Thangka are painted scrolls depicting Buddhist deities and their cosmic realities. Although they are installed in domestic spaces as a talisman against all evils,Thangka are intended as navigational aids for the spirit, guiding the viewer in his quest for spiritual realization. It is in their capacity to render the invisible visible through iconographic representation that serve as installations in monasteries and prayer halls or as displays during religious festivals at monasteries. Due to the potency that the paintings are believed to possess, the painter is required to undergo rigorous spiritual and artistic training and in many cases is a monastic initiate. The proportions and iconographic details of the deities follow canonical prescriptions and the artistic genius of the individual is considered subordinate to the religious responsibility of the painter. Thangka are not signed by the artist but are given to a lama who blesses them with sacred syllables. The finished painting is then taken to only the male tailors of the community who mount the work on a frame of heavy gyasser, silk brocade panels. They back the painting with plain cloth and secure the scroll at the top and the bottom to wooden rods, with brass or silver knots at each end. Below are some samples:
A craftsman stitching a thangka at the Handicraft Centre at Leh.
Detail of a thangka painting a the Handicraft Centre.
A thangka depicting the golden Prajnaparamita or Yum Chenmo who embodies Supreme Wisdom. She is identified by the book placed on the lotus near her head.