Journal - Sacred Buddhistic monuments in the Himalaya: indicators and protectors from mountain hazards

Sacred Buddhistic monuments in the Himalaya: indicators and protectors from mountain hazards

Johannes T. Weidinger

Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, University of Salzburg, Hellbrunnerstr. 34, A-5020 Salzburg, Austria, and

Erkudok Institute, Kammerhofgasse 8, A-4810 Gmunden, Austria

Jour. Nep. Geol. Soc., Vol. 26, 2002, 91-98


Sacred religious monuments such as chörten, and stone-walls (carved with religious inscriptions) can be found all along the Himalaya in and around villages dominated by Buddhist population. These structures are found to have been erected not only around monasteries and other holly places, but also in areas where mountain hazards such as torrent, debris flow and snow avalanche occur. Careful observation of the location of these structures indicate that they were erected also to serve as indicators, silent witnesses and even to protect settlements and farmland from hazards. The reason why this practice is typical for the Buddhistic-Lamaistic region of the Himalaya must partly be due to a wide prevelance of various hazardous geomorphological processes occuring within the Higher Himalaya and Trans Himalayan valleys, which forms the homelands of the Tibetan culture. The position of the sacred structures may be used as a good indicator for the past hazardous events that occured at a certain time. Some structures also seem to have been built for only a symbolic value. Thus their position can be used for finding or delimiting areas, which may fall in the “red zone” on mapping mountain hazards.

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