The Amitabha Buddha is the "Buddha of Infinite Light”. Amitabha Thangkas are a physical representation of the transmutation of worldly desires into all encompassing luminous awareness. These Thangkas depict Amitabha Buddha seated in his celestial paradise called Sukhavati, or the "realm of bliss”. Amitabha Buddha positions his hands in the typical gesture of meditation and also holds the begging bowl of an ordained Buddhist monk . The begging Bowl is a symbol of infinite openness and receptivity.
What are Thangkas?
Thangka Paintings are composite three-dimensional products of art, which derive their themes from Buddhist philosophies. They are essentially religious objects and are of great significance to the Tibetan Buddhists . These beautifully crafted banners are generally hung on monastery walls; they are also an integral part of Buddhist religious processions.
The Tibetan word “Thang” means a flat surface, which when suffixed with “ka”( painting) means “a painting” or a “painting on a flat surface”. These paintings are generally done on flat surfaces but they offer the option of being rolled up when not being displayed, a la scroll paintings.
Thangka - The structure
A Thangka comprises a painted or embroidered picture panel, a mounting, which is further embellished with a silk cover, wooden dowels at the top and bottom, leather corners and beautiful metal or wooden decorative knobs on the bottom dowel.
The Philosophy behind Amitabha Thangka Paintings
Most art forms, specially the religious ones hardly ever follow the doctrine of artistic intent, rarely, if ever, do they display personal vision and creativity, the overwhelming Buddhist Philosophy dominates the theme and execution of these paintings. Little wonder that most Thangka Painters have remained anonymous, as have the tailors who have made the mountings.
Essentially, Thangkas are records or pictorial depictions of contemplative experiences. Buddhist monks when instructed by their teachers to imagine themselves in specific situation for meditations, use the Thangkas as their reference point.
Where are these Thangkas made?
The ancient art of Thangka Paintings is practiced in Buddhist dominated areas of India. Dharmashala, which has a sizable settlement of Tibetans, can be called the hotbed of Thangka Paintings in India.
The west has seen Amitabha Thangka as nothing more than a decorative art piece for all these years this perception is thankfully changing as the west is gradually being sensitized to the Buddhist Philosophy.