What is Thangka?
For over a thousand years the tradition of the Tibetan Buddhist Thangka has flourished in the shrines and monasteries across the great Himalayan range, at the roof of the world. To this day, from the present home of the Dalai Lama in Northern India, through the mountain kingdom of Nepal, to Tibet, “The land of snows”, there are Artisans still reproducing these magnificent works in the time honoured way.
Thangka's are religious paintings made on cotton canvas or silk. It is believed that the art spread from Nepal to Tibet along with Buddhism after Bhrikuti, a Nepali princess, was married off to Tsrong Tsang Gyampo, the King of Tibet.
The word ‘Thangka’, means ‘that which can be rolled up’, as it was a scroll in form, which could be easily carried by itinerant monks and used as a teaching tool or to give a sense of protection to the traveller. To this day Buddhist Lamas use these scroll artworks in their ceremonies. They are to be found in shrine rooms and temples as a focus for devotional practice of meditation or in people’s home to ward off misfortune.
For Buddhists, Thangka's have religious value, while for art lovers they have aesthetic importance.
Traditionally, Thangka's are painted by using powdered natural pigment made from ground stones and resins from boiled leaves. This is then mixed with water and Yak skin gum to give the paint a permanent finish. The medium is then applied with a fine brush (sometimes with as little as 3 hairs) to a canvas that has been carefully stretched. The stretching is done by attaching the four sides of the canvas by twine to four strips of wood, which in turn are tied to a frame. The front and back of the canvas are then treated in various ways to create a smooth effect, using a glue which is applied first, followed by the application of a mixture of rice flour and plaster. The surface is then smoothed off to make it ready for the initial sketching. After a few days the surface is capable of taking the finest detail