A Lama


A Lama



The thangka illustrates a grand lama of the Gelugpa sect identified by the conical yellow cap worn by him. He is seated in Padmasana on a decorated throne in the middle while the surrounding area narrates important episodes from his life. Seated straight in Padmasana, wearing a red sanghati made of 25 pieces of cloth with floral designs all over, he holds a pot containing the water of life in his left hand placed on his lap. Several ritual objects are placed in front of him on the table such as white chorten, symbol of the spread of Buddhism, incense burner, bell, scarf and a box.
Inscriptions identify the locations of the scenes around the lama. Right above him, in between the sun and moon, is the Tushita heaven, the seventh heaven and the final destination of the enlightened Buddhist souls. To its right, near the sun is the Copper Mountain Paradise and beyond it is Chamara Dvipa. To the left of the Tushita heaven are Sukhavati Paradise and Vajradakini Paradise. The remaining locations show monasteries and places of religious importance. These are, to the right of the lama: Khan sar gon (name of a place), Skyor mo lun Monastery, Drepung Monastery, a place of getting the ordination, Rinchen Hillock, Potala, Ramoche Cathedral (where the image from China came), Godang Khangsar (monastery) and right below the main lama is Jokhang. To his left are: Sera Monastery, White Rock Hermitage and Bde chen Monastery (This identification of places was done by Dr. Lokesh Chandra who read each inscription).
A very early style of depicting stories in mini composition is adopted here. Each episode is depicted in a small composition without any formal division, with the help of natural surroundings like clouds, open space, figural, natural and architectural forms and are rendered with minute details in subdued colours, giving it a rhythmic appearance.
Strong political and cultural relation of Tibet with China seems to have influenced the art of Tibet in many aspects, two of which are concerned with cloth painting. One is the tradition of representations of Arhat in the cloth painting introduced by a Chinese monk Lume and an Indian monk Atisa around 10th century CE and secondly, the introduction of landscape in the art of cloth painting which was basically figure-oriented. This tradition developed in Eastern Tibet perhaps in Karmapa monastery but by the end of the 16th century, the innovative Tibetan artists have developed a very distinct and interesting style of narration which owes very little to Chinese paintings. This painting belongs to the same group.
Sir D. J. Tata Art Collection


Himalayan Art

Object Type

Thangka-Patta Cloth Painting


cotton, pigments




Thangka painting


16th century CE




58.5 x 78 cms.