The sheer diversity to be discovered in the artistic milieu of Tibet betrays the fact that either the ateliers of different sixteenth-century cities had considerable means of communication or the artists were actually itinerant. Because very few thangkas from before the thirteenth century have survived the ravages of time, the rich divinations made are drawn from sculptures and manuscript illustrations. While the largest influence on Tibetan art has been art from further southwards - the subcontinent - the visualisation of even similar deities are fascinatingly distinct. Scholars explain this by citing that the information flow between the two regions had been textual and verbal, which left Tibetan painters free to forge their own style. The Pala kingdom (eighth-twelfth century) of Northeastern India has had the most conspicuous influence on thangkas, of all other Indian influences that could be deduced. While most of Pala art is lost to us, we could gauge from sculptures and manuscrips illustrations the adornments, the elongated eyes and lashes, and the aquiline noses. Upon the Islamicisation of North India, some of the Indian Pala Buddhists put together a small community in Central Tibet and continued to produce their art, with the original Pala influences gradually dwindling. Contemporary thangka artists are no longer dependant on Pala tutelage, and what this endemic art form has evolved to today is the subject of admiration of art devotees across the world.
Thangkas are one of Tibet's most sacred gifts to humankind. Through contemplation on the subjects of the thangkas, the devotee is meant to transcend one's coarse, earthy surroundings into a realm that is defined by compassion and wisdom. Compassion and wisdom lie at the core of modern-day Tibetan culture, having evolved from a warring people with a lust for material conquest. The truth revealed in these thangkas are ultimate and divine, the highest of the high as art flows into every aspect of life - wares, textiles, and home decor and even the home itself. Of superlative gorgeousness and meaning, thangkas are the crown jewel of Tibetan art and culture. It is said that these paintings are the door through which the wisdom and the compassion of the deities emerge shining into our realm of existence.
Email a Friend