Festivals and Ritual Life

Though a specialist in Himalayan architecture, Ron and Dianne often captured seasonal or special events, such as rituals, festivals, or other public displays. These photos provide useful comparative evidence that enables research on the history and development of particular rituals, and occasionally document events that are once-in-a-lifetime, such as the Fourth King of Bhutan’s 1974 coronation, or local festivals as they occurred in the late 1960s.

Many of Ron’s images also capture the ways in which images and objects are approached and engaged in the ritual process, generally in highly sensory ways. For students in the classroom or for others who are more familiar with material culture as displayed in a museum context–without the requisite powders, flowers, and adornments–viewing works as they are approached by practitioners and devotees, such as in this image below, facilitate greater understanding–and appreciation–of the cultures that create them.

Ganesh Shrine, Surya Binayak Temple, photo taken 1978.

Ganesh Shrine, Surya Binayak Temple, photo taken 1978. The offering of flowers, food, drink, incense, and colored pastes are all part of the propitiation process.


Indra Jatra, 1969.

Indra Jatra, 1969. Dedicated to the Vedic god Indra, the Indra Jatra is an annual festival that functions in religious and political terms to consolidate authority. For more information, follow this link to the article  “The Indra Jatra of Kathmandu as a Royal Festival: Past and Present” by Gerard Toffin


Bisket Jatra, Kumbeshwar, December 1969

Bisket Jatra, Kumbeshwar, December 1969

Bisket Jatra is a nine-day long New Year celebration that takes place every springtime. Dr. Bernier included discussion of this festival in a 1984 article he published in the journal Himalaya entitled “Survival of Wooden Art in Nepal: Three Masterworks”, available for free download here.


Monks at coronation of Fourth King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, Tashichho Dzong, 2 June 1974.

Monks at coronation of the Fourth King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, Tashichho Dzong, 2 June 1974.

The Fourth King of Bhutan is widely credited with revolutionizing Bhutan’s polity and policies, including development of the oft-cited ‘Gross National Happiness’ development principle and the institution of democracy in the kingdom with his willing abdication of the throne in 2008. More information about the Fourth King’s contributions can be read in this Journal of Bhutan Studies article, “Bhutan: Political Reform in a Buddhist Monarchy” by Thierry Mathou.


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