Creating Digital and Global Citizens



An Academic Workshop from August 03- 07, 2018

Buddhist Sacred Sites in Nepal through Virtual Reality: A Modeling Project and Instructional Workshop from August 03 to August 07, 2018 @Dibyabhumi Multiple College

This project will create 3D virtual reality models of selected Buddhist sites in Nepal. It will also offer a five day introductory workshop in which the techniques and methods used create 3D virtual reality models will be taught. The models produced will be used to help teach Himalayan Buddhism to college students at the University of North Carolina, and will be shared with the communities associated with each site. Each Buddhist community may choose to make the models public if they like, or may restrict access according to their own judgement.


What are 3D Virtual Reality (VR) Models?

Virtual reality programs use precise photographic techniques (photogrammetry) to create immersive 3D models that allow viewers to enter and navigate a virtual space using any internet-connected device. Using only a computer (or smartphone), a person who has been given access to a VR model of an object or a space can move around the site in all directions, zooming in (to look at particular features more closely) and changing direction according to will. Using an inexpensive headset that attaches to a smartphone, a person can have a fully immersive experience—what they see in the headset will change as they move their eyes or turn their head. For someone with a headset and access to a high quality virtual reality model, the experience while wearing the headset can almost be like actually being in the place they are seeing. As the viewer looks up, down and around, they can see the sky (or ceiling), the walls, the ornaments, the floor. With a more expensive headset, a viewer can literally walk around in the site, approaching a wall or object and watching it grow larger, revealing the detail and the texture as if the viewer were actually physically present in that place. At more advanced levels, VR models can be enhanced with sounds and allow movement — for example, a viewer could click on the model to spin a prayer wheel. For people unable to visit sacred sites in person, virtual reality offers the next best possibility to visit and experience holy Buddhist sites.


Creating the Models

We are currently seeking Buddhist sites (gompas, bahals/bahils, shrines, caves,pilgrimage sites and other places of devotion and Buddhist practice) to create exemplary models for use in college classes at the University of North Carolina. Creating a virtual reality (VR) model entails taking a detailed series of pictures using precise photogrammetric techniques and then building  a model from the images using advanced computer software. Depending on the size of the space, photography can take from 30 minutes to several hours. After that, the work is done on the computer.


The photography process is non-intrusive. Nothing will be touched or moved at the site. However, it is necessary that the photography be done at a quiet time when there are not many visitors.


When the photography has been done and the computer models have been completed, they will be hosted on a password protected website at the University of North Carolina. Associations or communities associated with the modeled site will be given the password and access to the model, which they are free to distribute or not according to their preferences. If the community wishes to embed the model in a website of their own creation, we do our best to assist in that process. We are also happy to share the raw model data (including the model and all photographs used to create it) with the community/association if desired. Models will not be used for any commercial purposes or financial profit to the professor, students or the university. For us, this is purely for educational purposes. However, communities are welcome to use the models in any way they see fit.


We hope that the communities associated with any sites we model will be enthusiastic about the goal of helping to teach Buddhism to American students who are not wealthy enough to travel to Nepal themselves. We are eager to build longer term relationships with Buddhist communities who wish to partner in this effort.


The Workshop

In addition to creating models for the educational instruction of UNC students, this project includes a workshop for Nepalis interested in learning 3D Virtual Reality modeling techniques.  The workshop is open to all qualified applicants, however, the size will be limited to ensure effective instruction and community members/applicants with connections to the places being modeled or other Nepali religious sites may be privileged for selection. We hope this knowledge transfer will empower Nepali associations and individuals to use the technologies thus learned in original ways, as well as help communities manage the models that we create together according to their own interests and benefit.


The workshop will last 5 days. It is free to selected participations and lunch and snacks will be provided. Participants are required to provide their own cameras and laptops. The workshop will take place in August 2018 (dates to be determined) in Kathmandu (location also TBD). See below for application instructions.


Application Process

To apply for the workshop, please send an email to In the email, please mention your:


  • Name
  • Address (home and email)
  • How did you learn about this workshop?
  • Why are you interested to participate?
  • Please describe yourself and your background in a few sentences.
  • Do you have access to a camera? What kind is it?

(A DSLR camera is preferred for photogrammetry; however, simpler cameras may also work.)

  • Describe your photography experience. Do you feel comfortable using manual settings on a DSLR camera? If you are an experienced photographer, please explain.
  • This workshop will require the use of a laptop computer. Do you have access to a laptop computer that you can bring to the workshop site?
  • What computer programs do you have experience using?

(Experience with particular programs is not required; however, participants with experience with computer games, 3D modeling software, GIS software, or Adobe software–e.g. PhotoShop, Illustrator, etc.–find this helpful.

  • Optional: If you have a connection with a religious site or institution that you think would be good to model, please mention:    

Name and location of the site

What religion(s) is practiced there?

Is photography allowed at this location? If there is a building or important structure where worship takes places, is photography allowed in the building or would we be able to get special permission to take pictures for this purpose?

Are you confident that the community would support this kind of project? If so, how do you know that? If not, who could we contact to discuss this project with them?

Please attach your resume or Curriculum Vitae

Application deadline: July 23, 2018.

If you have questions or for more information, please contact Dr. Lauren Leve, Associate Professor of Religious Studies and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (

This project is sponsored by the Center for Faculty Excellence at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies.