The Headmen of Te and the Heaven‐Appointed King

Charles Ramble

in The Navel of the Demoness

Published in print February 2008 | ISBN: 9780195154146
Published online January 2008 | e-ISBN: 9780199868513 | DOI:
  The Headmen of Te and the Heaven‐Appointed King

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The case for civil religion is developed further by exploring the relationship between Te's institution of headmanship and Tibetan ideas of sacral kingship. Historical records point to the pervasiveness of these ideas in the civil society and the mythology of Mustang, where true monarchy, as opposed to despotism, is represented as a form of democracy. The ceremony for the appointment of Te's headmen is seen as a dramatisation of the Tibetan myth of the heaven‐appointed king. The headmen are not elected by ballot, but selected as the outcome of a complex ceremony amounting to a game of chance. In other such games, the outcome is commonly understood as an expression of divine will. However, the Tepas do not attribute the result to the choice of a particular god, and the chapter argues that the divinity in question is the hypostatic form of the community of Te itself.

Keywords: headman; sacral kingship; monarchy; despotism; heaven‐appointed king; ballot; game; chance; divine will

Chapter.  17020 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Buddhism

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