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Table of Contents • About Us • Introduction • Mythology • Material Used • Process of Thangka Painting • Motifs • Contemporary Adaptations • Additional References • Image Source

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About Us CraftCanvas is a link between rural artisan communities and the urban customer, translating an ages old craft into something that is relevant today. It is based on the idea of contemporizing Indian Handicrafts through a common platform and canvas where stake holders of the craft community like artisans, designers, craft practitioners, etc can come together to create unique products and experiences suited to modern day living. India has a rich handicraft heritage and we owe this to generations of artisans who have blended tradition, religion, social norms and functionality to bring craft where it is today. However, there has been a significant shift in sensibilities of present-day craft patrons thereby highlighting a need for Handicrafts to adapt to these changes. We believe that there is a place for India’s traditional crafts even in the most modern of spaces and this process of evolution is what CraftCanvas facilitates. Handicraft patrons like you can express your requirements ranging from wall murals, soft furnishings, paintings, furniture and lighting among many others. Our team will assist you in transforming their ideas and aesthetic preferences to final products with a high level of artistry. On the other end, we are constantly forming collaborations between the craft and design community through which an interesting blend of experiences and products are developed. Working with designers, traditional artisans are trained to adapt to this new design scenario. For designers, it gives them an opportunity to create solutions that embody the essence of the craft. Subsequently, these innovations are marketed by CraftCanvas through channels like online store, workshops, exhibitions etc. Please feel free to browse through our site for specific information on our various initiatives and we look forward to welcoming you to our world of crafts.

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Introduction

A Thangka, a Traditional Tibetan Buddhist Mandala Painting

The word thangka is believed to have been derived from the Tibetan thangyig meaning "annal" or "written record. A thangka is a Tibetan religious object in the form of a scroll, which is generally used as a teaching device or as an aid to various religious practices. Thangkas depict buddhas, bodhisattvas, meditational deities, great teachers, and mandalas. A thangka is a complex construction including a painting, a textile mounting (sometimes with leather corners), pendant ribbons, a textile cover, a cord to hold up the cover, a cord or ribbons from which to hang the thangka from top and bottom dowels, and decorative knobs on the bottom dowels. An iconographically complete and useable thangka consists of a painting and a mounting: a painting without a mounting is incomplete.

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Mythology

Traditional pattachitra painting of Jagannath

Thangkas originated in India and evolved, in Tibet, from the nomadic lifestyle of early Buddhist monastics. The legend describing how the first thangka came to be painted originates in India. A king of the city-state of Raj gir (present day Bihar) was sent a costly gift by a neighbouring king. Puzzling over what he could possibly send in return to match the gift, he asked the Buddha who recommended that he send a precious thangka, the "Wheel of Life" showing the entire cycle of existence and Nirvana. In the upper corner, an image of the Buddha was to be painted, but the artist commissioned to make the portrait was unable to gaze directly at the Buddha. In the end, Buddha seated himself beside a body of water and the artist painted from the reflection. The resulting image is known as the thangka "taken from water." The image was then encased in layers of gold and silver and covered with precious stones. It was then sent to the neighbour king on the back of a jewel-bedecked elephant. The king was amazed at the gift and was filled with happiness. He sent a message back requesting to meet some monks. Five hundred were sent and spread the dharma by building many temples and performing pious deeds. www.craftcanvas.com

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The second image of the Buddha was produced by the Buddha's action of projecting his radiance onto a cloth that was then sent to a princess of Singhala. This came about after the princess heard of the Buddha from some merchants passing through her country. She was filled with faith and composed a letter to the Buddha proclaiming her belief. In return, he emanated rays of light onto the cloth so that a perfect image resulted. In gratitude, she sent three great measures of costly pearls as an offering. This was then divided between the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. From that time, the great tradition of painting icons on cloth has flourished.

Thangkas served many purposes in Tibetan society. In times past, the aristocracy kept a number of thangkas as precious heirlooms. Ordinary people also invited artists to create thangkas for them for religious purposes or to commemorate certain events. Thangkas are considered works of stateliness and, therefore, are found in the halls and living quarters of all temples and monasteries. Thangkas afford us important material for studying the religion, history, culture, painting, arts and crafts, and scientific achievements of Tibet.

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Material Used and Process of Thangka Painting Thangka painting is strongly regional in character, and both style and technique are determined by the place of origin. The mountings also differ in style according to region and subject matter. Support and Ground

• The thangka support is generally cotton which is prepared with a ground, and upon which the painting is done before being sewn into the mounting. Cotton is the most common support for thangka paintings; silk is more often used for embroidered picture panels. • Traditionally, Tibetan master painters often did not prepare their own supports; assistants specialized in stretching supports and preparing the ground for thangka paintings. • The two most common methods of stretching the support are to lace it to a strainer or to wrap it on dowels which are laced to the strainer. • Yak-hide glue was most frequently used to prepare the ground of a painting. Prepared through a long process, the most refined parts of the glue were used for the ground. Because it is water-soluble, yak glue renders the finished painting vulnerable to water damage. www.craftcanvas.com

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• The colour of the ground is dependent upon the taste of the artist and the materials used. Lime and chalk are the two most commonly used grounds in thangka paintings. • Black, red or gold grounds were used for thangkas done in a specific style in which the ground colors related to the iconography are portrayed. • Some thangkas of recent manufacture have grounds that have been tinted brown to make the thangkas appear old. • Then the mixture is rubbed onto both sides of the support; it is vigorously worked into the support with the hands, and the support is then placed in the sun to dry. Many coats of ground maybe applied in this manner. • Finally, the ground is polished with a stone or shell, and water is sometimes added with a damp cloth to smooth the surface. Polishing is a delicate, lengthy, and important process. • The painting then proceeds according to traditional steps. Measurement and Layout of Canvas

• The first step is the thigtse, the measurement and layout of the figures and composition. • A thigku, or thread, is covered with colored chalk and strung onto the strainer at measured intervals. www.craftcanvas.com

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• With the end held tightly, it is snapped against the canvas to make lines that establish the proportions of the painting: the figures, their location on the field, the border of the painted area, and the sections of the background. Charcoal sketch

• Next, the kyari, a rough charcoal sketch, is drawn on the ground. •

Guided by the thigtse marks, the master artist sketches the major outlines of the main figures; the entourage and background are often drawn with a bare minimum of measures.

• Then the sketch is examined and corrections are made. • Indigo or carbon ink is then used over the charcoal sketch to delineate the areas for painting. •

Another method commonly used by artists today is to trace woodblock prints, or shing par onto the prepared ground to outline standard iconographies.

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Application of colours

• The application of flat colours is called lebtson in Tibetan. • Generally, a thangka is painted in stages: first, the sky is painted, then the background, then the earth, or foreground. The figure painting progresses by order of colour: first, dark blue is applied wherever it is needed in the design. • This is due to the working properties of azurite, the usual dark blue pigment, which tends to smudge and requires burnishing. Light blue (a finer grind of azurite) is then applied, then green (malachite), light green (a finer grind of malachite), light orange (minium), then pink. (Some colours, including pink, are produced both from mixing pigments and from organic dyes from plants.) Then, deep orange (minium), red (vermillion), yellow (orpiment), and skin colors are applied. • White and gold are the last flat colors to be laid down. Outlining • After the flat colors have been laid down, line drawing, or rimo, is applied to the edges of forms. • This is usually done with the two main organic dye colors, indigo and brownish red lac. www.craftcanvas.com

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• These colours are used instead of black, which is used to colour the hair of the figures: to outline other forms in black is considered cheap and hasty.

• The rimo may, however, be done in darker shades of the colour being outlined. Shading

• Then shading, or dang, is done. It is described in Tibetan as the "falling of darkness, [like] an even and gradual change over the mountains. • There are two methods of shading, wet and dry.

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• Dry shading, in its finest form, is done with a very dry, fine-pointed brush. Each stroke or dot applies a very small amount of pigment. It takes a very long time to build up any intensity of colour, and gradations are achieved by the spacing of the delicate strokes or dots. Dry shading can be applied directly over a flat colour or directly over the ground; it can also be combined with wet shading. • Wet shading is done by blurring together two pools of wet pigment with a third brush bearing no colour. This can be done with organic dyes as well. Gold Ornamentation

• The next step is called serri, or the application of gold ornamentation. • Fine gold lines are painted on representations of brocade robes and cushions, and on flowers, leaves and rocks. (This stage should be distinguished from the application of flat gold areas, which is done as the last of the flat colour applications.) • Finally, both the flat gold areas and the gold lines are polished with a gem stone, such as onyx. • After polishing of the golds, which are called serur, the painting is cut off the strainer and sewn onto its silk frame, or mounting. • Traditionally a tailor would sew the frame. www.craftcanvas.com

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Mounting

• Mountings are often made of silk for two reasons: the iconographical requirement of "rainbows" (silk borders sewn around the picture panel), and financial limitations, mountings are pieced together from fabrics of different weaves and weights, which causes strain on the weaker fabrics. Additional strain is caused by the structure of the thangka. • Only in recent times have painting panels been sewn into their mountings with sewing machines. • Before the use of machines, cotton thread was usually used to stitch through the painting, the cording and the mounting. • These stitches were quite tight and held the painting panel firmly in the mounting. As explained above, this tension often caused damage to the support. • The mountings are lined with a separate fabric, usually cotton chintz or plain weave silk. • Often, a tailor has sewn a mounting over an edge or corner of a painting.

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“Opening of the eyes”

• Finally, there is a consecration (rab ne) ceremony for the finished thangka which includes a cen je, or "Opening of the Eyes," ceremony. • This is a religious ceremony, traditionally done by a monk or a religious teacher, which sometimes involves the writing of an inscription on the back of the thangka. • Only after the performance of this ceremony is the living presence of the thangka considered to be embodied in the work and communicated by it.

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Motifs Although always religious in nature, Tibetan thangkas cover a wide range of subject matters. Some depict the social history and customs and habits of Tibet. Others illustrate the Tibetan calendar, astronomy, and Tibetan traditional medicine and pharmacology. Biographical thangkas describe the major events in the life of religious figures and historical personages. Some forms of the thangka paintings are as follows: The Buddha: Twelve stages in his life

• Sakyamuni passed on his throne and the leadership of Gaden (Tushita Heaven) to Jampa (Maitreya) when he descended to our realm • Sakyamuni's mother dreamed of a six-tusked white elephant and was conceived with the Buddha • Sakyamuni was born from his mother's side. Immediately after birth, he took seven steps--in each step sprang up a lotus • Sakyamuni was married and lived in luxury as a prince in a beautiful palace, secluded by his father from the harsh realities of the world www.craftcanvas.com

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• Later, he secretly left the palace and saw for the first time the sufferings of death, sickness, and old age. He also saw a radiantly happy sadhuand decided to pursue the same path • He renounced his rich life and left the palace, accompanied only by one servant • He cut his hair as a sign of renunciation and became a monk • He meditated for six years, eating very little until he realized that neither extreme of self-asceticism or of extreme self-indulgence was theway--rather he decided to take a middle path • He was tempted by many demons who tried to break his meditation and stop him from reaching enlightenment • He attained enlightenment at Dorje Dun, having vowed to remain steadfast in his meditation until he did so • After enlightenment, he taught the dharma to his disciples and followers until; • His death in Kushinagar Mandala

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• Mandalas are commonly used by tantric Buddhists as an aid to meditation. • The mandala is "a support for the meditating person“, something to be repeatedly contemplated to the point of saturation, such that the image of the mandala becomes fully internalised in even the minuets detail and can then be summoned and contemplated at will as a clear and vivid visualized image. •

With every mandala comes "its associated liturgy contained in texts known as tantra", instructing practitioners on how the mandala should be drawn, built and visualised, and indicating the mantras to be recited during its ritual use.

The other popular forms of thangka painting are: Opagme (Amitabh), Dolkar (White Tara), The Wheel of Life, TseLa Nam Sum, The Sixteen Arhats, Rig Sum Gonpo (The three protectors of knowledge), Path of Enlightenment, PaldenLhamo (Shri Devi), Oser Chenma, Milarepa, Menla (Medicine Buddha), Four Perfect Friends, Jetsun Dolma (The Green Tara), Gonpo Chakdor (Mahakala) and Chenresig (Avalokiteshvara)

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Contemporary Adaptations

Thangka painting used in the interior of a bank by Baaya Designs

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Additional References • • • • •

http://www.gomang.org/catalog_files/cat_thangkas.pdf http://www.sacredworld.info/pdf/thangka_article.pdf http://www.rossirossi.com/2013/07/31/Tibetan_Thangkas.pdf http://abhidharma.ru/A/Raznoe/Tibet/0017.pdf http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/citi/resources/Rsrc_001095.pdf

Image Source • http://www.exoticindia.com/buddha/tt13.jpg • https://alanatracey.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/alanatraceythangkagoldbrush work.jpg • https://s-media-cacheak0.pinimg.com/236x/00/1a/3a/001a3a47e90776c727558f359fb8a21c.jpg • http://www.thangkapaintings.com/thankapaintingprocess.php • http://store.shakyahandicraft.com/images/4%20%20Amitabh%20Buddha%20 %20%201.jpg • http://www.garudaexpress.com/NepaCrafts/images/Thangka%20Paintings/08 0211/10.White-tara.jpg

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Thangka Craft Manual

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