Credit Line: Gift of Frederic B. and Philippi H. Butler
Label: Mandalas are diagrams of the cosmos used as aids to meditation. Most of these two-dimensional bird’s-eye views of palaces have a god in the center. This unusual example contains five thunderbolts instead of gods.
Three concentric rings surround the palace: the outermost is a ring of fire to burn away ignorance, the middle contains thunderbolts, and the innermost is composed of lotus petals and opens outward, representing enlightenment.
At the top presides the abbot Tsong Khapa (1357-1419), founder of the Gelug Order of Tibetan Buddhist monks; he is accompanied by two unidentified Mongolian monks.
The design is painted against a simple green landscape with a high horizon. The placement of the horizon, together with the green textured strokes of the landscape and rounded mountaintops, is characteristic of mandala paintings from Mongolia.
Thangkas are paintings or embroidered designs on fabric (usually cotton or silk) usually depicting Buddhist deities, Mandalas, or other religious scenes. Thangkas can be used as tools to teach religious narratives, as aides in meditation, or as devotional images. This particular Thangka depicts a Mandala.