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In the Magical Foothills of Himalaya
Artists working on Rigden Lineage Thangka at the Shambhala School of Art in India

Artists working on Rigden Lineage Thangka at the Shambhala School of Art in India

News of the Rigden Lineage Thangka from the magical foothills of the Himalaya where Jo Francis and Tracy Simpkins recently traveled. This article was excerpted (and edited) from the Shambhala Europe blog.

By Jo Francis and Tracy Simpkins

Above the river valley in Kullu lies the Shambhala Art School run by Noedup Rongae. The large two-story building — where we were warmly welcomed with tea and stories — is home for a community of about fifteen artists, cooks and friends. At dusk, we took a walk to the local monastery where Noedup helped with the artwork, especially the face of the Buddha. This was followed by a tasty dinner, cooked by two sisters who have worked for him for fifteen years, since they were fourteen years old. They came with him from Nepal and still send money home to their father there. Each married one of the thangka painters.

After dinner we sat on our balcony, wrapped in a blanket and watched the moon rise over the opposite side of the valley. Electric lights dotted across the hillside. Nearby speakers blared out devotional music. We sat with the deep peace of coming home.

Rigden Lineage Thangka (in progress), photo by Jo Francis

Rigden Lineage Thangka (in progress), photo by Jo Francis

The next morning we were introduced to the Rigden Lineage Thangka, a work in progress. Inside a simple room two thangka were stretched out over large drums. Several painters were busy on the final stages of one of the thangkas, featuring Tusum Khyenpa. This work was commissioned by the Karmapa to mark the 900th anniversary of the first Karmapa and needs to be ready for the Kagyu Monlam in December. Then on the larger drum, under a cotton cloth, lies the beginnings of the Rigden Lineage Thangka. As Noedup slowly rolled it around and revealed the practitioners, protectors, deities around the base of the tree, he shared the stories of how different images were included and how the images of the Rigdens had been described to him.

If you are inspired by this glimpse of the thangka, please consider making a donation to the Sakyong Foundation. For more information about this auspicious project, visit: http://www.sakyongfoundation.org/projects/shambhala-vision-campaign/rigden-lineage-thangka/

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