Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

3 - One or Two Lakṣmīṅkarā-s: Gelongma Palmo and the Mahāsiddha

Saturday, July 7
8:30 AM - 10:00 AM
Location: Casuarina, Lower Ground Floor

Gelongma Palmo or Śrī Lakṣmī (Gelongma Palmo, hereafter), an eleventh century Kashmiri nun, is considered the lineage holder of the Tibetan fasting ritual nyungne. While there are limited accounts of her narrative, the fasting ritual continues as a prevalent practice within contemporary Tibetan Buddhist nunneries in India. Although her lineage continues via this practice, tracing her family history is fraught with difficulty due to limited textual accounts of her historicity and her conflation with the Indian mahāsiddha, Lakṣmīṅkarā. In the case of these two Lakṣmī-s, their narratives often share elements of origin, development, and resolution. This paper examines how narrative constructions of these two Lakṣmī-s share familial figures which both legitimize and complicate their genealogies highlighting how these potential family lines serve different purposes especially in regard to the figure Gelongma Palmo.  In some accounts, Gelongma Palmo’s varied narratives and family lineages establish her as both a Kashmiri and Tibetan figure. In other accounts, her family lineage is not connected to Tibetan figures, yet the ritual practice and its transmission into Tibet is depicted in a fifteenth century Tibetan text that propels the ritual forward through the Tibetan translator Rinchen Zangpo who then imparted it to the Indian adept Atisha. Connections between these two Lakṣmī-s as well as movement of identity will be considered in terms of how these constructions play into the Tibetan fasting ritual as practiced in nunneries in India today.

Darcie M. Price-Wallace

Northwestern University, India

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