Thangkas, sometimes spelt Tankhas, are Buddhist iconographic paintings usually done on canvas. It originated in Tibet in the tenth century. These paintings are used as visual support for meditation practice. Normally, these graphic arts are mounted on a background of brocade and hung by a stick sewn across the top. The word 'thangka' literally means 'that which can be rolled up'.

Traditionally, these scrolls are painted on sized cotton (canvas), which is stretched tightly on a wooden frame, coated with starch, and polished to a shiny surface. The image is then drawn, and painted in water-based tempera paint.

Semi-precious and precious stones, and paints made from pure gold are also used by the artists in the more elaborate paintings. Thangkas come in various sizes, and are bound in silk brocade, as scrolls. Thangkas are common in the northern parts of India including Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Sikkim.

Updated on 10th June, 2005


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