Tibet : History, Art and Culture contains till this day many features, which gives clues to the early Pre-Buddhist tradition throughout the greater Himalayan tract. The corridor over the northern mountains in the medieval times opened up new vistas, hitherto un-traversed, of religious and cultural life. The history of the exploration of Tibet and the various attempts to penetrate the country is very difficult and in a true sense, an adventure in itself.
Tibetan art was not an individual phenomenon confined to Tibet but a part of the common Buddhist art movement in medieval Trans-Himalayan Asia. The Tibetan artifacts have a vast and complex iconographical heritage, expressed in works of art. The study of the objects as preserved and displayed in the Art Gallery and reserve of the Indian Museum and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaja Vastu Sangrahalaya will bring to light the aesthetic and religious symbolism which aids in our understanding of the cultural history of Tibet.
The Indian Museum, Kolkata and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Mumbai are in possession of a large collection of different times and origin. These art traditions represent a school of an artistic style of its own has been dealt with by the author of this book.
Dr. Nita Sengupta who is the daughter of the soil of the very auspicious place of Santiniketan. Birbhum, West Bengal, studied AIHC&A in the Graduate (Hons.), Post-Graduate (MA.) in AIHC&A and another Post Graduate (M.A.) in Museology from M.S. University, Vadodara in the early part of her life. In the later part when she began her service life she fortunately was employed in the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaja Vastu Sangrahalaya, Mumbai, where she got enough advantages and scope to associate herself with the Curatorial Services for these museums. Since 1992 she is working in the Art Section of the Indian Museum, Kolkata.
Here she worked mainly with the collection of Art objects, paintings and textiles housed in Indian Museum and the Chhatrapati Maharaja Vastu Sangrahalaya. Campasses Since she has to impart education to the scholars she got advantages of working simultaneously with other collections of the Indian Museum and the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaja Vastu Sangrahalaya, Mumbai. While she studied huge collections of Indian Sculptures she found on them depictions of different symbolic significance and was inspired to write Tibetan Cultural History from a new angle.
Dr. Sengupta is a Member of INC, ICOM. Her research papers were published in some important journals of the famous organizations: such as Indian Museum, Mahabodhi Society etc. She is also nominated as Guest Lecturer of Museology Dept. Rabindranath Bharat University, Kolkata.
Tibet represents an unique indigenous cultural heritage, which is most illustrated in its art forms. Art does not necessarily lead to religion, but religion has always enriched art especially in pre-modern societies and art has then interpreted and glorified religion. This fact is very true for Tibetan art and religion — the two cultural phenomena which grown round each other in Tibet through centuries. Like the country itself, Tibetan art has absorbed and adopted various styles, the result being an unique synthesis of several diverse religious elements, which enrich the Tibetan monasteries as well as the museums of the world. This art housed in sanctums of cultural past radiates the true identity and philosophy of the people of Tibet.
The Indian Museum in Kolkata and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaja Vastu Sangrahalaya in Mumbai are famous storehouses of artifacts of Tibetan culture and civilization in the world. The present research is primarily focused on identification of objects matching the information and ideas related in then in terms of ritual objects and religious images. From this foundational premise, we have attempted to delve deeper into the cultural ethos of Tibet which developed especially in the medieval times. For this we have looked into the general history of Tibet — political and socio-economic, and the history of religion in Tibet.
This study leads us to believe in the strength of the urgent need felt by the Tibetan people, the newly initiate into a belief system brought in from outside to cling to strong roots of tradition since early medieval times. Buddhism with its long tradition in adjacent countries proved to have provided that anchor to the people of Tibet who were striving into a more open and enterprising medieval world of affairs. This period from thirteenth centuries till the nineteenth century saw Tibet flowing into economic, social and cultural interactions with its neighbours. In this setting there was an efflorescence of cultural expressions and the most significant aspect of life that appeared at the centre of such cultural expression was the newly evolved hybrid Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism with a mixture of the Bon. The Tibetan relics and artifacts thus provide a deep understanding about the indigenous culture and society through the ages.
In this research, an attempt have been made to grasp this cultural heritage from an empirical study of religious artifacts. A minute study of the art objects stored in the museums has led us not only to an interpretation of data but also an understanding of the aesthetic and religious symbolism, and helped us in observing the artistic development that was gradually emerging.
A number of explorers' reports are available which throw light on various aspects of this thirteenth century. In tracing the old reports on Tibet we find that most of these constitute of travelogues starting with that of Marco Polo, down to some Christian missionaries who visited this eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. These have, quite fortunately, provided us with the first hand data on social contexts within we could posit our interpretations the symbolic value of the museum objects. There interpretations, juxtaposed with historical data, collected from primary and secondary sources, aided us in gaining a holistic impression about the cultural history of Tibet in our period. Lastly, field interviews conducted by the researcher has reinforced some of the observations from our study of historical and archaeological (museum) data and their analysis.
While going through the material for the first time we came to realize that Tibetan art was an individual phenomenon confined to Tibet but a part of the common Buddhist art movements in medieval Trans-Himalayan Asia. The Tibetan artifacts have a vast and complex iconographical heritage, expressed in works of art. The study of the objects as preserved and displayed in the Art Gallery and reserve of the Indian Museum and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaja Vastu Sangrahalya will bring to light the aesthetic and religious symbolism which aids in our understanding of the cultural history of Tibet.
The cultural heritage of Tibet is purely indigenous in nature and also in character, which provides the backbone for the various regional styles of Tibetan art that developed under its umbrella. The word 'history' of Tibet itself is used precisely to describe both the past and what is written about the past and what is written about the past historian; but it has the second meaning that is appropriate to the functioning definition that history is the past experience of the Tibetan society. Both the record of the events and the events themselves have a great contribution to the formation of the 'History' of Tibet. The term Tibetan history is originally limited to inquiry and statement; it was only in comparatively modern times that the meaning of the word was extended to include the phenomena that form their subject. The distinction is basic one if the purpose of the Tibetan history is to establish what actually happened; but it ignores the degree to which a historian may emphasize on the evidence and the features that allow essential simplification and present them in appropriate form.
The influence of Tibetan cultural heritage extended far beyond her political boundaries and Nepal, Bhutan and Sikkim are still inhabited by people who are ethnically and culturally a part of the Tibetan civilization. There are two other powerful neighbors India and China, the creators of two great ancient civilizations which played an essential fraction in molding Tibetan culture.
The study of Tibetan cultural heritage is a very unique growth of the form essential characteristic of Buddhism; but it faces an unusual problem. Religion is an integral part of Tibet's cultural heritage. Most of the objects are created primarily for the use of the Tibetan monasteries. Tibetan objects as preserved and displayed in different museums show that these are of the most momentous collection of art which exists exterior to the land of Tibet. Very few museums of India house these collections, of them, the Indian Museum, Kolkata, Chhatrapati shivaii maharaja Vastu Sangrahalaya, Mumbai, Patna State Museum, Patna, Bharat Kala Bhavana, Banaras, and Tibet House, New Delhi, etc. are remarkable.
While going through the material for the first time we came to realize that Tibetan art was not an individual phenomenon confined to Tibet but a part of the common Buddhist and Hindu art movement in medieval Trans-Himalayan Asia. This research work makes an attempt to show the links in the artistic heritage from Tibet, Nepal, Burma, China and
Mongolia.' In tracing this commonality we observed a substratum cultural ethos which is nuanced by Buddhism, but at every homogeneous cultural unit coloured heavily by local faiths and local socio-cultural paradigms. Hence, it is a history of a multiregional art with elements of commonality expressed in diversities. In fact the medieval art's mainspring being religion, we have had the opportunity to observe this commonality expressed in society and cultural life of Tibet too. The research is confined to a study of this phenomenon in the context of Tibet's history only. However, at every juncture Tibet's close relations – nay very spring board of cultural identity being influenced by Chinese an Indian culture, we have also turned to look at these relations. Therefore, in our study of the political history of Tibet in our period, we have attempted to trace the close links it had in its evolution with the history of India and China. But this historical phenomenon is even more illuminating when we turn to social, economic and cultural arenas of perceiving the evolution of Tibet’s social and cultural history. Tibetan artistic heritage preserved in the Museums of India, brings to mind a source of wonderful cultural composition and an eternal mysterious appeal for the scholars as well as the visitors from all over the world expressing the deep connection between the religious life and the artistic qualities. This cultural heritage provides us with various number of art objects: may be of metal images, ritual objects, cloth paintings or than-ga (in Tibet) and jewelry which in their combined symbolic content represent a world of mysticism and art embodying spirit. The objects are used and linked to religious beliefs, practices of the Tibet’s peculiar regulations as well as traditions and customs. These exhibits in the galleries and stores in the reserve rooms of the museums overwhelm the spectator providing them a visible impact with the traditions of a country and culture far removed from their own. This is especially so when scholars from the Occident and Asian episteme and knowledge systems appraise these objects. The ‘other’ culture that is observed, recorded and commented upon by them has created an image of an exotic Tibet standing as an isolated in the cultural ocean of the world. However, a deeper study of the evolution of this culture and this society with its close ties to the medieval neighbours in Asia gives Tibet a more real history beyond mystic and exotica. The exotic art of the religion of Tibet can then be understood within the context of a little known part of the pre-colonial history of the rich and diverse cultural continent that is Asia.
Medieval period saw the creation of a society in Tibet where these people were found to may be engrossed in infinite religious faith and devotion, which are transmitted into the objects they created. The belief and the objects both represent the hard reality of the existence of those hardy people, their astonishing geography, their culture, the economic and sociopolitical realities. This research work examines religious beliefs that shape their lives and their struggle to maintain their traditional way of life in a cross current of cultural influences often overwhelming their unique traditions. Tibetan culture has a long unique history marked by creative interactions with different neighbours. This vast socio-religious traditions provides us an essential living expression of a people’s culture and also conveys the values of that culture. Tibet is an integral part of Asian heritage as we have seen. IT is one of the North-East Asia’s countries in the lap of the Himalayas. Its heritage is essentially important in the exploration of Asian culture, since the nomadic cultures of different ethnic groups constitute the substratum of the composite culture of Tibet. According to the Tiun-huen manuscript, the datedhistory of Tibet begins around 600 A.D. with the reign of the Yarlungking, named Song tsen-gam-po. Buddhism in its many forms was very much in evidence in the north, in Sin Kiang, in the west n Kashmir, in the Gandhar, in the east Nepal and India.
During the reign of the next great kin khri-srong-ide-btsran (c. 740-786 A.D.) Tibet became a very powerful country and Buddhism developed as its chief religion. The king was a great admirer of Buddhism and introduced a new form which created myths of origin. The myth related the story of the introduction of Buddhism into Tibet in the following manner of the aristocracy as well as lot of coomon people.
The story ran that the epidemic was caused by some evil influence. Probably the reference here to an evil which was related to the pre-Buddhist Bon religion, the original faith in Tibet. So in order to drive out he said evil influence, the king is noted to have invited Santaraksita, who was a Buddhist Guru or Acarya of Nepal. He advised the Tibetan ruler to invite the great Acarya Padmasambhava of Uddaiyana from Nalanda Monastery. So Acarya Padmasambhava came to Tibet and defeated the influence of evil aspects by spreading Buddhism.
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