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12 The Lost Paintings of Kesar

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Chapter Summary

This chapter brings together the sources and surviving illustrations of a set of mural paintings that were already lost almost a century ago. The paintings existed at the house of the Kalon in Changspa, on the edge of Leh, and are said to depict the epic hero Kesar. The first reference to the Kalon in connection with Kesar comes from 1865 in an exchange of letters between Professor Anton Schiefner of St. Petersburg and the Moravian missionary Heinrich August Jäschke. In October 1865, Jäschke wrote that the Kalon possessed a written copy of the Kesar epic, but was unwilling to let any outsider read the text, let alone copy it. The Kesar saga subsequently became one of Hermann Francke's particular research interests, in part because he believed that it gave an insight into the pre-Buddhist religion of Ladakh.

Keywords: Heinrich August Jäschke; Hermann Francke; Kalon; Kesar; Ladakh; mural paintings



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