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The valley of Bijer, seen from northwest. Auer 2018
The valley of Bijer, seen from northwest. Auer 2018
The valley of Bijer, seen from northwest. Auer 2018
The terraced fields on the west side of the village. Auer 2018
The Nesar Gompa on the west side of the village. Auer 2018
The Nesar Gompa seen from the northern residential quarter. Auer 2018

Nesar Gompa of Bijer

Coordinates of the site: 29°27’8.06” northern latitude and 82°54’51.36” eastern longitude, at an altitude of 3838 meters.

The village of Bijer consists of about fifty houses, arranged along a small stream which descends from the direction of the “Purple Mountain” and flows into the Shey river about two miles below Samling. The Nesar Gompa is located on the western side of the village. Surrounded by a group of houses and chörten of different construction periods, the gompa can be easily recognized by its typical redwashed walls. The foundation of the gompa goes back at least to the 11th or 12th century. The collection of Tibetan illuminated manuscripts which have been preserved here, isexceptional in quality and quantity. Through a project named Revival of Vijer[1] the Nesar gompa was restored between 2001-2005, with extended space for the library on the first floor of the temple. Later a two storied community house was directly attached on the north-east side of the temple, and until 2009 a hospital was constructed next to the temple on the south-west side, which now ensures medical care in the region.[2] At present day Lama Tenzin Gyaltsen is responible for the Nesar Gompa and the Monastery of Lang, which is located 2.4 kilometres northwest of Bijer.
Built on a stone pedestal, the formerly free standing temple measures 9.86 metres along the south-east façade, 11.41 metres along the opposite north-west façade and 15.70 resp. 16.25 metres along the side facades. The entrance is oriented towards south-east. The layout of the ground floor consists of a six-pillar assembly hall (with six more supporting pillars next to the side walls), a two-pillar cella and a narrow ambulatory around the cella. The interior is 8.50 metres wide at the entrance side and widens along its total depth of 14.73 metres along the central axis to 10.12 metres at the rear wall of the temple. The passage from the assembly hall to the cella is structured by a wooden construction with book shelves above and is latticed by metal bars. The cella is 6.25 metres wide and 4.00 metres deep and is accessed via three wooden steps on the left side of the 3.00 metres wide wall opening through a door. The figure pedestal in the centre of the cella is surrounded by floor-to-ceiling book shelves on the side and back walls of the room. Behind the shelves, pillars can be seen directly in front of the side walls, which provide additional support for the transverse main beam here. To the right and left of the cella, next to the ceiling-high prayer wheels in front of it, the ambulatory with a wide between 0.80 and 1.30 metres can be accessed. The walls are only partially plastered and show traces of various repairs. A row of prayer wheels was added on the rear part of the ambulatory – at the wall to the cella – and a door to the annex on the northeast side was built in the northern corner. The room heights vary from 3.47 meters in the cella, to 3.53 meters in the front area of the cella, to 3.26 meters in the rear area and 2.52 meters in the left side area of the circumambulation.
Above the first row of pillars in front of the cella, an older crossbeam with wood carvings and eight lion consoles is situated. Directly above four garudas in irregular arrangement can be found. These components indicate the original expansion of the structure and the assembly hall was erected in a later construction phase. Based on these indications, the reconstruction of the early building phase shows a 8.70 respectively 10.12 metres wide and – along the central axis – 8.70 metres deep floor plan, with a 2.30 metres deep space in front of the cella and its ambulatory, which was extended by an assembly hall in an expansion phase in the 14th century. In the centre of the assembly hall, a ceiling opening allows an insight into the upper floor. Although the ceiling and the wooden structures of the lantern above the assembly hall as well as the rooms on the upper floor were renewed or extended in the course of the renovation, older photos of the temple show that there was already an upper floor above the temple before, but with a lower room height of about 1.70 meters. The large window of the room above the temple’s entrance lights up even the ground floor. The rooms of the upper floor can be accessed through the community house.

[1] The Revival of Vijer Project was initiated and founded by Mr. & Mrs. Pritzker and Mr. & Mrs. Roncoroni. [2] In the years 2001-2010 a primary school with an annex school hostel were built in the village. 2013-2015 a cheese factory were built at the eastern end of the valley, which improved the income situation of the villagers. Informations of Tashi Bhuti, Bijer 2018.

Heller, Amy. 2023. Preliminary Remarks on Bonpo Manuscripts in Dolpo. In: Bon and Naxi Manuscripts, eds. by Agnieszka Helman-Ważny and Charles Ramble, Studies in Manuscript Cultures 28, Berlin: De Gruyter, 133-146.
Heller, Amy. 2009. Hidden Treasures of the Himalayas. Tibetan manuscripts, paintings and sculptures of Dolpo. Chicago: Serindia Publications.
Snellgrove, David. 1961. Himalayan Pilgrimage. A study of Tibetan religion by a treveller through Western Nepal.Oxford, 129.

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