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Chased shawl Fibula (tomukch or bamno)

Chased shawl Fibula (tomukch or bamno) Cast Silver Lahul Valley, Himachal Pradesh Dimension: Length: 11 cm., Breadth: 12.3 cm. Accession No. 63.1829/23

This silver chased shawl fibula, locally termed as tomukch or bamno, serves as an important part of a women’s costume of Buddhist communities of Lahaul and Spiti regions of Himachal Pradesh. These two regions, together with Ladakh, are regarded as flourishing centers of Buddhist-Tibetan cultural tradition, located in the Western sub-Himalayan hill area. As they share borderlands with Tibet, the Tibetan cultural concepts flowed through trade routes and became reflected in their religious and cultural practices. Similar types of silver cloaks, termed as sti-bhumni, are also worn by women in the hills north of Shimla. This ornament displays three circular s symbolizing the three gems (S: tri-ratna; Tib: dKon-mch’og-sum) of Buddhism. It is embossed with bands of vegetal scrolls, curvilinear motifs, whorls and has two domical projections set with gemstones that are an allusion to the Tibetan mantra or dhāraṇ̣i ‘Oṃ maṇi padme hūṃ’ (Hail to the Jewel in the lotus, i.e. Avalokiteśvara). The jewelry appears to have a cosmologically inspired design, relating to the cosmic world mountain, stemming from a shared matrix of ancient ideas and habits of perception. It is intended to express a constellation of ideas about fecundity, nourishment, and the wealth of nature and the semiotic symbolism of the balance of feminine and masculine elements. It is not simply decorative but has inherent symbolic values, which may not have functioned as actual aids of meditational practices but they are surely imbued with sacred significance for those who wore them. Nevertheless, the richness of design shows the ingenious regional methods used for fabrication and decoration.

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