Real History of Thangka Painting –

Origin of Thangka paintings comes from India. The Thangka paintings were started in the early 3rd century BC in the major areas of Nepal and Tibet; however; it came into existence after it began in India. “Thangka” is a Tibetan word which means the written record so; the aim to create Thangka paintings is to keep the written record of Buddha as Newari and Thangka.

In these Thanga paintings, the Hindu god and Buddhist are jotted down together on a single piece of canvas in the form of some unusual art. When you see these paintings, you can find that Gautam Buddha is represented doing some meditation or wheel of his life whereas Hindu god and goddess are represented doing some other work.

Historical aspects of Thanga paintings

Well, Thanga paintings were the most popular and exclusive Tibetan art form in that period. In the century between 7th to 12th it got more evolved and famous.

In the 7th century during the rule time of Angshuvarma, Mahayana Buddhism was being introduced to the Tibet people. In the period, people were very obsessed with religion and wanted to see the Buddha in the newly created monasteries. However, the look of Tibetan Thangka painting change with time to time. So, in the 15th century as the tantric cult increase, the use of bright colour is also increased in the paintings of Buddha.

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Tibetan and Nepali people started painting not only Buddha but also Hindu god and goddess such as Shiva and Shakti, Manjushri, Lokeshwara, Mahakal in a very conventional manner. In such a way the history of Thangka paintings India varies with the time.

How Thanga paintings are created

Well, the Thangka painting creation is a very complicated task, and it requires a lot of attention while creating the picture. And the things which must be taken care while designing the paintings of Buddha is the sutras by which accordance the beginning and end of painting creation take place.

Well, there are numerous steps which are considered while creating the Thanga paintings such as the creation of canvas, colour application and finalization of the picture. Multiple accessories are also attached to the Thangka paintings such as the golden and silver linings, hanging, stitching, etc. The complete dedication and care have been taken while creating the Thanga painting because a single stroke me ruin the entire hard work of an artist.

Steps were taken while creating the paintings

1) Prepare the canvas

To create the Thanga painting, the first thing you need is the canvas. You need a smooth, flat and white cotton canvas to create the Thanga paintings. You should make sure that the cloth must not be damaged, dirty or do not have holes and it should be in the proper size of your paintings.

Now, sew all four sides of your canvas with the bamboo and tighten the frame to make the painting. To give a more textured look, the artist used to cover the art with the glue and then let it dry and in such a way you can provide a new texture to your paintings. However, the artist repeats the entire process 8 to 10 times in such a way that canvas will get coated entirely.

Well, after this artist used to moist the small area of the canvas and then rub the entire area with marble to give a smooth finish to your art and after repeating the same thing around 7 to 8 times the art become more harmonious and then it is polished with conch shell and it is ready to paint.

2) Select the colour for your Thangka painting

I must say that colour has significant importance in Thanga paintings and to show the actual feel the artist used the two different type of colouring technique and each of them has its features. The First colouring technique is Conventional Chinese paint and artist used them to display the extended period, and it gets faded with the time.

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And the other is metallic paint, and the mineral paint does not get fade with time like the Conventional Chinese paint. The most commonly used colours are red, white, black, rouge and blue and all these paints are being derived from natural resources such as coral, coloured glaze, gold and so on.

3) The role of the brush in Thanga paintings

Brushes are essential in paintings, and in Tibetan Thangka paintings carbon brushes are used. These brushes are of different size, texture, and the type and also created for a different purpose. So, brushes are essential because the artist has to manage the small detailing in the Thangka painting which is the most important and impressive part of Thanga paintings.

Step by step process of creating a Thangka painting

The entire preparation of Thangka painting has significant 9 steps. So, we will understand all the nine steps of the creation process of Thangka paintings.

1) Make a draw/ draft with the help of carbon brushes

Yes, this is the initial step taken by the artists who are making the Thangka paintings. They used to make the draft drawing of their masterpiece with the carbon brushes, or you can say a sharp picture. The advantage of making a sketch is that the artist can erase the mistake and then draw it again.

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In these sketches, artists represent the different figures, and he must know the measurement of deities, Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. In Thangka painting, you can observe that there is one main icon image and numerous background image or the background stories in every picture.

2) Colour painting

After creating the sketch, the artist used colour paintings. You can say that colouring is the process of giving a specific design of the picture. While applying you have to follow some colouring sequences such as start colouring from the sky and then with the background and at last colour the main icon image.

3) Shading gives a natural look

Once the colouring is finished artist used to do shading to provide a natural and drastic look to the paintings. Shading enhances the entire painting story and looks and makes your Thangka painting more beautiful and attractive.

4) Minor and major detailing

Detail means enhancing the background and foreground look of your art and to perform the detailing in Thangka painting. It would probably take 15 to 20 days.

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5) Figuring and body shading

In this step, the artist used to shade the colour to give a perfect look of body parts. Apart from that, the artist used to shelter birds, fruits, animals, etc. In the painting to give a more realistic look to the picture.

6) Apply gold on the paintings

To provide a final finishing and the great look, some amount of gold is used in the picture to highlight the essential parts.

7) Make the eyes opening

The primary work of Thangka artist is this; artists do not make the first eyes of Buddha instead of making the eyes figure, the artist used to establish themselves as the offerings of Buddha to keep their mind, body, and speech acts.

8) Brocading

The tailor does this step. Tailor brocade fixes the entire canvas, and your Thangka painting is completed.

9) Performing Consecration

Well, this is the essential step of Thangka painting in which the newly created paintings of Buddha is taken by the artist to the Buddhist master and requests them to give master blessings.

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Now, master gifted the painting with clean and clear thought so that they can bring the painting alive and this is how the consecration is performed in the Thangka paintings.


Thangka paintings depict the entire story of Buddha such as how spiritual he is. To create a Thanga painting, the artist should have good knowledge and expertise in understanding the use of colours as per the depiction. So, Thangka paintings are beautiful and display the beautiful thoughts of Gautam Buddha.