Each Thangka is prepared on a layer of gesso, and created
with ground mineral-pigments,
including 24 carat Gold, Silver,
Azurite and Lapis Lazuli blues, Cinnabar
and Vermillion reds,
Ochre yellow, Minium orange, Malachite green,
and Cadmium whites, and Carbon black.
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Tibetan word thangka means "rolled up," because this art is painted
on flexible material-cotton or silk that can easily be rolled up for transport.
Thangkas are used in processions, and monks carry their personal thangkas with
them when visiting other monasteries. Their purpose is not to decorate otherwise
empty walls but to serve as aids to ritual worship and meditative visualization,
which is at the heart of Tibetan Buddhist spirituality. The finished painting
is usually but not always placed in a frame of brocade, which further emphasizes
the sacred nature of a thangka.
of the good and the beautiful-spiritual life and art-have a long intertwined history
that goes back to the Paleolithic. We can see the extraordinary relationship between
the pursuit of spiritual realization and aesthetic expression most strikingly
in the Buddhist art of Tibet.
are portable paintings or, more rarely, embroideries depicting mainly Buddhist
deities (Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Protectors) and venerated lineage teachers
(lamas) in a highly symbolic landscape. These figures are typically seated or
standing on lotus thrones, holding or surrounded by their characteristic emblems
from vajra (dorje) symbol, hand bell, cymbals, conch, begging bowl, canonical
manuscripts to staff, ritual sword, dagger, trident, and bow and arrow. The landscape
itself either represents one of the heavenly realms or a transfigured earth at
the intersection between material and spiritual reality. It is populated by puffy
clouds "like white curd," mountains, valleys, trees and other vegetation,
lakes, monasteries, pagodas, birds, fish, land animals, auspicious signs (of which
there are eight), offering bowls, and not least disciples in a prayerful attitude.
Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, as well as lineage masters have halos and often also
body nimbuses, whereas fierce protector deities such as Mahâkâla or
Kâlarûpa are surrounded by a circle of flames.
thankas feature mandalas or circular sacred spaces occupied by the main deity
in the center, protector deities in the four directions, and often a host of other
celestial beings outside the inner circle of the geometric construct. A mandala
is a cosmogram, an idealized map of the larger universe. Psychologically speaking,
it is a tool for integration. Spiritually speaking, it is a device for focusing
the mind in meditation. All thangka imagery shares in this mandalic quality and
from "The Sacred Art
of Thangka Painting" by Georg Feuerstein