Thangkas 1: How they are Made

One of the most beautiful art forms in Buddhist culture is the tradition of thangka painting which has flourished in all cultures under Tibetan influence. Today there is a short video documentary on the arts involved in the making of the thangka amongst traditional craftsmen in Nepal, and tomorrow I will follow it with some beautiful photographs of some of the best thangkas I’ve seen. Here is some more information about the art adapted from the Wikipedia article on thangkas:

00-ShakyamuniA thangka is a silk painting with embroidery, usually depicting a Buddhist deity, famous scene, or mandala of some sort. Generally, thankgas last a very long time and retain much of their lustre, but because of their delicate nature, they have to be kept in dry places where moisture won’t affect the quality of the silk. It is sometimes called a scroll-painting.

Originally, thangka painting became popular among traveling monks because the scroll paintings were easily rolled and transported from monastery to monastery. These thangka served as important teaching tools depicting the life of the Buddha, the Bodhisattvas, deities and influential lamas. Thangka therefore perform several different functions. They can be used as teaching tools when depicting the life of the Buddha, describing historical events concerning important Lamas, or retelling myths associated with the deities.

Devotional images act as the centerpiece during a ritual or ceremony and are often used as mediums through which one can offer prayers or make requests. Overall, and perhaps most importantly, religious art is used as a meditation tool to help bring one further along the path to enlightenment. The Buddhist Vajrayana practitioner uses a thanga image of their yidam, or meditation deity, as a guide, by visualizing themselves as being that deity, thereby internalizing the Buddha qualities.

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