During Ramzan, end of July 2013, I reached Dharamsala, in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh. Rains were pouring down, occasionally washing down parts of the mountain with it. The Thangde Ghatsal Thangka painting school and the Master’s residence are on top of a hill to which there is a steep route paved only halfway through. Buddhist prayer flags flutter on the trees and you are literally above the clouds when you reach the school.

In exile Tibetans do everything in their capacity to preserve and protect their culture and arts. A Buddhist center, people from around the world come to Dharamsala. Many come to learn the sacred art of Thangka painting, a tool for meditation which is central to Buddhism.

It takes years of training to become a real Thangka artist. The school provides an introduction to fundamentals of the art to students who come from all over the world. The text book is a resource and tool for them to learn about different grid systems, iconography and other elements. Most importantly in the school they learn how to use the brush and create fluid lines. Students initially practice by tracing drawings from the text book which is set in A4 size to suite that need.

After many iterations of layouts and other details, the book was taken to the only offset printer in Dharamsala. A beautiful paper was chosen and the plates were ready, but for some reason, the prints came out to be not of the best quality. The line drawings were broken into tiny fragments in some places, and by then I had to leave for Delhi.

Symbol for pagination

Chapter beginnings

Contents spread

Guidelines to draw deity figures

Chapter beginnings

Contents spread

Auspicious symbols spread

Master Locho sketching and the valley behind the school

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