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Tibetan Thangka Paintings
July 1st, 2010 by Aldouspi

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Part of the spiritual representation of Tibetan Buddhism is the symbolic Tibetan Thangka Painting. Centuries old, Thangka art is a uniquely Tibetan tradition that began somewhere between the 7th and 12th centuries.

Painted on canvas and mounted in silk brocade, a thangka is more than just a work of art. It is an object of devotion, an aid to spiritual practice, and a bringer of blessings.

Tibetan thangka paintings come in a huge variety of styles, depicting various subjects - mandalas, goddesses, and gurus, for example. A thangka may portray the Buddha or some other deity, or a concept in Tibetan cosmology, astrology or medicine. The iconography of the thangka is rich in information about the spiritual practice of Buddhists and the Tibetan worldview. Beyond its beauty, they can help the viewer reach new understanding of the Universe...

Thangka were painted in all the areas where Tibetan Buddhism flourished, which, besides Tibet, included Mongolia, Ladakh, Sikkim, and parts of Himalayan India in Arunachal Pradesh, Dharamsala, and Lahaul and Spiti district in Himachal Pradesh. It is also practiced in parts of Russia (Kalmykia, Buryatia, and Tuva) and Northeast China.

Thangka serve as important teaching tools depicting the life of the Buddha, various influential lamas and other deities and bodhisattvas. One subject is The Wheel of Life (Bhavachakra), which is a visual representation of the Abhidharma teachings (Art of Enlightenment). The term may sometimes be used of works in other media than painting, including reliefs in metal and woodblock prints.

Today printed reproductions at poster size of painted thangka are commonly used for devotional as well as decorative purposes. Many thangka were produced in sets, though they have often subsequently become separated.

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