ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Inscriptions on the Move: Materiality, Textuality and Agency in the Epigraphical Culture of the Buṅgadyaḥ Yātrā


Cubelic Simon - Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Research Unit "Documents on the History of Law and Religion of Premodern Nepal", Heidelberg, Germany
Khatiwoda Rajan - Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Nepal Heritage Documentation Project, Heidelberg, Germany


10 – Stasis and Motion in the Processional Culture of Kathmandu Valley: The Buṅgadyaḥ Yātrā Revisited


Epigraphical studies often focus on inscriptions as immovable objects and the permanent relations they form with the places of their erection. The written artefacts connected to the worship of Buṅgadyaḥ, however, raise new questions concerning the role of motion, temporariness, and social agency for the study of South Asian epigraphical cultures. For the annual procession, ritual objects with votive inscriptions and other engraved components are assembled from different repositories and are moved as chariot parts through the urban landscape. In contrast to inscriptions which are embedded in monument sites, their public presence depends every year anew on human action and thereby on the social, ideational, and affective ties that bind written artefacts and local or state actors together. This paper will present recently documented inscriptions from the 19th and 20th centuries, which were sponsored by both political elites (esp. the Rāṇā prime ministers) and private donors. It will focus not only on the role of inscriptional acts for (re-)making the socio-ritual relations surrounding the Buṅgadyaḥ worship through the institutionalization of new socio-religious practices, the creation of shared memory, and the appropriation of sacred and public places, but also how inscriptions as both material objects and texts shape local expressions of identity, status, and power.