History of Thanka in Nepal


Nepalese Thanka art as a history that dates back to the 6th or 7th century when it was exported to Tibet after Princess Bhrikuti of Nepal, daughter of King Lichchavi married Songtsan Gampo, the ruler of Tibet. In the 11th century, as Buddhism manuscripts and religious icons were needed in the growing number of newly built monasteries, the Nepalese developed this new type of religious painting on cloth that could be easily rolled up and carried. These early Nepalese Thankas were simple in design and composition. The main deity, a large figure, occupies the central position while surrounded by smaller figures or lesser divinities.

From the fifteenth century onward, brighter colors gradually began to appear in Nepalese Thankas, and the painting became a unique and distinctive art. Particularly in the modern day, Nepalese Thanka art is known for the variety of colors, making the Thankas much finer as works of art beyond their traditional religious origins. While they still adhere to the many specifications required of each of deity, the art works today are more detailed, richer and more colorful. Also, many finer hand-made Nepalese Thankas paintings use 24k pure gold as accents, adding a special luster not found anywhere else in the world.

Currently, 80 percent of Thanka art produced and sold around the world comes from Nepal. The art tradition has been preserved among certain communities and families of painters who have inherited the skill from their forefathers for generations.

Prior to year 2000, there were over 20,000 thanka artists in Nepal, but due to the unstable political environment over the last 10 years, daily power outages of up to 12 hours a day and changing economics, fewer artists are willing to submit to the harsh conditions or have the dedication to becoming a Thanka art expert, which requires training of over 25 years. This has caused many artists to abandon the craft, leaving less than 5,000 artists in Nepal today. As such, Nepalese Thanka art may be slowly dying out as an art form.

There are many who still support and value Nepalese Thanka art, helping to improve conditions for the artists or are continuing to learn the art. Your support is appreciated and needed so that we do not slowly die out as an art form.