I am an absolute admirer of Himachal Pradesh. You could wander and find yourself in bliss no matter where you go. As an ardent traveller, just hopping from place to place was never the plan. I try an explore more about the place and the locals. It just adds a lot to the experience. There is so much history beneath all the allure we see. During one of my adventures to Lahaul, I found something interesting, the paintings of Tabo.
Treasures of Himachal Pradesh
Tabo is a small town located in the Lahaul and Spiti district of the state of Himachal Pradesh in India. Apart from its serene and peaceful surroundings, it is known to be home to one of the most important and crucial Buddhist monasteries in India. Established almost a thousand years back in 996 A.D., the monastery as of today is fully functional and serves as home to many monks and shelter seekers. Also known as the Ajanta of the Himalayas, the Tabo monastery harbors many artworks of cultural, religious and historical importance.
The temples constructed within the premises of the monastery hoards a huge number of paintings and statues sculpted with mud. Many of these artworks seem to have eventually deteriorated over decades in its appearance despite several attempts by the Archaeological Survey of India in order to restore them. As one enters the Tsug Lhakang, an enormous gallery is filled with paintings of Tabo created with grandeur and intricately chiseled statues, displayed on the walls.
This style of painting is known as “Guge style”, a different kind which was developed in mid-15th century. As you look across, the style of painting is uniquely evident because every deity represented in most of the paintings, is placed within a circle. This pattern is very similar to the artwork found in Chinese and Nepalese tradition. The use of colours such as yellow, blue and green just make it more prominent to identify.
Paintings of Tabo, a glorious tale
You can look everywhere in a room, across the passageway or a huge hall, every little space possible is painted and including the wooden beams of the ceilings too. The walls can be divided basically into three parts: lower, middle and upper. The main part which is right next to the inscriptions depicts two Buddhist legends. The first is that of Prince Sudana, who acquired wisdom in 52 places and all phases of his journey are picturesquely visible. On its right is depicted the legend of Prince Siddhartha. And then there are depictions of Buddha, the Bodhisattvas and many ‘tantric’ deities and Bon goddesses.
The eastern end of Tsug Lhakang has the sactum or cella. This part comprises of the most admirable and beautiful Buddha and Boddhisattva paintings that exist in any other the monastery. The exquisitely preserved colours and various details of the artwork show its beauty in the most authentic way. As far as the walls in Serkhang are concerned, it is said that a layer of gold-dust as dense as yak´s skin is placed inside the walls that acts as a coating. The temple is home to a great number of splendid and rare paintings soaring as high as 4 metres.
Looking at these paintings myself, I know how captivating it felt to stand there and feel the serenity. I am not sure if these monasteries allow you to take any pictures. However, I didn’t even bother asking anyone if it was allowed, because I really wanted to capture in memory what I was looking at.
The paintings of Tabo have a lot of stories to tell. Comment below and tell us some of your inexplicably felt experience you came across while travelling.
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