写真

Photographer's Note

India's Spiti valley, bordering and culturally closest to Tibet, and its 30,000 or so inhabitants, walk a thin line today between the past and the future, the ways of life they have known and the discourses of progress and modernity, an identity of their own and a place in the nation-state. Spiti was amalgamated into independent India when the British left and designated as a "tribal" area in the 1950s. It was opened up for international visitors only in the early 1990s.

As a people living in one of the world's most punishing locations, a high-altitude mountainous desert, the Spitians' way of life had evolved with sustainability as a priority to deal with the lack of natural resources; the paucity of water available and the limited area of cultivable land made this essential. Part of this sustainability went into action in regulation of marriages and inheritance of family property -- within each family, the eldest son inherited the land and was permitted to marry and cultivate this land, while the eldest daughter inherited the jewellery and took it with her when she married. Other children were compulsorily made to join Buddhist religious orders, either as monks or nuns. In recent years, this practice is still followed, though not as strictly as before; some Spitians may choose to leave the valley and live elsewhere or leave the religious orders as adults.

The problem, however, arises as those sent to monasteries or nunneries as children begin to feel discontent with the lack of a choice given to them; part of the discontent comes not so much from wanting to be something other than a monk as from wanting to be given access, via education, to the more "modern" knowledge imparted to children not in monastic schools -- Buddhist philosophy, Spitian medicine, etc. are no longer seen as desirable fields of knowledge. Largely ignored by the Indian mainstream, Spiti still gets increasingly caught within the narratives of progress and modernization that the one-size-fits-all Indian education system propogates; its unique identity and balanced way of life are endangered. The questions are many: should its culture be museumized, should education turn itself around to find a place and justification for traditional education, to what extent can "progress" be countered and should it be countered? Or should there be a rethinking of what progress means in Spiti itself and an attempt to reach that ideal?

Spiti, especially the monks at Dhankar, showed me what it meant to live with an identity and culture so alien from the mainstream that it seemed both impossible and necessary to keep it going, and how one could feel both a compulsion and revulsion for articulating oneself as a part of India. This monk sits here, quietly, inside a kitchen; for how long? And what does the shadowy figure on the right intend to do?

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Photo Information
  • Copyright: Sanchia PD (Sanchia) Silver Star Critiquer [C: 15 W: 0 N: 4] (47)
  • Genre: 人間
  • Medium: カラー
  • Date Taken: 2006-06-23
  • Categories: 日常生活
  • Exposure: f/2.8, 1/2 seconds
  • More Photo Info: view
  • Photo Version: Original Version
  • Date Submitted: 2007-11-06 2:32
Viewed: 1960
Points: 2
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Additional Photos by Sanchia PD (Sanchia) Silver Star Critiquer [C: 15 W: 0 N: 4] (47)
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