The Kullu-Spiti Crossroads Field Program

  • Kotarba, Ania (Chief Investigator (Project Lead))
  • Gupta, Sonali (Chief Investigator (Project Lead))

Project Details


The NCP-funded Himalayan Project is a unique field school which will train students in Himalayan archaeology and anthropology. The Kullu valley is situated in the heart of the Himalayas, in the hill state of Himachal Pradesh, India. The valley is rich in important heritage sites, spanning many centuries and deep cultural traditions where numerous ancient Indian myths are believed to have taken form. The transmission of ancient myths, rituals, magic, beliefs, gods, divine beings, symbols and taboos between the past and the present form the core theme of this field school including aspects such as geology, transhumance and sustainability in the Himalayas. Using comparative methods, we will evaluate the evolution of ideologies, cultures and adaptation of the people in the setting of a rich cultural heritage. How do ideologies and myths transmit across time and space? How do present inhabitants relate to active and ancient sacred spaces in specific climatic conditions? How has the use of these spaces changed overtime? What separates and what connects the people to rituals and religious practices? These will be some of the questions this field school will address.
There is an absence of excavated sites and a dearth of archaeologically based knowledge about the chronology and cultural evolution in the valley. Therefore, ethnohistorical, ethnographic and ethnoarchaeological tools are useful for the study of religious practices, art, architecture, oral traditions within the context of the landscape. Such an approach aids in evaluating the manifestation and transmission of myths, legends, ritual and practice. This is true both for India and within general anthropological praxis.
At the Kullu Valley, students will visit temples at Naggar, Rumsu and local villages, related to Hinduism and will explore the architecture, religious motifs and sacred artwork, attempting to understand influences, depiction of myths in sacred space, their transmission and practice. The use and spatial relationships between different areas of buildings and complexes will provide students insights into performance and practice of rituals. It will allow students show digitized maps to locals, and priests to get information on the functioning of the rooms based on memory and traditions. Mapping and drawing ground plans of the sacred complexes and temples will help facilitate an understanding of use of space.
Students will learn basic ethnographic interview techniques. Students will layer all data on a qualitative research tools to aid in understanding the interconnectedness of data, analysis, and theory building. Students will also make short smart phone films based on their research topics to enable dissemination of knowledge to the local people. Students will get a chance to follow nomads and/or religious processions, understand their practices and adaptive techniques in the Himalayas.
Alongside, the students will be given a crash course in basic Hindi conversation and writing. Learning phrases and immersing oneself in culture helps in creating bonds with the local community and gaining trust to do work which is mutually beneficial for heritage awareness and long- term relations.
In all, the Himalayan Project aims to give a holistic understanding of archaeology and anthropology in the Himalayas in a short, comprehensive 2- week period. The accommodations are lovely, nestled in the laps of the Himalayas with hot water, delicious meals. Three students will be allotted a spacious cottage and a traditional cedar Himalayan styled class room awaits all. It is an experience like no other, so come and join us in the amazing Himalayan Project.
Short titleSustainability Archaeology and Cultural Anthropology at Kullu Valley in Indian Himalaya
Effective start/end date1/03/20 → …


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