Where Mortals and the Mountain Gods Meet brings together a group of scholars fro different disciplines such as art, music, religion, history,
economics and pure sciences to present a variety of approaches to the study of mountain societies. It examines the importance of the Himalayan
snow for the perennial rivers; its rich and diversified plant biodiversity, and forest wealth; the economy and society including the pastoralist
communities; architectural, sculpture and epigraphical treasure; the traditional system of knowledge and its celebrity at the village level and
many more interesting topics. In includes twenty-four contributions covering a large span of Himachal’s cultural past from early times to the
recent period. It will interest every scholar of ancient, medieval and modern Himalayan studies.
Laxman S. Thakur teaches Ancient History and Archaeology at Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla since 1985. He is the author of
The Architectural Heritage of Himachal Pradesh: Origin and Development of Temple Styles, Munshiram Manoharlal, New Deli (1996), and
Buddhism in the Western Himalaya: A Study of the Tabo Monastery, Oxford University Press, New Delhi (2001). The Organizing Committee of
the XV International Congress of Aesthetics (Department of Aesthetics, Faculty of Letters, University of Tokyo, Japan) has recently declared
him the winner of the Asia Award for his paper titled, ‘Experiencing and Visualizing Void’. He is the editor of Studies in Humanities and Social
Sciences (SHSS), a journal published by the Indian Institute of Advanced Study.
The present volume is an outcome of the presentations at a national seminar on ‘Himachal Pradesh: A Socio-Cultural Profile’ organized at the
Institute from 9-11 November, 2000. Himachal Pradesh has a rich tradition of society, economy and culture. Under the impact of modern trends
many changes-some good, some bad-are taking place in the region. The seminar took a critical stock of the tradition and changes in this
The volume had twenty four papers of varying standards. These have been categorized into four groups-Natural and Human Resources;
Structures of Polity, Society and Economy; Numismatics, Epigraphy and the Arts; and New Horizon in Regional Cultural Studies. The studies are
not only statements on traditions but are also indicators of changes and possible insights into prospective trends. As such, I felicitate the learned
contributors and compliment the able editor, Dr. Laxman S. Thakur for their hard work. I am sure that the volume would be a welcome addition
to the library of regional studies.
The collection of papers in this volume was presented in a seminar on ‘Himachal Pradesh: A Socio-Cultural Profile’, organized by the
Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla from 9-11 November 2000. Several scholars actively working on the social and cultural history of
Himachal Pradesh read their papers at the Institute. Contributions to this volume cover many facets of Himachal’s past. To present the
contributions in a thematic and chronological continuity I have taken the liberty of reorganizing all the twenty-four papers into four sections.
Jagdish Bahadur, B.D. Sharma and Sudha Vasan remind us of the possible dangers of the increased human interference in our natural resources.
All the authors are agreed to the extent that drastic rethinking is required to manage modification in the natural water flows, to make changes in
the land use over exploitation of forests could lead to an unprecedented civilizational catastrophe.
The largest section, consisting of nine papers, discusses the structures of polity, society and economy from ancient to modern period.
The first paper in this section is authored by P.N. Gautam. It deals with the administrative structures of Himachal from the earliest times. The
latest data on the demographic profile of Himachal has been provided by R.L. Bisotra. B.K. Kaul Deambi’s paper provides the glimpses of the
society and economy of early medieval Chamba and Kangra. What was the nature of peasant protest in pre-modern hill societies can be known
from the contribution of Chetan Singh. The portrayal of the hill society in the gazetters, settlement reports, travelogues and other official
documents produced during the colonial period is questioned by P. Kanwar. She has rightly pointed out that the details furnished in these
documents need to be supplemented by local oral traditions and field studies. The emergence of the institution of beggar and the struggle for its
eradication has been detailed by Jaideep Negi. Two subsequent papers by V. Verma and L.P. Singh are more or less based on the district
gazetteers. V.K. Sharma sees horticulture as a potential catalyst for improving the economic conditions of the hill people.
Section III is primarily devoted to art, architecture, sculpture and coins. The paper by Devendra Handa sums up the differing views on
the coinage of the Kunindas. The most pertinent question which needs to be probed is whether the Kunindas can be compared with the
Kanets-the agricultural community of Himachal Pradesh. He succeeds to a large extent to make distinctions between the Amoghabhuti and
Chitresvara type of coins. The famous Visnu image and its pedestal inscription, discovered by J. Ph. Vogel from Fatehpur (Kangra) in 1904, has
been reinterpreted by Ashvini Agrawal. Two subsequent papers are on the architectural heritage: monasteries and temples. The location of
monasteries on the trade routes and the existence of a rich artistic heritage in the regions contiguous to Lahaul-Spiti and Kinnaur have
contributed immensely to the emergence of monastery’s peculiar plans and other decorative details during the second diffusion of Buddhism in
the middle mNa’-ris. I have tried to show that a change in sectarian affiliation resulted in some changes in the architectural configurations. The
wooden temples of the Outer Saraj region of Kulu district have been studied by O.C. Handa. B.S. Malhans’s paper presents a detailed study of the
ceremonies and rituals associated with the reconstruction of the Mahu Naga temple at Kogi, near Naldehra. Two subsequent papers are by T.S.
Gill and B.P. Kamboj. The former analyses the art of Amrita Sher-Gil, produced at Shimla, and the latter explores the murals of the Dei Sahiba
temple at Paonta. The last contribution in this section is by Manorma Sharma on the folk music of Himachal Pradesh.
Section IV begins with M.R. Thakur’s paper on the cultural traditions of the Kuli valley. Based on the field studies, the author of the
paper provides many interesting details not available in stereotyped literature. An important contribution in this section is by Uma Singh
Mahajan on the magico-religiosity of the Ravi valley of Chamba. What is perceptible in such living traditions is the juxtaposition of the great and
the little traditions of Brahmanism: for the iconic representations are used the gods and goddesses of Brahmanism, whereas all rituals and
ceremonies are not adhered to the prescriptions and proscriptions of Sanskrit texts (either Vedic or post-Vedic or Pauranik). One of the
peculiarities of the religious systems of western Himalayan region is the complexity of the beliefs and the rituals, the relationship between the
god and the local people and the guru or a person through which a particular god dances and talks. Equally important and fascinating subject has
been chosen by B.R. Sharma for a detailed analysis in his paper on the sancha-vidya. The complete decipherment of the scripts used in the
writing of the manuscripts would enable us to know the origins of such a system of knowledge. Varied forms of cultural manifestations in
traditional societies are undergoing tremendous change in recent years through tourism and improved means of transportation R.N. Batta and
J.P. Bhatti’s paper sounds a note of caution with the remarks that a culturally conscious tourism policy needs to be framed in which the
participation of local community is ensured. Such a tourism policy needs to be framed sooner than later.
I thank Professor V. C. Srivastava, the Director of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study for assigning me the task of editing the
proceedings of the seminar. Grateful thanks are due to N.K. Maini, Ashok Sharma, S.A. Jabbar, Renu Thakur and Chetan Singh.
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