Wading through the archives in India

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View of mountain with rainbow in the sky

A rainbow after the monsoon rains.

It has been over two weeks since I set out for India to undertake research on the Tibet collections held at National Museums Liverpool. It has been a very busy couple of weeks.

I began my research in New Delhi and the National Archives of India. Here, there are held hundreds of thousands of records relating to the British Empire in India. Of particular interest to me are the many hundreds of records relating to Sir Charles Bell, a colonial officer based in Sikkim, a small Himalayan state on the Northeast frontiers of India tucked in between Nepal and Bhutan.  It was from here that Bell worked as a diplomatic agent for the British Indian government developing and maintaining relationships with Sikkim, Bhutan and Tibet. During the twenty years he worked in the area he learnt the Tibetan language, understood, more than most, Tibetan culture and protocols and became a friend of the 13th Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso.

So far I’ve looked at over 1000 records, memos and reports detailing the relationship between Britain and Tibet in the early 20th century. Now with the help of Tashi Tsering, the Director of the Amnye Machen Institute here in Dharamsala , I am beginning to identify a number of previously unidentified Tibetans found in the photographs taken by Bell that are now in the Ethnology collection here at Liverpool.

Although I am inside working much of the time it is difficult not to look out the window occasionally. This town which sits on the edge of the Dhauladhar Range juts up from the Indian plains and gives visitors their first taste of the Himalayan mountains that lay a little further to the north. The peak I’ve attached to my post is known as Moonpeak and is visible all over town, including from my window, first thing in the morning.