Swagatam — Welcome to Utpalasia! We are a family of multi-disciplinary artists – dancers, choreographers, musicians, designers, and cultural gurus who perform with resident demons and dance with gods, all to foster appreciation, understanding, and preservation of Southeast Asian and Himalayan traditional heritage.


Himalayan Chintang Language Research Project

Researcher Rolf Hotz from Switzerland has been in Nepal since the beginning of 2019 working on his Masters in linguistics. His current topic involves the Chintang language, something the University of Zurich has been studying for quite some time. Their research has been so in-depth that they have even published a dictionary. Chintang is a small, endangered Tibeto-Burman language spoken in the hills of Eastern Nepal (Dhanakuṭā Jillā, Chintāṅā VDC).  The language was only recognized as being distinct from its neighbors in the early 2000’s. People live in villages near the Sunkoshi, Arun and Tamur rivers at an altitude of 900 to 1300 meters and dialects can often vary according to what ‘level’ of the steep trail your hamlet might be located on.

The Chintang Rai follow their Kiranti traditions, which are different from local Hinduism in a number of ways; they do ancestral worship, have other gods, and perform variations of puja. For example, the shaman recites the mundhum (a spiritual, rhythmic and shamanic form of scripture) followed by a veneration of 3 heart stones. Chintang celebrate Nuwagi, the first fruits offering of newly harvested rice, at the time of Dasain. There is also worship of Rajdeu, a Kiranti king (‘master or lord of the land’) and Pomnari, his minister.

Rolf’s focus is one specific aspect of Chintang Rai language: benefactive constructions, or what is usually translated as -ko laagi (‘for someone’) in Nepali. His presence in the villages of the region has caused quite a stir as people are elated to see the interest in their language and culture; he is now revered as a ‘master teacher’ and has made his debut in the local paper. We’ll be following our colleague with great interest and be updating his progress from time to time. Research projects such as this hit home the importance of preserving indigenous languages and it is thanks to individuals like Rolf Hotz that we will have not only data, but an understanding of the significance of Chintang language + Rai culture in a rapidly changing Nepal. To read more, go to https://sangalokhabar.com/57019

Science & Buddhism

There is a very engrossing article about how science can complement and enhance Buddhism. Founded about 20 years ago, the Sager Science Leadership Institute began to work with San Francisco’s Exploratorium and the National Writing Project to bring to life the Dalai Lama’s conviction that “all avenues of inquiry – scientific as well as spiritual – must be pursued in order to arrive a complete picture of the truth.”

Monks were taught how to write about science, leadership, and for enjoyment in monastic centers in India. They would write about topics as diverse as personal preferences, recipes, scientific phenomena, and languages while also teaching others about Buddhism. A sense of community began to develop and this further expanded the program in new directions.

This past December Associate Professor of English, Jessica Early, along with other instructors from Arizona State University and the Central Arizona Writing Project, took her skills to Dzongkar Choede Monastery in southern India to conduct several workshops on how to write about science.

Eventually, the efforts of the monks will be collected and published in an anthology, which will be shared with other monasteries. To learn more about this extraordinary project, see the full article here: https://goo.gl/fuJemF

Photo: Jessica Early

Happy Tibetan New Year!

Joy, luck, and prosperity await us as we enter into Tibetan Losar and the Year of the Earth Pig.

Originally, Losar was a festival that celebrated the good fortune of a fruitful harvest, but over time, as Buddhism seeped into Tibetan culture, the holiday took on a different meaning.

Tibetans will celebrate Losar for two weeks starting on the first day of the lunisolar calendar (usually in February or March on our calendar). Chhaang – a smooth and subtle relative of beer – is made into changkol. People eat guthuk, special dumplings filled with tiny objects with different implications. They also eat khapse (recipe here: https://goo.gl/qPrrvF), a deep-fried sweet.

Losar is an opportunity for people to get together with friends and family in anticipation of what the New Year will bring and exchange greetings by saying, “Tashi Delek”, which means “Blessings and be well”.