Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism is synonymous with the colourful thangka painting. Depicting the Buddha and other cosmic Buddhas, as well as Bodhisattvas, Tantric deities, mandalas and fierce guardian deities, this cloth painting form has been one of the greatest artistic gifts of Tibet. Having its roots in the Indian form of cloth painting called pata (paubha in Nepali), this form of painting also forms an important link in the chain of South Asian art traditions. This historical significance, as well as the loveliness of the thangkas themselves is why you should head over to the Arts of the Earth Folk & Tribal Art Gallery (artsoftheearthindia.in) in Hauz Khas Village this February. The gallery is hosting Bodhisattva: An Exhibition of Thangka Paintings from February 1-20. Open from 11am to 6:30pm everyday except Mondays, the exhibition will give you a chance to see the best of modern thangka painting practices. The paintings on view have been created exclusively by Tibetan monks and date back to the 1960s.
Thangkas literally mean 'things that one unrolls', after the Sanskrit pata. Traditionally, thangka paintings are kept rolled up and only unfurled during festivals or Vajrayana pujas. Among the paintings exhibited are those related to the life of the Buddha, a popular subject, as well as depiction of historical events related to important monks. Some of the others depict myths associated with different deities. As is well known, while meditating using Vajrayana practices, many yogis use thangkas of mandalas or of their chosen deity to guide them into becoming one with the deity, which is the highest goal of such meditation practices. These thangkas therefore, aren't just paintings, but important meditation guides. This particular exhibition's pieces come froma private collection and some are travelling from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in the US. For more information, visit the gallery's website or call +91-9811-672731.