The Religious and Social Significance of Chenrezig in Vajrāyana Buddhism
A Study of Select Tibetan Thangkas
The tradition of thangkas has earned itself the merit of pioneering Tibetan art in the 21st century. The purpose behind the effulgent images is not to simply lure worshippers with their exuberant colours and designs; it also follows an intricate system of iconometric and iconologic principles in order to beseech the benefaction of a particular deity. As a result, a thangka is worshipped as a didactic ‘visual aid’ for Tibetan Buddhist religious practices. Tracing the origin of the artistic and socio-cultural practices behind a thangka recreates a texture of Central Asian and Indian influences. The origin of ceremonial banners used all across Central Asia depicts a similar practice and philosophy. Yet, a close affinity can also be traced to the Indian art of paṭa painting, which was still prevalent around the eastern province of India around the Pala period. This present paper discusses the tradition of thangka painting as a medium for visualisation and a means to meditate upon the principal deity.
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