Our Mission

1. Disseminate knowledge about Himalayan Buddhist cultural traditions to the global community: There are currently very few opportunities for short-term study of Thangka art. Of the thousands of tourists who visit Dharamsala every year, many wish to learn about this aspect of Buddhist culture in greater depth. In addition, hundreds of students and visitors arrive each year on specially packaged tours for the specific purpose of studying and becoming involved with Himalayan culture. Because of this there is a need for short-term courses that will teach both the appreciation and the practice of Thangka painting to suit various levels of interest. Thangka Gatsal is one of the only organizations with the ability to provide this type of authentic art education.

The dissemination of knowledge about Thangka painting in the global community is an essential part of the effort to save this component of Buddhist culture. Exposing both Indians and foreigners to Thangka painting will encourage artists, academics, collectors, and institutions from around the world to engage with this unparalleled art form. If this is made possible, the current threatened status of Thangka painting will be transformed to one of growth and vigor.

2. Preserve Himalayan Buddhist culture: This art form is facing the greatest threat in its long history due to political and cultural upheavals in its regional place of origin. The tradition of Thangka painting needs to be preserved before the technique is lost and the paintings become mere museum pieces.

3. Increase the number and quality of schools teaching Himalayan traditional arts: The number of schools teaching Thangka painting in India is inadequate for the number of people interested in learning the art. There is an urgent need for a Thangka painting school that has the capacity to harness the enthusiasm of these individuals before this rich tradition disappears.

4. Provide employment options: The local community surrounding Thangka Gatsal faces serious problems of unemployment. The studio gives their local students (as well as their students coming from abroad) a skill that will last a lifetime and maintain their pride in the richness of the Himalayan Buddhist culture.

5. Provide appropriate environment for training: The relationship between Master and student in Thangka painting is lifelong. Thangka painting involves mastery of many demanding techniques, knowledge of Buddhist philosophy, and a contemplative frame of mind. To become an accomplished Thangka painter, it is essential that students live in a stable and secure environment throughout their training, with constant access to their master. Thangka Gatsal provides the environment necessary to meet this need.

6. Preservation of a Master's knowledge: A Thangka painting Master spends at least twenty years learning the arts of sketching, grinding colors from mineral pigments, painting, and preparing and applying real gold. Above all, he or she must have a deep knowledge of Buddhist scripture and philosophy to understand the iconography of Thangka painting. The few remaining Masters need to transfer these skills to a new generation of painters before their knowledge disappears with them.

7. Establish library and documentation centre: Interest in Himalayan Buddhism and culture is growing worldwide, and there is a demand for in-depth information about Thangka painting for those doing research on Himalayan culture and Buddhism, as well as for professional artists who need specific information on designs and techniques. A documentation centre will record all work produced at the studio for the benefit of painters and researchers.