SOAS University of London

Centre of Buddhist Studies

Thirty Years On: Revisiting the Art, Architecture, and Relics in Karsha’s Kadampa Chorten

Rob Linrothe (Northwestern University, Evanston)

Date: 28 November 2019Time: 5:30 PM

Finishes: 28 November 2019Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: B103

Type of Event: Lecture


In the summer 2001, a de-consecration was sponsored in order to study and photograph ca. 12th c. murals inside a raised gateway-structure in a remote village of Zangskar in the Western (Indian) Himalayas. In the process, a number of fragmentary old paintings and sculptures were discovered, documented, and then reinterred. Some fifteen years later, the caretaker of the shrine decided it was time to repair the structure, and re-de-consecrated the shrine. He also dismantled two very dilapidated smaller reliquaries nearby. During annual visits to Karsha, Linrothe was able to document many of the relics, paintings, and small clay sculptures (tsha-tsha) that were temporarily exhumed from the chorten interiors, before being permanently hidden inside newly-built solid depositories.  After renovations to the Kadampa Chorten were completed in 2017, ritual specialist-monks from the nearby monastery, the largest in Zangskar, conducted formal consecration rituals. This past summer (2019), a young artist related to the caretaker repaired and repainted a clay sculpture and during the ‘eye-opening,’ the caretaker, himself a monk, performed a less formal ritual.  This lecture will present some of the results from a thirty-year engagement with the site, including art dating from the 12th century to the present.


Rob Linrothe is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Art History at Northwestern University, Evanston. His research is mainly based on fieldwork in Ladakh and Zangskar. He earned a Ph. D. in Art History from the University of Chicago. In 2016–2017 Linrothe received a Senior Fellowship from the American Institute of Indian Studies to do fieldwork in eastern India on 8th to 13th century sculpture in Bihar, West Bengal and Odisha.  His recent books are Seeing Into Stone: Pre-Buddhist Petroglyphs and Zangskar’s Early Inhabitants (2016); Visible Heritage: Essays on the Art and Architecture of Greater Ladakh, ed. Rob Linrothe and Heinrich Pöll; and Collecting Paradise: Buddhist Art of Kashmir and its Legacies (2015) (with contributions by Christian Luczanits and Melissa Kerin). Other recent publications include: “Noise Along the Network: A Set of Chinese Ming Embroidered Thangkas in the Indian Himalayas,” in Buddhist Encounters and Identities Across East Asia (2018); “‘Utterly False, Utterly Undeniable’: The Akaniṣṭha Shrine Murals of Takden Phuntsokling Monastery,” Archives of Asian Art (2017); “Donor Figures on 9th–12th Century Sculpture in Eastern India: A Progress Report.” Journal of Bengal Art 22 (2017); “Siddhas and Sociality:  A Seventeenth-Century Lay Illustrated Buddhist Manuscript in Kumik Village, Zangskar (A Preliminary Report)” In Visible Heritage (2016); “Mirror Image: Deity and Donor as Vajrasattva” in History of Religions (2014); and “Portraiture on the Periphery: Recognizing Changsem Sherab Zangpo,” Archives of Asian Art (2013).

Organiser: SOAS Centre of Buddhist Studies

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Sponsor: Khyentse Foundation