Mtn geog sacred mts

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Sacred mountains: 

Review: What is a mtn? Components of Sacred Mtns Mountain worship Threats to sacred mountains Climate change Tourism Sacred mountains

Review: What is a mountain? Objective Criteria : 

Scientific definition: objective set of criteria elevation local relief Climate Steepness geology Review: What is a mountain? Objective Criteria

2. Subjective definition:: 

2. Subjective definition: “To a large extent, a mountain is a mountain because of the part it plays in popular imagination.” (Roderich Peattie) Review: What is a mountain? Subjective Criteria

Sacred mountain: 

Sacred mountain “There are mountains which are just mountains and there are mountains with personality. The personality of a mountain is more than merely a strange shape that makes it different from others-just as a strangely shaped face or strange actions do not make an individual into a personality. Personality consists in the power to influence others, and this power is due to consistency, harmony, and one-pointedness of character. If these qualities are present in a mountain, we recognize him as a vessel of cosmic power, and we call it a sacred mountain […].”

Components of Sacred Mtns: Mircea Eliade, comparative religion: 

Components of Sacred Mtns: Mircea Eliade, comparative religion The mountain as sacred center Mountain as Places of Revelation Mountain as Gods Mountains as life and death places Persistence of Mountains

1. The mountain as sacred center : 

1. The mountain as sacred center “Axis mundi” = center of the world Cosmic mountain- image of stability and permanence Example: Mt.Meru, center of the world for Hindus, Buddhists and Jains Mythical mountain Heaven is actually part of the mountain Central component of the regions Based on real mountains

1. The mountain as sacred center : 

1. The mountain as sacred center Morphology of the mountain plays an important role in defining the mountain as sacred Shape Color of the rock Elevation Local relief Snow

1. The mountain as sacred center : 

1. The mountain as sacred center Mt.Kailas, Tibet- World’s most sacred mountain

Morphology features that make Kailas a sacred mountain: 

Morphology features that make Kailas a sacred mountain Shape: perfect dome Color: white (snow) Source of 4 rivers in 4 cardinal directions Local relief: contrasting with the vast plateau surrounding it Remoteness (W Tibet very sparsely populated)

Mt Kailis rivers: 

Mt Kailis rivers Tsangpo/Bramaputra Indus Ganges


Cosmic mountain represented in temple architecture: “Stupa” (Buddhist temple) shaped in form of a dome with gateways to the four directions Stairs symbolize way to heaven (the ascent) Rongbuk Monastery Everest Base Camp, North (Tibetan) side

Hindu temple in Durbar Square, Kathmandu (Nepal): 

Hindu temple in Durbar Square, Kathmandu (Nepal) Another example of mountains represented in temple architecture Steps represent spiritual ascent Link between heaven and earth

1. The mountain as sacred center Summary: 

1. The mountain as sacred center Summary Axis mundi: center of world Connects heaven to earth Characteristics: morphology, color Represents cardinal directions Temple architecture Mount Kailish Ganges, Indus, Tsangpo/Bramaputra

2. Mountains as Places of Revelation : 

2. Mountains as Places of Revelation Mountaintop- revelatory place Height of the mountain is important Mountain ascent – spiritual, transforming experience

Mount Hira: 

Mount Hira

Mount Sinai: 

Mount Sinai Moses encounters Yahveh with fire and lightning And the Lord came down upon Mount Sinai, on the top of the mount: and the Lord called Moses up to the top of the mount; and Moses went up. Exodus 19:20 Ten commandments

Native Americans Vision Quests: 

Native Americans Vision Quests


Yamabushi Yamabushi (山伏) (Literally: "One who lies in the mountains") are Japanese mountain ascetics and warriors, mostly of the Shingon sect of Buddhism. Mountain ascents associated with spiritual transformation, particularly spiritual insights.


Swayambunath Temple, Kathmandu (Nepal)

2. Mountains as Places of Revelation Summary: 

2. Mountains as Places of Revelation Summary Transcends cultures and religions Places of spiritual transformations Places of revelation where “god” communicates to special people Revelation generally a function of ascending the mountains Ex: Mt Hira, Mt Sinai, vision quest

3.Mountains with Divine Powers/Gods themselves : 

Snow capped mountains are important Verticality/local relief Remoteness Abode of the Divine Guardian Gods for local people 3.Mountains with Divine Powers/Gods themselves


Shiva Resides on Mt Kailas, which Is personification of Shiva Parvat, Siva’s wife, is the daughter of the Himalayas

4. Mountains as Givers of Life and Death: 

4. Mountains as Givers of Life and Death Sources of rivers Thus, sources of fertility Abode of the dead; path of the dead

Andes: Mountain as source of Water and Fertility: 

Andes: Mountain as source of Water and Fertility Verticality is important Source of water Gods of meteorological phenomena, controlling crops and cattle Places of astronomical observations


Mt.Mismi, Peruvian Andes

Mt.Coropuna, sacred mountain: 

Mt.Coropuna, sacred mountain

5. Persistence of Mountains: 

5. Persistence of Mountains Many-layered traditions of myth and pilgrimage

Mount Moriah: 

Mount Moriah Early Caanite high place of worship Abraham came to sacrifice Isaac Solomon built the great temple Nehemiah rebuilt after Babylonian exile Muhammad begin ascent from earth to heaven

Mountain Worship Examples: 

Mountain Worship Examples

Buddhist mountain worship: 

Buddhist mountain worship Prostration Prayer wheels Mani stones Offerings: juniper incense “Sky burial” ceremony CIRCUMAMBULATION (Korra) is the way to worship: “to see the greatness of a mountain, one must keep one’s distance; to understand its form, one must move around it”


Sky burial Body placed on top Vultures consume About 18,000’ here


Pilgrimage Pilgrimage in outer space= mirrored reflection of an inner movement or development (Tibetan Buddhism) the journey to sacred places for spiritual benefit and paying homage to deities (Himalayas) Asking for good crops as well as good health (Andes) a purifying journey (ex. Dudh Kunda in Nepal)

Pilgrimage as a means for conservation: 

Pilgrimage as a means for conservation Encourage local beliefs about sanctity of the mountains Sacred space needs to be clean and not polluted Local people’s concern not to upset the mountain Gods helps maintain the pilgrimage practice


What can happen when you hitch-hike on trucks in Tibet…?

Mountain rituals: the Himalayas: 

Mountain rituals: the Himalayas Mountain top=off-limits Hindu mountain worship: pilgrimage to the base of the mountain bathing in the lake Incense burning


Mt.Numbur (Shorong Yul-lha), Nepal Himalayas


Dudh Kunda (“Milk Lake”) at the base of Numbur Mt.

Mountain worship in the Andes: 

Archaeological sites and mummies have been found in the Andes at altitudes up to 20,000ft Incas constructed the sites in the 15th century to appease the mountain gods Human sacrifice: Capac Cocha ritual Mountain worship in the Andes

Volcano Llullaillaco, Argentina, highest archeological site (~21,000ft): 

Volcano Llullaillaco, Argentina, highest archeological site (~21,000ft)

Peaks in the Andes are still worshipped to this day, eg. Mt.Ausangate: 

Peaks in the Andes are still worshipped to this day, eg. Mt.Ausangate


Present day pilgrimage to Qoyllur Rit’I, Peru


Sinaqara Glacier, pilgimage site


Qoyllur Rit’I, Sinaqara Glacier, S.Peru Taking “medicinal” ice from the glacier as a symbol of water sources and fertility

Threats to sacred mountains: 

Threats to sacred mountains Tourism: Climbing permits Pollution of sacred space Nepal, 2001: 103 more peaks opened for mountaineering in the area of Everest and Kangchenjunga Climate change: glacial melt Changes in vegetation Water resources

Tourism: climbing and de-sanctification of sacred peaks : 

Tourism: climbing and de-sanctification of sacred peaks




World Tibet Network News Thursday, May 17, 2001 Mount Kailash Desecrated Some press agencies and specialized magazines have recently spread the news that a Spanish mountaineering expedition led by Mr. Jesus Martinez Noves had applied for and was granted permission by the Chinese authorities to attempt the climb of Mount Kailash in Tibet. Wednesday, May 30, 2001 Climber calls off ascent of sacred peak amid protests (ST) INTERNATIONAL protests by mountaineers have halted what would have been the first ascent of Mount Kailash, a Tibetan mountain held sacred by Hindus and Buddhists.


Climate change Glacier ablation at Shorong Yul-lha (Numbur), Nepal Himalayas Glacier AX010 estimated to disappear by year 2060.


Everest Melting? High Signs of Climate Change Stentor Danielson National Geographic News June 5, 2002 A team sponsored by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has found signs that the landscape of Mount Everest has changed significantly since Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay first conquered the peak in 1953. A primary cause is the warming global climate. But the growing impact of tourism is also taxing the world's highest mountain. The team found that the glacier that once came close to Hillary and Norgay's first camp has retreated three miles (five kilometers). A series of ponds that used to be near Island Peak—so-called because it was then an island in a sea of ice—had merged into a long lake.


ASTER Image courtesy of: NASA EROS Data Center, Sept. 9, 2001 Indian Himalayas: Glacier ablation at Gangotri,source of the holy Ganges 1% of Ganges water comes from Gangotri glacier millions of people dependent on water from runoff glacier terminus retreated by 3km


“Modernization” in Tibet?


THE END OF A LEGEND? Aug 2000: Another cable car project is being proposed for Macchu Picchu




Sept 11, 2000: “The Intihuatana, considered by archaeologists to be the most sacred object in Machu Picchu has been damaged in the filming of a beer commercial.” Beer vs. Sacred Mountains?


Summary: Mountain cultures at risk Mountain rituals: a way for local cultures to maintain global and local awareness Balancing sanctity of the mountains with resource use and conservation in the mountains Global action: address issue of climate change in the mountains help maintain traditional worship practices Scientific research: need to respect local traditions “Mountain to mountain” exchange and collaboration


Summary: Why is a mountain sacred? Glacier-topped peaks=venerated as abode of heavenly enlightened (Devi and Deva, Gods of weather and crops) Highest prominent feature in a village landscape Extreme beauty (Macchapuchre, Ama Dablam) Clouds: creative power of mind (Tibetan Buddhism) Source of water (Andes) Healing power and energy (Huaringas- Peru, Kalincok, Nepal) Color of the rock: white=purity

Example: Garhwal Himalayas (India) : 

Example: Garhwal Himalayas (India) Most important pilgrimage site in Indian Himalayas Shrines at the source of the Ganges Seedling ceremony to plant trees to preserve the sacred forests Priests blessed the seeds Pilgrims helped in planting the seeds


Ama Dablam, Nepal Himalayas

Summary: Three ways to worship sacred mountains: 

Summary: Three ways to worship sacred mountains Buddhism: circumambulation (circling) of sacred mountains Hinduism: pilgrimage to the base of the mountain Andean culture: human sacrifice on top of the peaks to appease the mountain Gods (Inca Empire)


...A Way for Conservation Sacred mountains...

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