Folk Identity and Tibetan Wedding Poetry

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    Weddings vary considerably in form across the Tibetan cultural area and in exile. Furthermore, there is much scope for creativity within the wedding format in any given region. One such area of creativity is poetry and riddling between ‘champions’ from the bride and groom’s parties. Leaving the riddling aside, the poetry (ka bshad, or ‘pillar exposition’) enables the bridegroom’s champion to lay out the cosmology of the household and place its occupants within it. In the course of laying out this cosmology, themes of health, prosperity and protection recur—often in the idiom of household deities and/or related astrological concepts. Certain configurations of these household deities correspond to personal deities residing in different parts of the body, establishing a form of ‘folk ontology’ where personal identity is triangulated from the household and the local area. Drawing from, among other sources, ethnography from India, this article examines themes of this ‘folk ontology’ found in Tibetan wedding poetry. Specific attention is paid to poems concerning the groom’s ritual arrow (mda’ dar), and the central pillar (ka ba) of the house (which gives the genre of wedding poetry its name), and the roles of these objects in weddings and other occasions.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)61-81
    Number of pages20
    JournalReligions of South Asia
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2012


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