Marrying the “Thought of Enlightenment”

Todd Lewis and Christoph Emmrich

in Little Buddhas

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199860265
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979929 | DOI:

Series: AAR Religion, Culture, and History

Marrying the “Thought of Enlightenment”

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Before they reach puberty, girls from most Buddhist families of the Newar community in the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal undergo a ritual called ihi, literally “wedding,” at the center of which stands the liturgical handling of a citrus fruit. Both the religious identity of the fruit and the social, political, and doctrinal modalities, origins, and effects of the performance have produced a variety of ways to make sense of this ritual and illuminate how Buddhist Newars understand childhood in its preparation of and development toward ritual competence, social maturity, and political agency. Taking one singular late twentieth-century performance as its starting point, this chapter analyzes the ways Newar Buddhist practitioners, literati, and those who once as children were themselves at the center of the event weave a dense tapestry of myths, soteriologies, reformist agendas, and personal recollections in which the expectations of and toward the emerging woman are enmeshed with the hopes and projections of a renewed Buddhist life.

Keywords: South Asia; Himalayas; Nepal; Newar Buddhism; ritual; meaning; commentary; ethnicity; marriage; modernity

Chapter.  13158 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism

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