Reaching Out to God with Thankgas and Mural Paintings | Monasteries of Himachal – VII

So far we have traveled from Solan to Chauntra and Bir – Billing to Sidhbari in search of Tibetan connection of Himachal Monasteries. The next one in this series is the Palpung Sherabling Monastery near Baijnath situated at a small village called Bhattu. It can be approached from Baijnath or Bir – Billing. This monastery belongs to the Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism. The temple building is enclosed entirely and can’t be seen from outside. Unlike other monasteries of this region, Sherabling Monastery is relatively spread over a small area and has an enclosed complex. There are stupas enroute the monastery and it gives a deceptive look of riding through the Ladakh Valley at times.

1. Dzongsar Khyentse Institute, Chauntra 2. Menri Monastery, Solan 3. Norbulingka Institute, Sidhbari 4. Dorzong Monastic Institute, Gopalpur 5. Tashi Jong Monastery, Palampur 6. Chokling Monastery, Bir-Billing 7. Bhumang Jampaling Monastery, Chauntra  8. Monasteries of Himachal Pradesh

Virudhaka Vaisaravana - Guardians of South and North
Virudhaka Vaisaravana – Guardians of South and North
Virudhaka - Dhritrashtra - East - West - Guardinas Of Cardinal Directions
Virupakasa- Dhritrashtra – Guardians of  West and East

However, in this post, we will talk about the mysteriously beautiful world of the Tibetan paintings and murals.

The Thangka and Mural painting art originated in the Himalayan land of Tibet long ago. Today this art form has grown by leaps and bounds and it remains no longer a Tibetan art exclusively. The Nepalese, Burmese, Chinese, and even Kashmiri artists have contributed largely for the promotion and preservation of this art from.

The Thangka Paintings and sculptures have always inspired me. And these Mandi – Kangra monasteries that were constructed during the last decade have some amazing display of Thangka Paintings.

Tibetan Buddhists believe these paintings are not mere art work but a way to reach the ultimate. Tibetan Buddhists consider Thangka’s as an object of devotion and an aid to spiritual practice. Thangka is a Tibetan word and it literally translates to ‘a recorded message’. It is believed that through these paintings, deities communicate a message to the practitioner that helps the artist to find his way through this mundane world. Thangka’s during the ancient times were used to spread the teachings of the Buddha. Practicing monks used to roll these paintings in a scroll and carry them to the remotest regions of the Tibet.

Today Thangka artists are not exclusively Tibetans but even Americans and Europeans have learned this ancient art. However, the paintings at the monastery are exclusively done by Tibetan or Nepalese artists.

Thangka Paintings of Kangra – Mandi

Thangka paintings are pictorial representation of the teachings of the Buddha. The life of Buddha, major Tibetan deities, the cycle of life; every aspect of the Tibetan Buddhism can be seen crafted on these paintings. The monasteries between Mandi and Kangra primarily display the cycle of life and the four heavenly Kings who are considered as the ‘Guardians of the Four Directions’. And because Buddhism find its roots in the ‘Sanatan Dharma’, you will find many resemblances between the Hindu way of living and Buddha’s teachings through these Thangkas. Personally, I liked the Guardians of Four Directions Thangka (Gyal Chen Shi). The four Kings are believed to be the custodians of the four cardinal directions. The four Kings of the Thangkas are said to be living on the lower slopes of the mighty Mount Sumeru.

Incidentally, these four guardians are the first Indian deities incorporated into the Buddhist narrative. The black bowl that appears in the lap of the Shakyamuni Buddha in paintings and sculptures was given to him by the Four Guardians.

The Four Guardians of the Cardinal directions are namely:

Dhṛtarāṣṭra (धृतराष्ट्र) – King of the East, Guardian of the Nation, and the Kingdom Keeper. He is often seen holding a lute in his hand and is white in colour. The lord of the celestial musicians.

Dhritrashtra East God Tibetan Budhism-001
Dhritrashtra – Guardian of the East

Virūḍhaka (विरूढक) – King of the South, Lord of Spiritual Growth. He is often seen holding a sword in his hand. Dark green in appearance.

Virudhaka South Tibetan God Direction-001
Virudhaka – Guardian of the South

Virūpākṣa (विरूपाक्ष) – King of the West, Lord of Limitless Vision, the one who sees through Evil. The lord of the Nagas. Dark Red in appearance.

Virupaksa West Direction God TIbetan Buddhism-001
Virupakasa – Guardian of the West

Vaiśravaṇa (Kubera – वैश्रवण) – King of the North, Lord Who Hears All. The lord of the Yakshas (Insert hindi) and the leader of the four Kings. Yellow in appearance.

Vaisaravana North Tibetan Buddhism God-001
Vaisaravana – The Leader of the Guardian Kings

These four Kings clearly relate to the Indians Gods namely Agni, Yama, Savitr, and Varuna that find mention in the prehistoric scholarly work Yajur Veda.

P.S. The Monasteries Series will be updated on regularly basis as and when we visit monasteries. Lahaul Monasteries are next! 🙂

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