The first Thangkas are said to be over 2000 years, the word Thangka can mean painting flat on a pillar. Traditionally Thangkas were employed by Lama Mani, or traveling storytellers or monks, who traveled from one place to another telling stories about the culture, history and religion. They used rolled up paintings which can be spread and then rolled again as they traveled around. Lama Mani existed until the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1959.
For Tibetans Thangkas are extensions or supplementary help to the practice of the Dharma. They display them in homes often in the altar In the monasteries, they are support to prayers and meditations and ceremonial accessories where huge Thangkas are placed during annual religious festivals.
Thangkas are painted under the supervision of a master artist who teaches art according precise instructions stored religious scriptures. Everything is perfectly planned and codified from the pigments ream to the proportions of symbols, and the final consecration of the Thangka. It must be drawn accurately and carefully and delicately anointed by the artists.
It takes between about 400 hours to paint a Thangka of medium size and detail. When the work is completely finished by the painter, the tailor sews the taunts that form the framework from brocade in which Thangkas can be rolled. After this a religious ceremony called Rabney or blessing is performed to make the Thangka holy and an object of veneration.
The mantra Om, Ah and Hum which are sacred syllables are respectively located in the forehead, throat and heart of the figure.
Thangkas are painted on thin cotton cloth, specially treated and primed. The fabric is coated with diluted lime and vegetable gum, then sanded, a few are painted on silk or are embroidered. The traditional painting uses minerals and plants based colours. The mineral colours allow Thangkas to keep their wonderful outlook of fresh and help it keep intact for a long time. The artist makes a drawing with a sheet of paper plant and uses it as a carbon layer, to transfer the design onto the fabric. The imager is deposited on the support which receives through numerous small holes marking the contour lines, then the artist creates his colors by mixing water and the rubber powder to traditional vegetable and mineral, and powdered gold.
The Thangka represent mandala, deities, religious scenes, subjects with semi-religious themes or historical epics, symbols of merits such as eight auspicious symbols and others such as seven precious objects of the king, the four harmonious brothers in harmony the six symbols of long life.