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NORBULINGKA - Preserving Tibetan Culture By Narinder Bhushan Sharma

The `Norbulingka Institute' is particularly concered to make excellent works of art and preserved Tibetan culture which is threa-tned today with destruction and become a minority on its home-land'remarked Mr. Gyaltsen Tsering who is looking after the public Relations & Project work of the institution. In fact, Tibetan had struggled hard to preserve their culture heritage, identity, religion and institutions inspite of uprooting long back from their own land-Tibet.

Close to the Gyato Monastery, where 14 years old 17th Karmapa Ugyen Trinely Dorje has been staying after escaping from a monastery at Lhasa in Tibet, an ideal place for experiencing the highs of Tibetan culture Norbulingka Institue is situated at Sidhpur near Dharmsala town. Introduction of Tibetan cultural traits can be seen in different religious and cultural institution in the different towns of Himachal Pardesh but Norbulingka institute preserving rich Tibetan culture is one of them with unique type of distinguishing features. This institute is registered trust functioning under the Chairmanship of spiritual leader His Holiness Dalai Lama. It is purely built according to traditional Tibetan style and placed amidst the surroundings of beautiful gardens and green fields of Kangra hills at the backdrop of majestic Dhauladhar mountains of the outer Himalayan range.

Norbulingka institute's visual focal point is its main temple where 1,173 images of Buddha decorate the 44 foot high temple hall. The temple is the master spiritual centre which took more than a year for its completion. The gilded 14 foot copper statue of Buddha Shakyamuni is the largest of its kind ever made in exile. A subsequent six and eight foot statue of Guhyasamaja and Kalchakra images respectively are works that have also never before been attempted in exile. The statues are magnificently curved showing elaborate figure composition with Buddha occupying the chief position.

Other worth seen paintings dipict twelve deeds of Buddha, fourteen incarnations of the Dalai Lama temple. Its ground plan based on the proportions of Avalokiteshvara, the pattern god and Bodhisattva of compassion, which invoked against the danger's that threaten mankind. "Avalokiteshvara' is represented in many forms and the most common being the images with four arms" told an old monk sitting in the temple. The skilled masters provide training to the Tibetan students in literary studies, variety of crafts skill and thus promotes Tibetan traditional art told Mr. Gyaltsen.

The skills preserved and passed on of high quality art objects at Norbulingka institute include statue making, thangka paintings, appliqué needlework, woodcarving, carpentry and metal work crafts. `thangka paintings' known as `patta' in sanskrit are traditional Buddhist scroll paintings drawn on cloth and canvas and are prepared with the use of traditional vegetable and mineral colour, told a middle aged Lamba artist busy with his painting. These thangka paintings are of sacred and ceremonial subjects. They are hung up in temples & can be rolled up to be carried while traveling. The work done in different art sections, itself elaborate that the efforts in preserving Tibetan heritage and passing it on to the new generation of young artists is true and encouraging.

The proportional grids relevant to each deity in the painting and preparation of statue is trained to the students by the master of paintings Temba chopel and statue maker Pemba Dorje, who learnt this art in Tibet. Their efforts in the art field increases appreciation and awareness of the excellence of Tibetan art among the domestic and foreign art lovers. The main object and deliberate efforts of the institution is to pass on the unique sense of ethical values associated with this sacred art to the young artists.

The statue and sculpture work indebted to those sources from which they drew their religion and culture. The statues are made of different sizes, cast in the traditional lost wax method, to colossal images assembled from hand beaten copper plates. The images describe the detail of weapons and ornaments, the number of heads and arms as well as symbols and the position in which the divinity sits. Mention may be made of Tibetan metal work with wide range of domestic wares and jewellary which are adorned with bends and mixing of metals found in the favourite device of the kinnouri & Spitian smiths. the techniques of repouses, the lost wax method and sand costing is used in the craft manship of metal work.

The appliqué artists at Norblingka do the finest work in preparing silk thangkas which become popular in 19th century. These are constructed of many hand cut pieces of silk and brocade as long as the size of fifteen story high building . Choe Phuntsok master in wood carving comments that they are maintaining tradition of wood carving which have virtually become non existent in their homeland. The carving of wood with tools they make themselves with elegant detail and delicate perfection back us to the 7th century and remind that ancient art tradition. the completed carved objects are made smooth and shiny in the time honored manner, painted in the healthy Tibetan traditional colours of further embellished with gold leaf.

Richness and diversity of Tibetan costumes is introduced to the world by the Losel team of monksin the losel Doll museum of the institute. Attractively skilled and minutely produced more than 160 dolls in different characters in the Losel Doll museum is another site of admiration in the Norbulingka institute.

The indigenous knowledge of art, architecture and culture traits flowed from north-east since 7th century in India is well observed in this institute's entirety.


Rockcut Temple Masroor