Newar at the University of Toronto


Also known as Nevāḥ Bhāy, Nepāl Bhāṣā, or Newārī, Newar still spoken by just under a million people, is, with Burmese and Tibetan, the third Tibeto-Burman language to have produced, since about the 12th century, a conspicuous body of written literature, – one of the richest and most fascinating in South Asia. Its texts range from dramas to birth stories, from ritual manuals to sacred historiographies, from Sanskrit-inspired kāvya and song to contemporary poetry and the modern novel. It is the language of the Newars, – the community that shaped the culture and the society of the Kathmandu Valley, who produced a unique form of Buddhism while developing a rich Hindu heritage, who contributed like few others towards building Buddhism in Tibet, preserving Hindu and Buddhist Tantric manuscripts and practices, and who keep supplying the Buddhist world with the most exquisite visual artifacts. For getting around in the old Nepalese cities Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhaktapur and doing research on Hinduism, Buddhism, and to a lesser degree Islam and Christianity, colloquial Newar can be as useful as Nepali, the country’s official language.
 
UofT faculty working on Newar sources are Christoph Emmrich, who does research on Newar Buddhism, ritual, gender, and childhood, and Joel Tatelman, who specializes on Newar Buddhist narrative literature. Nepal Studies at UofT are further represented by the geographer Katharine Rankin, who works on post-revolution state-building and infrastructure development in Nepal.
 
UofT is the only place in the world outside of Nepal where Newar is taught regularly and following academic standards, both in its colloquial and in its literary forms and at all levels (beginners, intermediate, and advanced). It is taught at the Department for the Study of Religion by Christoph Emmrich. For a sample syllabus see here.