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Subproject A2

Life-cycle Rituals in Nepal

Department and Research Field: Classical Indology

Subproject Management

Prof. Dr. Axel Michaels


South Asia Institute
Department of Classical Indology
Im Neuenheimer Feld 330
69120 Heidelberg

Phone: +49 (0) 6221 - 54 89 17
Fax: +49 (0) 6221 - 54 63 38


Assoc. Prof. Dr. Niels Gutschow

Anand Mishra M.A.
resigned June 30, 2009

Dr. Astrid Zotter

Christof Zotter M.A.

Project Program

Subproject A2 aims to research life cycle rituals in Nepal. Although these rites de passage constitute an essential part of the ritual structure, a comprehensive investigation of the cycle has yet to be conducted. Subproject A2’s research focus lies on the mutability of rituals and their adaptation to new (even modern) contexts and processes in flux as well as on change through rituals, i.e. their outer and inner dynamics. Our approach does not only combine text and field research by assessing the local ritual manuals and other scripts in their ritual use, our team will also investigate comparable rituals in different ethnic, social and local contexts.During the first funding phase, we investigated different rituals of aging, death and mourning. The second phase concentrated on childhood and adolescence rituals, in particular on the different forms of initiation for girls and boys. Now, the third phase will explore wedding rituals, thus closing the cycle. Firstly, we will collect the different wedding types that can be found in the different groups (farmers (Jyāpu) in Bhaktapur and high-cast Indo-Parbatiyā in Katmandu) and determine the correlation of their texts and practice with the different ritual types. In order to investigate the ritual in its context, we will also include the process of partner selection (alliance networks, astrological considerations) and the arrangements in the background (preparations, suppliers, material logistics). Just like in the other project phases, we will place particular emphasis on analyzing the relationship between ritual and space. Furthermore, we will investigate the interdependencies between the life cycle (and other forms of) rituals on the content level (initiation as a prerequisite for marriage, marriage as initiation for women) as well as the formal level. Using the material already collected in the course of the project, questions of ritual grammar – in particular of segmentation and composition of Nepalese rites de passage – will be investigated. Furthermore, we will elaborate on the specific status of the agency and reflexivity, thus taking into account, for example, how the role distribution in the ritual and the interpretation of the ritual depends on gender, family status, social status and education.

Main Topics

A 2.1: Wedding rituals among the farmers (Jyāpu) in Bhaktapur (Researcher: Prof. Dr. Axel Michaels, Prof. Dr. ing. Niels Gutschow)

A 2.2: Wedding rituals among the Indo-Parbatiya in Katmandu (Researchers: Astrid and Christof Zotter)


Data Archive

This subproject has archived data in the course of their research and is making them available online.

Archive page of the subproject >>>