Painted images are highly valued as tools representing the teachings of the Buddha. Buddhist wall paintings representing protector deities line the walls of temples across Nepal and other countries in the Himalayan region. The sketch above is the basis for the first decoration in the sacred center of the Chhairo Gompa in the country’s Lower Mustang Region.
An expert guiding the work
Lama Shashi Dhoj Tualachan of Chhairo Gompa is a world-renowned thangka painter as well as a Buddhist monk. He has overseen the gompa’s restoration from the beginning and since 2004, has worked with volunteers from Restoration Works International (RWI). After years of preparation, the fine artistry of Buddhist wall painting has begun.
Shashi Dhoj belongs to a family of artists dating back generations. The family has been responsible for many of the sculptures and wall paintings in Chhairo and gompas in the area.
A Tukuche native, Shashi Dhoj was instrumental in the rebirth of the Chhairo Gompa and provides the modern-day link to the ancient Tibetan Buddhist traditions. He is also working to establish a traditional Buddhist art center that will provide training to both the monastic and secular communities at the monastery.
The Buddhist wall painting process
The wall paintings are done in seven distinct phases: preparing the walls for painting, making the paint, placing the guidelines on the walls, sketching out the designs with charcoal, painting in the main outlines, filling in the outlines with paint and finally, painting in the faces of the deities.
Master Shashi Dhoj is personally responsible for sketching the designs and finalizing the paintings. RWI volunteers and Shashi Dhoj’s assistant, his brother Chakra, have provided help with the other steps in the process.
The final step will be to paint in faces of protector deities. The completed works will eventually cover all four walls of the gompa’s sacred center. Once that is done, only monks will be allowed into this space. Until then, RWI volunteers have a marvelous opportunity to see a master at work.
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This post is my contribution to Noel Morata’s Travel Photo Mondays on his beautiful blog, Travel Photo Discovery. Take a look!
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