Thangka Art

Brief History

The tradition of Thangka paintings originate from India. During Buddha’s life, his main patron, Anathapindika sent his daughter to Sri Lanka after receiving the Buddha’s blessing, to marry the King of Sri Lanka. As a thank you, the King asked his artists to paint the Buddha. However, every artist sent to paint Buddha, realised they were unable to capture the exquisiteness of the Buddha. The rays of light that Buddha emitted shone so brightly that the artists were unable to see their own work. After the Buddha understood no one could paint him, he went to the lake one day and peered into the water, after seeing his reflection in the still water, the artists drew him onto a large piece of cloth. 

This representation was then sent to the King of Sri Lanka, along with words form the sutras. The thangka was so large that the King hung it up in his palace so all visitors could admire the beauty. Thus, the first Thangka came to exist.

In every Thangka painting, though impossible to represent all the features and markings of an enlightened being, there are four major symbols. The first is a depiction of the Buddha’s mother standing under the Sala Tree to represent the Buddha’s birth. The second symbol is enlightenment shown by Buddha sitting on a throne by the Bodhi tree emitting rays of lights. The third symbol is to depict the turning of the wheel of the dharma, portrayed as Buddha next to the Bodhi tree giving his teachings. Lastly, the fourth symbol, symbolises the passing of the Buddha in Parinirvna, and so the Buddha is shown laying on a bed-like throne between two Sala trees.

Thangka paintings  are a form of meditation. Some of them are done with sand and can take between 3-5 years to make. Once the Thangka painting has been finished, a ceremony takes place to celebrate this artwork, after the ceremony has finished the painting is destroyed as representation of the permanence of life. Children are going to monasteries when they are 3 years old to learn how to do Thangka paintings.  – Our Thangka paintings are not prints they are done by hand and are done the traditional way. Most of the Thangka painting that exist are not signed as it strays from the traditional aspect of the creation of this painting.