literatures, religions, and arts of the himalayan region

To honeybee or not to honeybee, that is the question?
An investigation of interdependence and survival in the Himalayas and U.S.A.

Created by Ben Zimmerman
McAuliffe Regional Charter Public School
Framingham, MA



MISSION TWO: Religions


Economic and Social Implications

MISSION FIVE: Culminating Activities


Religions of the Himalaya

Religion plays an integral role in the livelihood of nearly all humanity in the Himalayan reaches of the world.  The major influences of Hinduism and Buddhism have their roots and many sacred locales originating in this vast region.  For example, Mount Kailash is considered sacred in four religions—Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Bön faith.  Thus, there have been no recorded attempts to climb Mount Kailash.  Islam also has a strong and growing influence in the Himalayas, particularly in the western Himalaya and Hindu Kush mountain regions.  Relatively speaking, the many religious practices of the Himalaya region have lived been practiced for hundreds of years in congruency. 

For the sake of the “To Honeybee or Not To…” extensive background in the various creeds found in the Himalaya is up to your schedule.  An effective survey of at least Hinduism and Buddhism will prove positive for the unit’s culmination. 

Some key concepts from the religions of the Himalaya that should be gathered are as follows:

  • Strict devotion to one’s faith in daily life
  • Interdependence
  • Religion as a social crutch; religion as a social obstacle (i.e. Buddhism-enlightenment, Hinduism-caste system)

Role of Religion in the U.S.A.

Comparatively, the role of religion in the highly secularized U.S.A. is predominately influenced by Christianity.  A discussion and inquiry of the impact of religion in the U.S.A. on the small-scale farmer would be an applicable avenue to venture down, but is not guaranteed to grant many parallels to those impacts found in the Himalaya.

Machhendranath: An opening activity to grasp the gravity of religious influence in the Himalaya

An elaborate example of the role ritual and religion have in the Himalaya is displayed in the film “On the Road with the Red God: Machhendranath,” by Kesang Tseten.  The film takes place in and around the town of Patan, Nepal.  The Buddhist festival takes place before the seasonal monsoon as an effort for Lord Machhendrath to bring rain.  A giant chariot with a 60ft+ pillar housing the Lord is pushed around the area of Patan.  The plan was to use tantric mantras to change Machhendranath into a bee and bring him back in a ceremonial vase. The plan worked perfectly and the tantric through rituals and mantras captured the God in his vase.  The hope was to prevent another epic 12-year drought like the one that legend says began this festival.

Click here for text backgound on the Machhendranath Festival.

Possible directions to guide discussion of film:
What role do honeybees play in the Machhendranath festival?
How does interdependence play out before the festival? During?
To what extent(s) do people’s beliefs in their religion impact their life decisions? 






This site was created by Ben Zimmerman at the NEH Summer Institute "Literatures, Religions, and Arts of the Himalayan Region," held at the College of the Holy Cross, Summer 2008.