Winter in the Himalayas

Zanskar, the promises of winter

Thursday December 16 at 10:25 p.m. on Arte

The “sowers of joy”, as Caroline Riegel, the director of this documentary affectionately calls them, live in a tiny monastery nestled on the mountainside, above the village of Tungri, in Zanskar (India). The daily life of the thirteen nuns is punctuated by Buddhist prayers, rituals among the villagers and the maintenance of the nunnery whose possessions consist of two fields and two cows. The novices and the elderly share the tasks without any hierarchy, in a joyful complicity. ” A rough but peaceful life », Summarizes Caroline Riegel who, for fifteen years, has forged a solid friendship with them.

In 2015, she dedicated a film to them in which she introduced them to their country, India. In this new documentary, accompanied by the publication of a beautiful book of photographs, she shares a winter with them, when the snow isolates the valley perched at an altitude of 3,700 meters. After an epic journey (days of walking on a frozen river threatening to give way under his feet), the traveler slides her camera into their modest huts, captures their ancestral gestures, their giggles and their bickering. Over the course of touching secrets, this daily chronicle unveils the harsh condition of women in the Himalayas, where the extreme destitution of nuns seems enviable compared to the working life of mothers. Their dream: to be reincarnated as a nun, or better yet, as a man!

Caroline Riegel is worried about the future of the monastery in the face of the low turnover of staff and the onslaught of tourism which is about to surge with the construction of a road and the installation of fiber. Nuns take a lucid look at modern life: “To drink, to eat, to dress, we have much more, but the breath and the spirit are preoccupied. What’s the use of having too much money, too many clothes? »Asks one of the deans. Reflection to meditate in these times of agape.


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