Lama Mani: the texts and narrative thangkas of India’s exiled Tibetan storytellers

The Lama Mani performers allowed the population to learn about central Buddhist principles. However, the practice is almost extinct. Locating and digitising the Lama Mani texts and scrolls will allow future researchers to investigate the practice and descendants of performers to keep the tradition alive.

Lama Mani are performers who belong to a popular religious tradition. They share roots with the Tibetan Opera, which is an important element of Tibet’s intangible heritage. These wandering storytellers expounded the religion’s tenets by reciting hagiographies from memory and showing narrative scroll paintings. The texts containing these stories are kept in Tibetan nunneries across India and Nepal, as well as with the descendants of deceased performers.

The Lama Mani tradition is on the verge of extinction. Already disappeared in most diasporic Tibetan communities in India and Nepal, there are few places in Tibet where it is practised. The texts are sold or destroyed, and there is little possibility for research and study.

The project located ad digitised texts and scrolls in nunneries and Tibetan settlements across India and Nepal. The project was able to make available digitally almost twice the material expected, digitising 38 texts, 50 scrolls and 21 performance related objects. The project also interviewed and the families of prominent performers, who were able to refer the investigators to lesser known Lama Mani storytellers. This project, along with two previous projects in 2012 and 2014, contributed in expanding the knowledge of Lama Mani practices.

Project Details

Location: India, Southern Asia, Asia Organiser(s): Endangered Archives Programme (EAP) Project partner(s): University of The Arts London Funder(s): Arcadia Funding received: £7,972 Commencement Date: 01/2018 Project Status: Completed
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