Nepal Studies Program
“The southern border of Nepal, along India, was created 150 years ago by external parties,” says Sagar Chhetri, a visual artist from Nepal and a former Visiting Artist Fellow at the Mittal Institute. When that border was created, communities were cut in two. “[In Nepal], the ruling caste tried to unite all the peoples of the country to create one single Nepali identity. But in the populous open border region, Nepalis and Indians share marital ties, cultures, languages, and histories. With the promise of federalism during the decade-long civil war in Nepal came stronger rhetoric and ideology based on ethnic identity,” he said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the entire globe, requiring quick action from governments and the populace to stem the flow of transmission. With many in quarantine or lockdown, the pandemic has changed the daily way of life for many around the world. This week, we spoke with members of the Mittal Institute team in India, Nepal, and Pakistan to get a firsthand look into the situation on the ground in South Asia, from recent governmental guidance and regulations to the response of the population and how it will impact society.
Symposia dedicated to the art and culture of early modern Nepal come around only once in a generation. And the atmosphere at the Nepal Mandala in an Early Modern South Asia symposium last week, run by Jinah Kim (Harvard University) and Todd Lewis (College of the Holy Cross), reflected the rarity of this meeting. The symposium brought together international experts on the history, culture, and societies of the “Nepal Mandala” — or the Kathmandu Valley — to present papers on the region’s place in early modern South Asia.
This week, the Nepal Mandala Symposium will take an in-depth look at Nepal’s artistic heritage, its place in Asia’s artistic ecosystem, and the continuing practice of Indic Buddhist traditions. Dipti Sherchan, a graduate student at the Department of Anthropology in the University of Illinois at Chicago, will join the panel “Nepal Mandala in the Intra- and Trans-Regional Context.” We sat down with her to learn more about her expertise in the anthropology of state and art, and the emergence of the Juddha Kala Pathshala art school in Nepal — a unique and one-of-a-kind cultural institution in Kathmandu.
Co-curated by Dr. Jinah Kim, Professor of History of Art & Architecture at Harvard University, and Dr. Todd Lewis, Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at College of the Holy Cross, the Dharma and Punya: Buddhist Ritual Art of Nepal exhibit at the College of the Holy Cross’s Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery highlights Nepal’s artistic heritage as a rich and enduring continuation of Indic Buddhist traditions. From December 5–7, 2019, the Nepal Mandala Symposium will bring together scholars of religion, anthropology, and art history whose work examines critically various aspects of Nepal’s culture and history, culminating in a visit to the exhibition. We sat down with Dr. Jinah Kim to learn more about Nepal’s artistic heritage, the role of ritual in Buddhism, and what to expect from the upcoming Symposium and exhibition.
This week, the Visiting Artist Fellows’ Fall 2019 exhibit, Exploring Identity Through a Contemporary South Asian Lens, opened at the Mittal Institute. Available for viewing through November 26, photographer Sagar Chhetri and sculptor Sakshi Gupta unveiled their artistic interpretations of life, time, and the human condition to a rapt audience. The 8-week Visiting Artist research program provides a vital platform for an exchange of perspectives and knowledge, linking Cambridge and South Asia through shared stories and new understandings and providing artists from South Asia the opportunity to use Harvard’s resources to perform research that will inform their art practice.
We recently sat down with Sagar Chhetri, an accomplished photographer from Nepal and one of the Mittal Institute’s new Visiting Artist Fellows for Fall 2019. His photography series, Eclipse, delves into the identity conflict experienced by the Madhesi community of Nepal and his Madhesi peers through profound imagery of their day-to-day lives.
Listen to our latest podcast featuring Gautama Vajracharya from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in a lecture on the ceremonial purposes of the lunar calendar, entitled “Newar Ritual Calendar — New Methodology, New Discovery.”
Over 80% of Nepal's population identifies as Hindu — a religion that has been practiced in the nation for hundreds of years. Click play above to listen to our latest podcast featuring Axel Michaels from Heidelberg University in a fascinating lecture on Hindu ritual in Nepal, entitled "The Meaning of the Meaninglessness of Rituals."
Currently in its third year, the Mittal Institute’s Nepal Studies Program — led by Professor Michael Witzel, Wales Professor of Sanskrit at Harvard — continues its work engaging with scholars and practitioners in both Cambridge and Nepal. With each year of the program focusing on a different topic and led by a different faculty member, Witzel has journeyed into an exploration of Hinduism in Nepal and the important role of rituals, from the Vedic period to modern times.