Monk, Scholar, and Statesman: The 19th Kushok Bakula Rinpoche
Curated by Tashi Murop
About the Exhibition
Seated on a white horse and dressed in red robes, the six-year-old Gyalrsas Bakula bade farewell to his home in Matho village. Accompanied by a long trail of monks, musicians and devotees, his horse cut through the fields towards dPethub [Spituk] monastery where he was enthroned as the 19th incarnation of Arhat Bakula and the supreme head of the monastery. It was the beginning of a long journey for the young Bakula, one that would last 80 years and take Ladakh on a path of social development and modernisation. It would see Ladakh emerge from a difficult time, an extended period of social exploitations, weighed under by the heavy burden of taxes implemented under the Dogra regime and extreme poverty. Kushok Bakula would always be remembered for effectively guiding Ladakh through this troubled time, simultaneously fulfilling his duties as Monk, Scholar and Statesman.
The young prince was born on 17th May 1917, the auspicious day of Vaisakh Purnima (birthday of Lord Buddha), to King Nangwa Thayas and Queen Yeshe Wangmo of the Matho royal family. He was recognized by the 13th Dalai Lama when barely five-years-old, as the 19th incarnation of Arhat Bakula and given the name Lobzang Thupstan Chognor. At the age of 13, he went to Lhasa to study at the Drepung Loseling Monastic Institute and obtained the highest degree in Philosophy and Metaphysics (Geshe lharampa). The supreme wisdom he attained during those years helped him effectively navigate the social and political changes Ladakh went through soon after he returned from Tibet. Along with his monastic duties, he joined politics in 1949 at the behest of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India.
Kushok Bakula Rinpoche was a rare combination of Monk, Scholar and Statesman. The images in the exhibition and the catalogue are a celebration of his life, a recognition of the immense contribution he made to Ladakh and to the wider nation of India. They draw from as many facets of his life as possible, from his youth through to his distinguished career as a learned monk and renowned international leader. The visuals are drawn from many public and private collections, including those of Sankar Monastery. It is hoped that in the generations to come, the people of Ladakh will continue to uphold him in the highest regard and honour his selfless spirit.
Excerpt from the book Monk, Scholar and Statesman: The 19th Kushok Bakula Rinpoche, 2017.
About the Artist