The Function of Tibetan Thangka Paintings

A thangka is a scroll painting. The Tibetan word thangka means "something that can be rolled up". On Market days and at celebrations, in villages and pilgrimage sites, travelling monks and lamas unrolled thangkas and told stories about saints and deities as they pointed out elements in the painted tableaux.

The Way to Nirvana

The Way to Nirvana symbolises the path to the state of liberation and enlightenment, in which one is able to realise the way out of the endless cycle of death, birth and rebirth. Beginning at the start of the path in the lower right of the thangka, a monk is chasing, binding, leading and subduing an elephant whose colour progresses from black to white. The elephant represents the mind and its black colour the mental defilement a which need to be purified.

The Wheel of Life

The Wheel of Life symbolises the limitations of mundane existence. At the centre of the wheel is a cook, a snake, and a pig, representing greed, hatred and spiritual ignorance. The whole wheel rotates around these qualities. The six main segments of the wheel represent different realms that beings are born into, and also different states of mind that we can find ourselves trapped into at times. The heavenly realms are at the top, then the “Jealous Gods” human beings, animals, “

The Olive Tree

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