Wednesday 11 December 2013


Bhanu Tanwar (Law Student at NLU, Delhi) sharing his Residential Journey

After attaining the Bronze Award in 2008, I decided to continue my Award Journey to accomplish a Gold Award. As part of my Residential Project, I decided to do something which would connect me to new people and unique surroundings. I heard about Thandge Gatsal Thangka Studio and School and was very keen to join it during my summer vacations. Thandge Gatsal painting studio and trust is located in Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, and is a registered trust with Government of India. Thandge Gatsal strives to preserve the Himalayan Buddhist traditional art of Thangka Painting. The objective of the training provided at Thandge Gatsal is to support Thangka Painters through the preservation and dissemination of knowledge about Himalayan Buddhist cultural traditions. Thangka Painting is a unique Himalayan Art that originated in India and has attained classical levels in the Tibetan tradition. Being a part of our history and rich heritage, it must be preserved and promoted worldwide. Thandge Gatsal has been conducting training programmes to help develop an understanding about the iconography, methods and techniques involved in the process of creation of Thangka Art. A Thangka is more than a work of art; it is an object of devotion, an aid to spiritual practice, and a source of blessings to those who meditate upon it.

I started my training at Thandge Gatsal from the 17th of June 2013. My training included an understanding of the drawings, iconography and the grids which are involved in the Himalayan Buddhist Art of Thangka Painting. Our classes started at 9 am in the morning and ended at 5 pm in the evening. Weekends were free. During the entire day all the students spent time practicing grids which were taught to us by Master Locho who is the founder of Thandge Gatsal Studio and School as well as a Master Thangka Painter. The students were taught in detail about the origin of this incredible Buddhist art during the evening classes. The theory classes as well as classes to clarify doubts were taken by Sarika Ma'am who is also a Master Thangka Painter. Ma'am ensured that all our doubts were clarified and that we practiced enough to reach perfection. It is unbelievable how everyone would enjoy every bit of time spend at the studio, sketching, learning grids and meditating upon the beautiful Buddhist chants.

The evening time was usually free when the students of Thandge were allowed to go and explore the surroundings. Thandge Gatsal is situated in a small village, 4 kilometers away from the main city of Dharamshala. The evening walks included adventure walks in the dense forests, visiting some nearby villages, exploring the chilled streams and spending time with the co-students of Thandge Gatsal who came from diverse cultures and places. The painters at Thangde Gatsal were always very helpful and told us real life stories about Tibet and the life of TIbetan refugees in Dharamshala. I got to learn so much about Buddhism, Tibet and India's political relations, Buddhist Art and the life and work of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.

On weekends we visited some of the most important places in Dharamshala. Among them was Norbulinga Institute of Tibetan Culture, which is even today keeping the Tibetan culture and values alive. I even visited the Dalai Lama's temple on various occasions. The whole idea of these outings was to understand the Buddhist culture and get a glimpse of the various Thangka Paintings in and around Mc Leod Ganj as well as those in the monasteries.

Four weeks of my training finally ended on 14th July 2013. This included not only the grids related to thangka but we were also taught how to make canvas. Making canvas was the most amazing process.

This surely was the experience I will always treasure. I would never forget the small little things that I learnt from this training program. There surely are many things that I would miss, this includes washing my own utensils after all my meals, seeing snakes almost once a week, the bright stars shining in the sky, fireflies, huge spiders, the peace of Himalayas and the rich talented crowd around. I thank everyone at Thandge Gatsal for such a wonderful experience and the beautiful memories and IAYP for providing me with a platform for exploring new things.

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