Everything you need to know about some popular Thangkas

Wheel of Life Thangka Painting


In Tibet, Thangka is an ancient Buddhist art style that originated in Tibet in the 11th century. Thangka paintings are usually vertically oriented scrolls carved on silk or cotton cloth and are thought to function as a teaching and meditation tool for religious academics. These paintings often depict great Buddhist instructors and deities surrounding other important religious icons. The thangka is a pure masterpiece that all enthusiasts of Asian art can recognize. It is brightly colored using mineral and organic pigment blended with densely illustrative glue and painstakingly detailed.

Thangka Painting is a portable fabric scroll kept unframed and intended to be used for personal meditation and to teach Buddhist philosophy. The combination of spiritual teachers and depictions of deities is used in thangkas along with symbolism and extremely exact geometry to help the viewer on his or her journey to enlightenment, the great artwork. 

Thangkas can illustrate a myth of divinity such as Buddha or bodhisattva or retell a historical incident involving an enlightened master. These works are said to be able to house the spirits of their deities if the painting is painted correctly and beautifully; hence a very strict set of rules and patterns is taught and enforced. The size of the deities must always be exactly proportional, the color palette is limited, and the figures’ attitudes are heavily curated. Furthermore, before a painting can be declared acceptable to Buddhist standards, the monks who create it must spend at least six years studying the art.


Collecting Thangka Painting

When it comes to the thangka paintings collection, it’s important to remember that higher lamas and spiritual teachers do the work as they are considered more valuable. However, the scrolls were rarely ascribed or signed, except in rare circumstances, because thangka painters rarely used the medium for personal expressions. On the back of many old thangka paintings are inscriptions with a mantra about the deity depicted, although it is rarely a personal note from the artists. On the other hand, signs are frequently seen on thangkas produced for personal meditations. Furthermore, as thanks scrolls are repeatedly unraveled, re-raveled, and carried from place to place in harsh environments, thangka scrolls tend to experience significant wear and tear.


Some popular Thangka Paintings


Amitabha Buddha

Amitabha Buddha is a key figure in the Pure Land Buddhist tradition. Amitabha is the embodiment of love, light, and mercy. He is also called the “Buddha of Infinite Light and Eternal Life.” He is also called “Amida” because he can be seen as a manifestation of “Amitayus.” Amitabha’s popularity has grown over time, and many people worship him for his qualities. Amitabha Buddha is a significant figure in Buddhism. He was born in a royal family in India over six millennia ago and attained enlightenment at the age of thirty-four. He then spent fifty-eight years teaching the Dharma to others before ascending to the Western Pure Land of Tranquil Longevity. Amitabha Buddha is an important deity for many people from different Buddhist traditions and sects. 

In terms of look, Amitabha is marginally diverse from Buddha. He has his typical ushnisha around his head, ruddy skin, blue hair, and big earlobes being seated in Vajira posture. He continuously has his two hands in the lab in a position of meditation. He also regularly holds a blue begging bowl.

In portrays and paintings, Amitabha is frequently portrayed as a single figure. By the beautiful images of the artist and painters, the religious robes are mostly transformed and changed into something very extravagant and beautiful.

The famous portrait of Amitabha is mostly in front of a tree, a peacock with supported throne and at the centre of Western Paradise. At his sides, there are eight great bodhisattvas of the Mahayana Buddhist tradition, including Avalokiteshvara, Vajrapani, Maitreya, and Manjushri. In addition, various figures of monks are also presented which represent the arhats and pratyekabuddhas.

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Medicine Buddha

The Medicine Buddha is one of the most popular and vital Buddhas in Mahayana Buddhism. He is known as the “Great Physician” for his knowledge of both healing and medicine. The Medicine Buddha is believed to heal all diseases, especially those caused by past karma.

Medicine Buddha is commonly known as a teacher who cures suffering using the medicine of his teachings. Keeping the Medicine Buddha statue at home is believed to have healing power and eliminate negative energy. It also eradicates pain, and disease and promotes well-being and ideal prosperity.

Medicine Buddha is depicted in a seating position called Dhyana Aasan. In this position, he is conveniently seated cross-legged, and the backside of both feet is facing upward. The hand rests comfortably on the lap. The left hand with palm facing upward symbolizes medicative reliability. The right hand holds the Aruna fruit, which rests on the knee. He wears a monastic robe, which covers both shoulders but is open in the chest area. Like other Buddha statues, statues of Medicine Buddha also hold Ushnisha in the head and have elongated earlobes.

Medicine Buddha is equally about the mind and the body. Study shows that when people meditate, it triggers a self-repair mechanism in the body. It stops the production of cortisol and adrenaline. It also enhances favorable mental conditions. The practice of Medicine Buddha has been done for thousands of years. The medication also adds elements of confidence to the body. In order to have good mental health along with physical and spiritual fitness, it is suggested to do this Medicine Buddha.

There has been observed variation in the Tibetan iconography of the Medicine Buddha statue. In Tibetan iconography, Medicine Buddha sometimes holds a pagoda symbolizing the ten thousand Buddhas of the three periods of time. Along with seating posture, Medicine Buddha is also portrayed in the standing posture along with his two companions, Surya Prabha and Chandraprabha.