Buddhist
Architecture
in the Western
Himalayas
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 Nesar Gompa is located on the west side of the village of Bijer (Bicher/ Phijor/Vijer) in Upper Dolpo. It 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 foundation of the gompa goes back at least to the 12th century. The collection of Tibetan illuminated manuscripts which have been preserved here, is exceptional in quality and quantity.
Surrounded by a group of houses and chörten of different construction periods, the gompa can be easily recognized by its typical red painted walls. Through a project named Revival of Vijer[1] the Nesar Gompa was restored between 2001-2005, with new space for the library on the first floor of the gompa and a community house, which was directly attached on the north-eastern wall of the gompa. In the years 2005-2009 a hospital was constructed on the southwest side, which now ensures medical care in the region.[2]
Built on a brick pedestal, the formerly free standing gompa measures 9.35 metres along the south-east façade, 12.00 metres along the opposite north-west façade and 16.50 metres along the side façades. The entrance faces towards southeast. The layout of the trapezoidal ground floor consists of a six-pillar assembly hall (with three half-pillars on each side wall), a two-pillar cella and a narrow ambulatory around the cella. The interior is 7.60 metres wide at the entrance side and widens along its total depth of 14.70 along the central axis to 10 metres at the rear wall of the gompa. The total area of the interior encompasses 130 square metres. Above the two consoles which support the main beam in front of the cella, an older crossbeam with wood carvings and five lion consoles is situated. Another directly attached beam shows two Garudas on the end of the beams protruding from the cella into the assembly hall. These components clearly indicate that the former entrance to the gompa was located in this position and the assembly hall was erected in a later construction phase. Based on these indications, the reconstruction of the early building phase shows a 8.75 bzw. 10.00 metres wide and 7.90 metres deep floor plan, with a 2.00 metres deep space in front of the cella and its ambulatory, which was extended by an assembly hall in the 14th century.
In the centre of the assembly hall, a ceiling opening was installed in the course of the renovation, which allows an insight into the newly built library on the upper floor. The large window of the library above the gompa’s entrance lights up even the ground floor. 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.
References
Heller, Amy. Hidden Treasures of the Himalayas. Tibetan manuscripts, paintings and sculptures of Dolpo. Chicago 2009, p. 45-75
Snellgrove, David. Himalayan Pilgrimage. A study of Tibetan religion by a treveller through Western Nepal. Oxford 1961, p. 129

Site plan

Map of the landscape around Nesar Gompa in Bijer/Upper Dolpo. TU Graz, Auer 2021

Site plan of Nesar Gompa. TU Graz, Auer 2021

Schematic floor plan of the Nesar Gompa in Bijer. TU Graz, Auer 2021.

Photo documentation

West part of the village, seen from the southern mountain range. Auer 2018

West part of the village, seen from the southern mountain range. Auer 2018

The Nesar Gompa seen from the southern mountain range. Auer 2018

South-eastern view of the Nesar Gompa with the new hospital on the left. Auer 2018

Eastern view of the Nesar Gompa and the community house. Auer 2018

North-eastern view of the Nesar Gompa with the community house in front. Auer 2018

Southern view of the Nesar Gompa seen from the terrace below. Auer 2018

North-western view of the Nesar Gompa with the new community house, next to it the new hospital. Auer 2018

North-western view of the Nesar Gompa before restoration. Amy Heller 2003

Interior decoration

View to the cella on the ground floor inside the Nesar Gompa. Auer 2018

The assembly hall in front of the cella. Heller 2018

Entrance to the passage on the left side of the cella. Auer 2018

Lion consoles and Garudas above the main beam in front of the cella. Auer 2018

Fragments of the older ceiling above the lion consoles and Garudas. Auer 2018

Fragments of the older ceiling above the lion consoles and Garudas. Auer 2018

The open lantern to the upper floor above the assembly room. Auer 2018

The open lantern to the upper floor above the assembly room. Auer 2018

Holger Neuwirth, Tashi Bhuti and Amy Heller in front of the New Library on the upper floor. Auer 2018


More fromNepal

Kagar

Kagar

Tsa

Tsa

Crystal Mountain

Crystal Mountain

Yangtser

Yangtser

Ringmo

Ringmo

Tokyu

Tokyu