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Miniature Thangkas from Mongolia

Devotional Art – art that arises out of worship and devotion – produces some of the most spectacular works the world has seen.  Sufi music is an example and so are the Thangkas created by Buddhist monks.

Buddhism travelled from India to other regions in the world and developed its own identity unique to the region. And so Tibetan Buddhism is different from Ladakhi Buddhism which is different from Sikkimese Buddhism which is different from Japanese, Cambodian and Mongolian Buddhism.

In each place the devotional art took a different form, the temples took on different architectural designs and their Thangkas, painted textile artworks took on unique formats.

In Tibet a small personalised portable version called the Tsakli emerged. The Tsakli was used by monks in minor rituals performed outside the temple and usually came as a set of paintings made of  thick hardy cardboard that could withstand regular handling.  A wide border surrounds the main picture so that any wear an tear does not reach the main drawing easily and a protective layer of coating is applied to the painting.

In Mongolia a similar small Thangka emerged but the similarity ends at the size. Both the use of the miniature – called the ‘Burhany Zuraag’ in Mongolia  and the characteristics of the painting differ from the Tsakli of Tibet.

Mongolian miniatures contain paintings of deities but do not come as a set. Astrology dictates the association between the deity and the individual.They are handed out to individuals to evoke the relevant deity to help them find a solution to their problems of health, finances etc. They are or carried around encased in a Ghau and did not suffer the handling that a Tsakli does. And hence there is no protective border nor is there a protective coating over the painting.

The category is as interesting as Thangkas and needs further exploration.

Some 17th- 18th century examples from the WovenSouls Collection:

Burhani Zuraag 1

Burhany Zuraag 2

Burhany Zuraag 4

and examples of Tsakli (not from wovensouls)

tsakli

t2A set of Tsaklis

jm

January 2013

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