Thangka painting has its origins in Tibetian Buddhist paintings. These paintings are made in Bhutan, Nepal, Tibet, and India. Thangka paintings are made on cotton, silk, and human skin depicting the ‘mandala’ (Mandala in Sanskrit means is a spiritual and ritual symbol representing the universe). Thangka paintings usually represent the life of Buddha.
The Thangka Painting Gallery
There are multiple Thangka painting galleries in Bhutan and Nepal. I visited one of these galleries. The place is located next to an ancient paper mill in Thimphu town. The ‘Thangkha Painting Gallery’ is a school for many who want to learn as well as this place has some of the incredible paintings in the display room.
Visitors are not allowed to record or capture the final paintings. With permission, I managed to get the video and photos of those people who were working at this gallery. Thanks to the friendly staff. The gallery has paintings, craftworks, dragon masks, cloth items. The staff explained to us how it is made, the colors used, when and where it is used, etc.
Also read: 4000 years old Domkhar Rock Art Sanctuary
How is Thangka Painting made?
The detailed work, the amount of time and training involved in doing each of these paintings astonished me. It takes more than 6-9 years to master this painting work. Each of these paintings takes almost 1 year of work to complete. No wonder why these paintings are so expensive. The size of each of these paintings varies from A4 size to huge paintings, which are displayed in Monasteries during rituals or ceremonies.
Check out the video below where you can see the Thangka Painting gallery which is in Thimphu and people are busy with their artwork. These Thangka Paintings are super expensive and can easily cost 1000s of American US dollars. I have found a few online which is inexpensive but are equally good, ideal for home decor.
Most of the Thangka paintings are traditionally kept unframed and rolled up when not on display. These paintings are made of natural color and are very delicate, have to be kept away from moisture. These paintings depict the life of Buddha, mantras, various influential lamas, the visual representation of the art of enlightenment, etc.
At this art gallery, you will find professional artists painting with natural colors. Also, there are other handmade crafts, like the mask used in festivals where they perform the mask dance.
Traditional Paper Mill
Also, if you go a little further outside of this gallery, you will find the old traditional way of making paper. These traditional ways of making take time and money and this is the only mill that is present as of today. The papers are mainly used for artwork, paintings, manuscripts. The paintings and manuscripts are kept available for sale at this art gallery. Also, you get notebooks made of these papers which is expensive.
In short, these paintings are beautiful. A close-up view of these paintings will show you the kind of effort that has gone into the making of each of these masterpieces. No wonder the finished product is so expensive considering the training it takes to make this, the natural colors, and most importantly the time it takes to complete just one painting.