Grammatically speaking: Religious authority and development discourse in Buddhist Ladakh
Durham Anthropological Journal
University of Durham
Copyright © 2013 Andrea Butcher
Tibetan Buddhist teachings are transmitted through a sacred grammar ascribed to the seventh century treatise, sum rtags (the root grammar in thirty versus), composed by Thonmi Sambhota, historically believed to be a manifestation of the celestial deity Manjusri. Exiled Tibetans now encourage literacy in this grammar amongst the laity, albeit in a modified style. Across the Tibetan speaking Himalaya, however, regional dialects diverge considerably from these rules. The Indian region of Ladakh has linguistic connections with Tibet. Education reformists Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL) began publishing a local language magazine, Ladags Melong, to stimulate interest in the indigenous script. The magazine’s colloquial style angered Buddhist scholars, who fear that altering written styles will result in the eradication of the sacred grammar. SECMOL argues that grammar is separate from religion, and literature in the vernacular is more accessible for the majority of Ladakhis. Drawing upon fifteen months of fieldwork, the paper examines the political, cultural, and religious ramifications inherent in the distinctive definitions of grammar through the controversial experience in Ladakh.
The research was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Fredrick Williamson Memorial Fund.
This is the final version of the article. Available from the publisher via the link in this record.
Vol. 19 (1), pp. 95–109