Buddhist Architecture in the Western Himalaya
FWF Research Project P22857


  Sumda Chung
General description
Sumda Chung Pictures

The foundation of the temple in Sumda Chung is related to Rin-chen-zhang-po and should be dated to the 11th century. Built on the altitude of 3500m the architectural history of the temple has been dominated by the topography of the site.

Sumda Chung, as we can see it today, consists of a main room with an apse, an over-roofed veranda and two side niches, which are to be accessed from the veranda and have been attached to the main cella in a later period. The shape of the temple is charactericed by an unusual roof-construction above the apse. There the trefoliated latern is covered by another flat roof-latern, which adds a particular element to the shape. The site is on a slope and the entrance faces Southeast towards the valley. The cella with the apse, which today is the remaining part of the original structure, is built on solid rock, whereas the veranda and parts of the niches have foundations of stone masonry. These stone terraces have obviously been sliding away a several times in the past, most probably as a consequence of rain waters coming down the mountain and causing the breakaway of the veranda and also parts of the niches at least two times. Remains of older constructions can be traced by analysing the wooden beam structure of the roof of the veranda and the niches. [...]

After several years of attemps to get access to the niche for an entire documentation of the Sumda Chung temple it was not until 2005 when the team of Holger Neuwirth first got permission to enter the niche. A detailed measurement and photographic documentation followed. The ground plan is a rectangle, 4,10 metres wide and 2,1 metres deep with a hight of 4,5 metres. An uncommon roof-construction that covers the niche gives the characteristic outward appearance. The threepartite wooden construction with a gabled roof lantern is once more protected by a flat roof that is higher than the main roof so it emphasises its appearance. Through a triangular window the 37 clay-figures on the inside-walls get daylight. They form a Vajradhatumahamandala with the central Buddha Vairocana in the middle. Until summer 2009 the niche was closed by a glass-structure and due to the danger of collapsing the interior space was occupied by supporting columns. During the renovation works the roof was renovated so almost all beams could have been removed and the niche was opened to receive the original impression of the interior space of the temple.

Text: Christian Luczanits

Site plan of Sumda Chung
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