Darpoling Oracle on the steps of the temple, Darpoling

Darpoling Oracle on the steps of the temple, Darpoling

2001. (Film negative)

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Key Information


Hugh E. Richardson


Hugh Richardson

Date of Photo

June 23rd 1937

Named Person

Darpoling Oracle


Lhasa > Darpoling

Accession number


Image Dimensions

54 X 43 mm

The Darpoling (dar po gling) Oracle in ceremonial dress dancing down the steps of the temple of Darpoling during the festival of Universal Peace ('dzam gling spyi bsang) which takes place on 15th Day of 5th Tibetan month. There is a group of monks at the bottom of the steps beating hand-held drums and a monk at the top of the steps holding a ritual offering. Crowds of spectators throng the balconies and verandah of the temple. In the courtyard on the right there is a square-shaped building, possibly housing a prayer-wheel, with a banner on the roof. In the foreground at the bottom of the image, is the parapet of the roof/balcony from which Richardson was taking photographs.

Further Information



Photographic Process

Negative film nitrate

Date Acquired

Donated August 2001

Donated by

The executors of the estate of Hugh E. Richardson


Hugh E. Richardson

Manual Catalogues -

Manual Catalogues - Notes on negative album - '5' 'Yaso. Serpang. Byamspa gdan dren. Taarpa gling Oracle, lhosar [?] ceremonies. Jo mo lhari, Phari' is written on the negative album in white in Richardson's hand. [KC 31/7/2006]

Manual Catalogues -

Manual Catalogues - Notes on negative index - Folio 64. [blank] [KC 31/7/2006]

Manual Catalogues -

Manual Catalogues - Richardson's Handlist - 'Vol. 5' 'Nos 55-72. 'The Dar-po gling oracle. His temple is to the north-east of the Jo-khang. He is possessed in turn by three different deities. Photographs show him dancing down the stairs in front of his temple. In one state of possession he twists sword blades and sometimes throws them at the crowd. The occasion is the Dzam-gling spyi bsangs on the 15th of the 5th month. No. 58 shows the oracle's attendants who carry leather sacks said to be filled with the dying breath of the dead.' [KC 14/8/2006]

Other Information - Setting

Other Information - Setting: Richardson discusses this event in Ceremonies of the Lhasa Year , 1993, London: Serindia Publications, pp. 94-5. "The festival of Dzamling Chisang commemorates the preparation for the founding of the Samye monastery when Padmasambhava subjugated the gods, nagas (serpent spirits) and local deities and made them protectors of the Buddhist faith. The people then offered incense to them. ... people go to consult their special oracle, for there are many minor prophets in addition to the State Oracles of Nechung and Gadong and the Sera oracle of Karmashar. On one occasion I went to see the Darpoling oracle awhose temple is in the middle of Lhasa. He became possessed three times, on each by a different form of the god Pehar. In the first he wore similar robes, ornaments and headdress to those of the Nechung Oracle. He danced down the steep and narrow stone stairs outside his temple and on to the street below. There he finally twisted the blade of his sword into a knot and hurled it among the surrounding crowd. In the second he wore a brocade hat with a small brim and a crown of red silk. Again he danced down the steps throwing knives as he went. In his third appearance he had a headress like the coiled turban worn by images of the Religious Kings of Tibet, but rising out of a sort of tiara of miniature skulls. During this dance too he hurled knoves,some of which hit bystanders, fortunately on thick clothes. People do sometimes get wounded and on rare occasons killed. If that happens the oracle-priest is heavily fined. Accompanying him at the foot of the stairs were two half-naked figures carrying on their backs leather saacks with white eyes painted on them; they are supposed to contain the breath of the dead." [KC 21/8/2006]

Other Information - Background: Darpoling (dar-po-gling) oracle is one of the most important orcales after Nechung (gnas chung) and Gadong (dga' ldong). The monastery is situated in the middle of Lhasa. The photograph shows the oracle in a trace during the festival of Universal Peace ('dzam gling spyi bsang) which takes place on 15th Day of 5th Tibetan month. [TS 4/7/2005]

For Citation use:
The Tibet Album. "Darpoling Oracle on the steps of the temple, Darpoling" 05 Dec. 2006. The Pitt Rivers Museum. <http://tibet.prm.ox.ac.uk/photo_2001.>.

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