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Muslim-Buddhist Relations in a Ritual Context: An Analysis of the Muharram Procession in Leh Township, Ladakh

  • David Pinault

Abstract

In 1891, as part of a visit to the northernmost borders of the Indian Empire, the newspaper reporter E. F. Knight traveled through Kashmir and then spent time in “the mystic land of Ladak.” In Knight’s account of his travels, Where Three Empires Meet, he describes his first encounter with Ladakhis. He makes clear which land and which population he prefers:

These men did not jabber and lie, fawn and smile falsely, after the manner of a Kashmiri who is trying to sell something … One comes to like these amiable Ladaki Buddhists; they are highly spoken of by all who have travelled in their country, as being truthful, honest, hospitable, and straightforward. They are a harmless, simple race, with none of the narrow bigotry and caste prejudices which draw so impassable a chasm between the peoples of India holding other creeds and ourselves … All this makes Ladak a far pleasanter land to travel in than either a Hindoo or a Mahomedan country, with their barriers of reserve and seclusion, which make it so extremely difficult for the stranger to acquire any but the most superficial knowledge of the natives. The Ladaki, on the other hand, will welcome one to his house, admit one into his most sacred buildings, and allow one to be present at any of his religious ceremonies, concealing nothing, and ready to give any explanation tht is required of him.

Following a religion that never persecutes, he is very tolerant to other creeds, though he adheres firmly to his own.1

Keywords

Communal Relation Islamic Culture Islamic Community Newspaper Reporter Communal Harmony 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    E. F. Knight, Where Three Empires Meet (London, 1893), 134–35.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    M. L. A. Gompertz, The Road to Lamaland: Impressions of a Journey to Western Thibet (New York: George H. Doran Co., 1924), 42–43.Google Scholar
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    Adrienne Mong, “Endangered Culture: Ladakh’s Buddhists Find Themselves Swamped by Muslim Influx,” Far Eastern Economic Review, November 11, 1993, p. 45.Google Scholar
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    David Pinault, The Shiites: Ritual and Popular Piety in a Muslim Community (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992), 16–19, 123–24.Google Scholar
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    Husain Wa’iz al-Kashifi, Rawdat al-shuhada’ (Teheran: Kitab-forushi islamiyah, 1979), 12.Google Scholar
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    For further discussion of this point see Pinault, op. cit., 115–20.Google Scholar
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    Janet Rizvi, Ladakh: Crossroads of High Asia (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1983), 157.Google Scholar
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    Barbara Crossette, So Close to Heaven: The Vanishing Buddhist Kingdoms of the Himalayas (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995), 98.Google Scholar
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    Crossette, op. cit., 91–100.Google Scholar
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    Shridhar Kaul and H. N. Kaul, Ladakh Through the Ages: Towards a New Identity (Springfield, VA: Nataraj Books, 1992), 302–08.Google Scholar
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    Rizvi’s comment appears in the second edition of her work Ladakh: Crossroads of High Asia (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1998), 277.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., 288.Google Scholar
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    Sayyid Ali Khamenei, Ashura: bayyanat-e rehbar-e mu’azzam-e inqilab-e islami waistifta’at-e ayyat-e ’uzam piramun ’azadari-ye ’ashura (Qom: Daftar-e tablighat-e islami-ye hauzeh-ye ’ilmiyah, 1994), 22. For their hospitality and patience in answering questions I thank the staff of the Imam Khomeini Memorial Trust in the town of Kargil, Ladakh, especially Sheikh Anwar Husain Sharaf al-Din, who presented me with a copy of this text.Google Scholar
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    Khamenei, op. cit., 21.Google Scholar
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    John A. Grim, “The Dangki in Contemporary Taiwan,” Religious Studies News (published by the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature), vol. 10, no. 4 (November 1995), 19.Google Scholar
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    With regard to the issue of the apparent loss of self-control in Muharram rituals see also Nicola Grist, “Muslims in Western Ladakh,” The Tibet Journal, vol. 20, no. 3 (Autumn 1995), 68, in which there is a discussion of “energetic breast-beating” during an Ashura procession in Kargil. “As the procession proceeded,” observes Grist, “several men became overcome by emotion and had to be restrained by their companions.”Google Scholar
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    See Emmanuel Sivan, “Sunni Radicalism in the Middle East and the Iranian Revolution,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 21 (1989), 1–30; and Werner Ende, “The Flagellations of Muharram and the Shi’ite Ulama,” Der Islam 55 (1978), 34–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Catherine Bell, Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), 99.Google Scholar
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    Bell, op. cit., 101.Google Scholar
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    For a discussion of occultation in the Shia tradition see Moojan Momen, An Introduction to Shi’i Islam (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985), 161–71.Google Scholar
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    For a discussion of Shiism and the values associated with Sufi love poetry see Pinault, op. cit., 47–52, 88.Google Scholar
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    See, for example, a Shia Qur’an commentary by Sayyid Farman Ali entitled Kalam Allah (Lucknow: Nizami Press, 1980), copies of which I saw in the possession of Shia acquaintances both in Kargil and in Leh township. Farman Ali’s commentary on Qur’an 37.107 (p. 719) states, “It seems that by the term dhibh ’azim [great sacrifice] there is intended no other meaning than the martyrdom of the Imam Husain, peace be upon him. For this very reason the sacred vessel of prophethood [i.e., the Prophet Muhammad] used to say, ‘Husain proceeds from me and I proceed from Husain.’”Google Scholar
  29. 33.
    For a discussion of the low esteem in which Ladakhi Shias have been held by both Sunnis and Buddhists, see Pascale Dollfus, “The History of Muslims in Central Ladakh,” The Tibet Journal, vol. 20, no. 3 (Autumn 1995), 45–46.Google Scholar
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    John Crook, “The Struggle for Political Representation in Ladakh,” Bulletin of the Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies (Amman) 1, no. 1 (Spring 1999), 145.Google Scholar
  31. 36.
    See, for example, the discussion in Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Holy Qur’an (Beirut: Dar al-Arabia, n.d.), 1168.Google Scholar
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    For a discussion of the Panchen Lama controversy, see John F. Burns, “Dalai Lama Finds China’s Threats a Subject for Humor and Anxiety,” The New York Times, March 6, 1996, p. A4.Google Scholar
  33. 38.
    Michael G. Peletz, Reason and Passion: Representations of Gender in a Malay Society (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996), 48.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© David Pinault 2001

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  • David Pinault

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