I saw the Calender version of Thangkas framed in a house tour posted in one of my oft visited blogs :) "Once Upon a Tea Time Design Stories" and was inspired to finish and publish this post. I am glad that Thangka is going to be my come-back post after a month long hiatus.
Circa, 605 CE, King Srong Tsan Gampo united Tibet. As part of a political diplomacy, he married Princess Chizun, also known as Princess Bhikruti of Nepal and Princess Wencheng of the Tang Dynasty. He constructed Potala Palace and decorated them with murals and Fresco, and there by promoted Tibetan style of painting. Princess Bhrikuti, a devout buddhist, is said to have brought the images of Aryawalokirteshwar and other Nepalese deities and the Nepalese art form - Thangka to Tibet.
As of today, we can find exquisite Tibetan, Nepali and Bhutanese versions of Thangkas on murals and fresco in monasteries and palaces, and as scroll on cotton and silk.
There are prints and postcard version for those who cannot afford original Thangkas.
Thangka - technique and process
Although the process seems to be too mechanical and very scientific, an artist needs to have a strong understanding of the symbolism involved to capture the spirit of the thangka he creates. Most of the Thangkas are explicitly religious and every symbol or emotion depicted must follow the guidelines laid out in Buddhist scripture.
Buddhist monks who traveled from one monastery to another used thangka paintings as a teaching tool which could be rolled up and carried around. As of today, Thangkas are more than just wall hangings or art. A well made Thangka is an exquisite piece of art and is used -
- as a teaching tools when depicting the life of Buddha
- as a medium describing historical events related to Lamas, narrating myths associated with various deities.
- as the centerpiece during a ritual or ceremony
- as a meditation tool to help bring one closer to divinity
- The most common ones are painted in colors
- Cloth Appliqué
- Based on the Background - Gold, Black or Red
A thangka generally portrays the Life and teachings of Buddha, any other religious deity, or a concept in Tibetan cosmology, astrology or medicine. These paintings generally represent Buddhist and Hindu Gods, Goddesses, meditating Buddha and His life cycle, wheel of Life, Mandala, Bhairab, Manjushree, Green Tara etc.