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Tibetan Thangka Painting

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Viewed 8100 times since 2nd Oct, 2008
Padmasambhava, a historical figure who lived in the eighth century, was a renowned Indian scholar and tantric master. Tibetans usually call him Guru Rinpoche, or Precious teacher, and consider him as a second Buddha. He is highly revered in Tibet by all four great Buddhist sects. Statues and paintings of him are found in every Tibetan monastery, and his teachings are followed especially by the Nyingmapa.

He sits cross-legged on a lotus base, wearing jewelled ornaments that are painted with gold. He is wearing a scholars hat with a half vajra and a peacock feather on top. He holds a vajra in his right hand and a skull cup in his left. Tucked in near his left shoulder is his trademark Khatavanga.

Although a voluminous literature has evolved around the legendary life of Padmasambava, as a historical personage he remains a shadowy figure. All that can be said with certainty is that he was an inhabitant of Uddiyana (identified with the present day Swat valley in Pakistan) and was invited to Tibet by King Thisong Detsen (756-97?).

Apparently Padmasambhava was renowned as a Tantric exorcist and was invited specifically to tame the demons., presumably of pre-Buddhist religions, who were obstructing the path of Buddhism. Evidently, he accomplished the task and returned to India, but there is no agreement either about the duration of his sojourn in Tibet or about his other accomplishments.

In Tibet Padmasambhava is believed to have had twenty-five disciples. He had two wives who were also disciples, an Indian woman named Mandarawa, and an Tibetan woman named Yeshe Tshogyal, who had been a favorite queen of Thisong Detsen and was given to him by the king.

His two wives can be seen at the bottom layer of the painting, seated on lotus pedestals, paying obeisance to him. To his right is his Indian wife, holding a pitcher from which protrudes the feather of a peacock, and to his left is his Tibetan wife, bearing a skull cup.

This description by Nitin Kumar, Executive Editor, Exotic India.


Beer, Robert. The Encyclopedia of Tibetan Symbols and Motifs. Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1999.

Chakraverty, Anjan. Sacred Buddhist Painting. New Delhi: Roli Books, 1998

Fisher, Robert E. Art of Tibet. London: Thames and Hudson, 1997.

Getty, Alice. The Gods of Northern Buddhism. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1978.

Lipton, Barbara, and Ragnubs, Nima Dorjee. Treasures of Tibetan Art: Collection of the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Pal, Pratapaditya. Art of Tibet. Los Angeles: The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1990.

Rhie, Marylin M. & Thurman, Robert A.F. Wisdom and Compassion: The Sacred Art of Tibet. London: Thames and Hudson, 1996.

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