is credited with converting the Buddhists of Khaplu and Shigar, two small Balti towns. Residents of Khaplu preserve a legend of Hamdani entering into a magical contest with a “Balti lama” and converting the local people. It is possible that Islam spread from Baltistan to the Gilgit region starting in the fourteenth century, but most scholars believe that Gilgit and Hunza were not Islamized until the sixteenth century. Whatever the case, today, Twelver Shias, Nurbakshis, Ismailis, and Sunnis are all found in the region.3337
The peoples of Dardistan undoubtedly had their own indigenous religious traditions before Buddhism arrived. Tibetan sources suggest that Drusha was one of the cradles of Tibet’s pre-Buddhist Bön tradition. In his Song of the Queen of Spring, a history of Tibet, the Fifth Dalai Lama states that the “funerary Bön tradition of the Shen priests of Drusha arose [in Tibet]” at the time of the legendary Tibetan king Drigum Tsenpo (Gri gum btsan po).34 Nor is this the only Tibetan text to mention Gilgit as a source of Bön. One Bön history states that when the god Brilliant Light (’Od zer mdangs ldan) was ready to manifest in the world, he surveyed Uḍḍiyāna, Drusha, and Tokharistan and then manifested as Drusha Namsé Chidöl (Bru sha Gnam gsas spyi rdol).35 And as Dan Martin has shown, many Bön texts locate the Bön homeland of Ölmo Lungring (’Ol mo lung ring) in or near Dardistan.36 Some petroglyphs found in Dardistan depict what seem to be Bön symbols.37 Most of what we know about the beliefs and practices of early Tibetan Bönpos are from later sources, which tell us that Bön priests were called were called shen (gshen) and aya/asha, that they propitiated spirits, mediated between the human and spirit world, made clay effigies and thread crosses, performed animal sacrifices, played flat drums and bells, and rode on clay deer and on drums through the air.38
Many of these practices are also found in northern Pakistan and the Himalayas. Nowadays, the Dardic pantheon is divided into mostly malevolent male giants (diyu) and mostly benevolent fairies (pari), but a much more extensive and older pantheon in Gilgit and its surrounding villages has been document by Karl Jettmar and others.39 It includes classes of spirits like the devakos, who are believed to have built the first irrigation channels and planted the first 38corn; female racchis, who guide hunters; male yamālos, mountain demons who hunt and kill human beings with arrows; and yachōlos, who are household protectors.40 Sanskrit equivalents for many of these terms—deva, rākṣasī, yama, yakṣa—suggest a relationship between the Dardic folk pantheon and that of Sanskritic traditions like Buddhism.
There are still practicing shamans throughout Dardistan, although the tradition is quickly vanishing.41 The ones in Gilgit and Hunza, called daiyal or danyal, inhale burnt juniper to induce trance. Possessed by the fairies, they dance to beating drums and receive the fairies’ messages through the drums’ sound. They also travel to the spirit world.42 Daiyals communicate with fairies, engage in divination, identify spells that have been cast on clients, use binding “mantras” (Shina: gano) to bring about desired goals, and heal the sick. Practices like those just described, which are ubiquitous throughout Dardistan and the western Himalayas, almost certainly predate the introduction of Buddhism and then coexisted alongside Buddhism (and later Islam), just as they did in Tibet.
To sum up, three distinct religious strands come together in greater Gilgit: (1) indigenous traditions that resemble the earliest forms of Bön, (2) Buddhism, especially in its Mahāyāna and early tantric forms, and (3) Islam in various sectarian forms. All of these traditions influenced one another throughout history.
The Kargah Buddha and the Yakṣinī
In 2018 I had the good fortune to travel through various part of northern Pakistan, including Gilgit.43 Being interested in Buddhist sites, I went to see a large image of Śākyamuni carved into the side of a mountain located some six kilometers west of Gilgit between the villages of Kargah and Naupur44 (figure 3). The standing Buddha figure, about ten feet tall, holds his right hand in the gesture of fearlessness at his heart, and clasps his lower robe with his left hand. Some art historians have dated the work to the eighth century. The Kargah Buddha is an impressive work of religious art, sculpted high on the face of a cliff with holes around it, indicating that it was housed in a protective wooden grotto at some point.39
Figure 3. The Kargah Buddha. Photo left: J. Cabezón. Photo right: Furqan LW, CC by SA 4.0, original in color
While visiting the site, my guides and I struck up a conversation with a local man who proceeded to tell us a most interesting tale about the image. According to local legend, it is not a Buddha at all but a “yacheni.”45 The yacheni is said to be the sister of Shri Badat, the legendary king of Gilgit—purportedly its last Buddhist king—who had a predilection for eating children.46 As others have observed, the Shri Badat legend has many elements in common with the Mahāsutasoma Jātaka,47 in which Brahmadatta, king of Vārāṇasī, unwittingly becomes addicted to human flesh due to his past-life karmic seeds as a flesh-eating yakṣa. The story also has striking similarities to a story of one of the past lives of Aṅgulimāla as narrated in chapter 36 of the Sūtra of the Wise and the Foolish, a text with strong ties to Central Asia.48 Finally, the Shri Badat tale is 40similar to an episode in the Gilgit version of the Gesar epic.49 In Gilgit and Hunza, the legend serves as the charter myth for the winter Taleni festival that centers on building bonfires to prevent the return of the cannibal king.
Shri Badat’s sister, the yacheni, lived on the rock where the Buddha image is now found. Like her brother, she had a fondness for human flesh, capturing and eating men walking by her rock on their way to the high pastures. But she would only eat half the number of men, leaving the rest alone, a wise move if you hope for more human meals in years to come. A daiyal shaman named Soglio decided that he had to put an end to this and devised a way to kill the yacheni. He took some companions to the foot of the rock where the yacheni lived, went into trance by inhaling smoke from burning juniper, and started to sing and dance. When the yacheni appeared, Soglio informed her that her father had just died. Grief-stricken, she struck her chest in pain. One of the daiyal’s companions immediately sprang up and stabbed her raised hand with an iron spike, striking so hard that it went through her heart and pinned her to the rock. Soglio then sang another song to inform her that her brother had just died, and when she struck her thigh in grief, Soglio struck it with another nail, binding her body to the cliff and making her immobile. He then muttered a spell and turned her into stone. The story does not end there. The shaman informed the local people that in order to keep the yacheni permanently fixed on the mountain for eternity, he should be buried at the foot of the cliff upon his death. The townsfolk decided that it was too risky to wait for him to die, for who knew where he would be living then, so they decided to kill him right away and bury him there. Penpa Dorjee has informed me that a similar story is narrated by local people about a Maitreya statue carved on a rock near Gandhola Monastery, in Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh, India.50
The story of the Kargah yacheni contains both pan-Indic, Sanskritic, as well as local, shamanistic elements. Yacheni is almost certainly a form of Sanskrit yakṣinī. Given the prevalence of yakṣas in the Buddhist texts and oral lore of greater Gilgit, it is not surprising that the Kargah spirit should be identified as 41a yakṣiṇī, especially because she is also a consumer of human flesh and a blood relative of the cannibal king Shri Badat.
It is worth noting that in these yakṣa tales—and the Kargah yacheni’s is no exception—whatever the sex of the yakṣa, it is almost always men or children who are consumed, and not women, which points to a gendered element to these stories. Why don’t yakṣas eat women? Throughout Dardistan, the high mountain pastures are considered pure because they are the abode of spirits. Menstruation is considered impure, and so women are forbidden from going there. It is men’s responsibility to tend to the family’s tribe of goats, and it is therefore men who overwhelmingly come into contact with spirits. Of course, the lore that associates spirits with mountains and purity (and women with impurity) is also a way to enforce women’s homebound status.
Why is the Kargah image considered feminine—why is it a yacheni instead of a yach? Janet Gyatso rightly notes that nature and the earth are often portrayed as female in different religions. But as we will soon see, the Gilgit area also has tales of male yach being nailed to rocks. Might there be something in the appearance of the image that suggests its female gender? A mustache or beard is a ubiquitous marker of adult maleness throughout much of this region from ancient times, and Buddha images that lack facial hair may suggest femaleness to a local audience. There is one other feature of the image that may imply its femaleness to the local people, the uṣṇīṣa. Witches (ruis), who like yachenis eat humans, also possess, according to some Dardic traditions, a protuberance on the top of their heads, the piercing of which is said to be one of the most effective ways of killing them, and perhaps this too led local storytellers to consider the Kargah spirit (the Buddha) female.
The narrative of how the spirit came to be on the mountain is ingenious. Why is the spirit made of stone? Because the shaman recited a spell to calcify her. Why does it have one hand at its heart and the other next to its thigh? Because this is where she struck her body when she heard the calamitous news of her male relatives’ demise. These details point to the fact that this is not a generic story that could be told about any mountain carving but a specific tale crafted to explain this particular image. The same is true of the Lahauli story mentioned earlier (see figure 4). As in Kargah, the Lahauli image near Gandhola Monastery is not identified as Buddhist—as a carving of the Buddha Maitreya—but as a spirit, specifically a divinity (devatā) or ghost (bhoot), and as in Gilgit, it is considered female. The Gandhola spirit is also believed to bring bad luck to the village. The carving has smaller images around it, and there is another small image below the village. For this reason, locals claim that it is a mother spirit who came down from the mountaintop to fetch water with her brood. As they were returning, one of her children lagged behind, so when 42they were all re-absorbed into the rocks from which they came, the mother and part of her brood merged into the upper rock, and the child who lagged behind entered the rock at the base of village.51 The Gandhola story, like the Kargah one, explains a specific set of carvings and is not meant as a generic theory of how spirits end up on rocks.
Figure 4: The Gandhola Maitreya/Devatā. Photos: Penpa Dorjee.
Though quite different, the tales of the Tibetan sinmo and the Kargah yacheni also share some similarities. Whatever the date of the sinmo myth—and our earliest sources are indeed relatively late—it is projected back to the time of the Tibetan empire. Robert Miller reads the sinmo myth as an allegory about the expanding Yarlung empire, with a stable center at Lhasa (the sinmo’s heart) and a periphery (her limbs) that, marked by revolts, needed to be constantly controlled.52 If Miller is right, then the sinmo myth, like the yacheni myth, is a story that tries to makes sense of things (the earliest Buddhist temples) for which the original justification (the need for stability in an expanding Tibetan empire) is no longer known. But while both myths may be concerned with explaining something physical whose origin has been lost to time, the concerns of the yacheni story are entirely local, explaining a specific remnant of Gilgit’s Buddhist past by incorporating it into the local cosmology. The Tibetan sinmo tale valorizes a trans-local religion, Buddhism, as a way of controlling Tibetan barbarity, symbolized by the demoness. The yacheni myth does just the opposite. 43It legitimizes the very institution—the local priestly control over indigenous deities—that the sinmo myth seeks to displace. History is always written by the winners, and in Gilgit, it is the indigenous religion that won.
Despite such differences, the two myths share a concern with controlling a troublesome spirit. The methods of subjugating the two demonesses are, on the surface at least, different. The sinmo is controlled by building Buddhist temples, whereas the yacheni is subjugated through a shaman’s shrewdness and magical might. But the actual method of defeating the two spirits is strikingly similar: the demonesses’ “crucifixion” with actual or metaphoric nails. Interestingly, another crucifixion tale is found just north of Gilgit. In Hunza cosmology, evil spirits, called shiatus or bilas, are shape-shifting malevolent beings who live on or in rocks, lying in wait to attack passersby. Shiatus are the archenemies of shamans, called biṭan in Burushaski, whom they constantly abuse and try to injure. M. H. Sidky reports that a legendary shaman, Shun Gakur, was renowned for trapping “a number of these demonic beings by driving iron spikes into the boulders in which they were hiding.”53 Clearly, the idea of nailing demons to the landscape is not uncommon in greater Gilgit. What are we to make of the similarities between the demon-taming myths of Gilgit-Hunza and Tibet?
John Mock has suggested that when it comes to folk tales, all that we can do is note the structural similarities between different narratives. He believes that it is both futile and inappropriate to entertain historical questions—for example, whether the tales are based on historical events or whether two geographically distant tales might have influenced one another.54 But given the relative rarity of the demoness crucifixion motif, and the fact that it is found in two cultures (Gilgit and Tibet) that had close historical and religious ties at various points in their history, it is hard not to wonder whether the stories of the sinmo and the yacheni are historically related: whether tales of controlling spirits with nails were brought to Tibet by Gilgit shamans, to Gilgit by Tibetan monks, or whether both tales emerged out of a common matrix that drew on Buddhist tantric and pre-Buddhist ideas. The present state of scholarship makes it impossible to say, and Mock may be right: it may be impossible to ever answer such questions.
Let me conclude with one final observation. The heroes of the sinmo and yacheni tales are immortalized in physical objects. Songtsen Gampo and his heirs left behind temples, and Soglio, the image of the frozen yacheni. The great irony, of course, is that for Tibetans, the being on the Kargah mountainside 44is not a cannibal demoness, not a symbol of barbarity and chaos, but just the opposite. It is the Buddha, the embodiment of order and of the triumph of civilization over Tibetan backwardness. As Buddhism, and then Islam, entered Gilgit and began to interact with its indigenous religion, how did the practitioners of the local religion react? Did they just continue to practice their rites oblivious to the presence of the new religion? Or did they employ narrative and theological strategies to respond polemically to the foreign religion? Is the yacheni myth the remnant of one such strategy? After I heard the story of the yacheni in 2018, I found myself reflecting that while time had wiped out any memory of Buddhism in Kargah, a local spirit with Buddhist pedigree, the yacheni, had managed to live on in the mountains and minds of the people of Gilgit. And gazing up once more at the image, with its slight smile, I wondered to myself whether it was actually the demoness who had had the last laugh, for what sweeter revenge could a demoness take on an invading Buddha than to eclipse all memory of him with a tale that’s all about her?
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1. Gyatso 1989.
2. See, e.g., Dawa Lokyitsang 2015 and Woeser 2016.
3. Bla ma dam pa Bsod nams rgyal mtshan, 57b–58a. See also Stein 1972, 39, and Sørensen 1986, 96–101.
4. Woeser 2016 quotes “the memoirs of Ganden Paljor Shatra” to this effect but does not cite a source. It is possible that she was relying on the several hours of interviews preserved in the Library of Congress collection, “Oral history interview of Shatra Ganden Paljor.”
5. See, for example, Vinayavastu, vol. 2 (kha): 220b–222a, 224a, 225b–226b, and 236a–b.
6. Vinayavastu, kha: 225b, 226a, 236a: bu btsas shing btsas pa dag za bar byed pa . . .’phrog pa.
7. Vinayavastu, kha: 225b–226b.
8. See Dalton 2016.
9. Chung 2012.
10. Leitner 1893, 2.
11. On the vexed problem of the category “Dard,” see Mock and O’Neil (n.d.).
12. When treated as a linguistic area, Baltistan and the Burushaski-speaking areas of far northern Pakistan are not included in Dardistan because Balti and Burushaski are not Dardic languages, but I use the terms Dardic and Dardistan in the broader, geographic sense just mentioned.
13. Beckwith 1997, 30.
14. Nicolaus 2015, 204.
15. Zeisler (n.d.).
16. Darada (spelled da ra ta) is found, for example, among the kingdoms listed in the Tathāgatācintyaguhyanirdeśa, 215b.
17. Dotson 2009,
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