The 9 Spiritual, Religious and artistic facts about Thangka Painting

Thangka painting is integral part of way of Buddhist life. Wherever you travel in most of the popular Buddhist sites in the word, you find the presence of Thangka tremendously. Either you make Lhasa Explore Tour for peace of mind or embark on Bhutan Cultural Tour for spirituality of soul; you will be lured by the creativity of Thangka. Stroll around Bouddhanath Stupa or explore outside of Swayambhunath Stupa or visit to Lumbini-the birthplace of Gautam Buddha in covering your Kathmandu Tour, the display of Thangka paintings at each destination move you.

Thangka painting - Bhutan Cultural Tour
Thangka painting – Bhutan Cultural Tour

Thangka, meaning a written record, is a Nepalese art form exported to Tibet after Princess Bhrikuti of Nepal, daughter of King Lichchavi, married with Songtsän Gampo, the ruler of Tibet. Colorful Thangka paintings generally represent Buddhist and Hindu Gods, Goddesses, meditating Buddha and his life cycle, Wheel of Life, Mandala, Bhairab, Exotic pictures, etc. Thangka painting involves mastery of many demanding techniques. Newari Thankas also known as Paubha, has been the hidden art work in Kathmandu valley from 13th century.

  1. Thangka serves as important teaching tools depicting the life of the Buddha, various influential lamas and other deities and bodhisattvas. The prime subject of Thangka is “The Wheel of Life”, which is a visual representation of Art of Enlightenment.
  2. The Vajrayana Buddhists use a Thangka image of their Yidam, or meditation deity, as a guide, by visualizing “themselves as being that deity, thereby internalizing the Buddha qualities.
  3. History of Thangka Paintings in Nepal began in 11th century A.D. when Buddhists and Hindus began to make illustration of the deities and natural scenes. From the fifteenth century onwards, brighter colors gradually began to appear in Nepalese Thangka. Because of the growing importance of the Tantric cult, various aspects of Shiva and Shakti were painted in conventional poses. Mahakala, Manjushri, Lokeshwara and other deities were equally popular and so were also frequently represented in Thangka paintings of later dates.
  4. Religious paintings worshipped as icons are known as Paubha in Newari and Thangka in Tibetan. The origin of Paubha or Thangka paintings may be attributed to the Nepalese artists responsible for creating a number of special metal works and wall – paintings as well as illuminated manuscripts in Tibet. Realizing the great demand for religious icons in Tibet, these artists, along with monks and traders, took with them from Nepal.
  5. To better fulfill the ever – increasing demand Nepalese artists initiated a new type of religious painting on cloth that could be easily rolled up and carried along with them. This type of painting became very popular both in Nepal and Tibet and so a new school of Thangka painting evolved as early as the ninth or tenth century and has remained popular even to this day.
  6. Thanka painting’s lining and measurement, costumes, implementations and ornaments are mostly based on Indian styles. The drawings of figures are based on Nepalese style and the background sceneries are based on Chinese style. So, the Thangka painting is a unique and distinctive art.
  7. Tibetans do not sell Thangka on a large scale as the selling of religious artifacts such as Thangka and idol is frowned upon in the Tibetan community. For, Lamas Thangka is object of religious importance. It is an object of devotion, an aid to spiritual practice, and a bringer of blessings.
  8. Thangka painting requires extended concentration, attention to detail, and knowledge of Buddhist philosophy, and must be carried out in a peaceful environment. From the canvas preparation and drawing of the subject, through to mixing and applying colors, decorating with gold, and mounting the finished work in brocade, the creation of a Thangka painting involves skill and care at each stage and displays meticulous detail and exquisite artisanship.
  9. Early Nepalese Thangkas are simple in design and composition. The main deity, a large figure, occupies the central position while surrounded by smaller figures of lesser divinities.

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