Tribal Arts Tour of India - Thangka, Hyacinth Handicrafts
State - Sikkim, Ladakh & Arunachal Pradesh
Folk art - Thangka (A painting that can be rolled up)
Material used - cotton or silk canvases, natural colours obtained from precious metals like Gold, Silver and Turquoise
There is a beautiful story about the origin of Thangka paintings. King Ananthapindika (King of Padna in India) married his daughter to the King of Sri Lanka. The groom offered him large gifts of precious jewels such as diamonds, pearls, and rubies, including a precious conch and in return, asked for a unique gift in the world. The King of Padna thought about this and realised that an image of the Buddha would be something unique. The King asked the Buddha's permission to make a representation of him. The Buddha agreed, and many artists were sent to draw him. However, the artists were unable to depict the Buddha with all the incredible features. Realising that the artists were unable to draw him, the Buddha went by a lake one day and, upon seeing his reflection in the water, the artists were able to capture the Buddha's image. The Buddha sent this representation, along with many words extracted from the sutras, to the King of Sri Lanka. Since the thangka was very large, the King hung it up in his palace where it could be seen by many people. Whenever visitors saw the image they instantly prostrated themselves and said, "To the master, Buddha Shakyamuni, I pay homage!" Through this the King of Sri Lanka realised that the Buddha was, indeed, extraordinary. Such is the history of the origin of the first thangka.
Image credit: Gandhanra Art
Thangka painting can be linked to the Buddha's thoughts and teachings. Thangka's are meditative tools that personify and represent the qualities of the Gods and Goddesses painted in the Thangka.
State - Assam
Folk art - Bamboo and Cane Handicraft
Around 34% of the area of Assam is occupied by forests which provide an endless supply of bamboo and cane. Bamboo is inseparable from the life of the communities of Assam. No wonder bamboo is called green gold and is an important raw material for handicrafts in Assam. Bamboos contribute to Assam’s economy as much as tea.
Bamboo and cane are used to make items of everyday use like bamboo mats, bamboo and cane furniture, cane walking sticks, bamboo and cane baskets, bamboo hand fans and hats, musical instruments, bows and arrows etc.
Water hyacinth basket from Assam
Image credit: Direct Create
Along with bamboo, water hyacinth is also found in abundance in Assam. For a long time, water hyacinth was seen as a weed and a problem as it chokes marine life, hinders water transport and acts as a source of breeding ground for mosquitoes.
However in recent years the stem of the water hyacinth plant is being used to make beautiful water hyacinth handicrafts like purses, handbags, baskets and laundry bins which is not only conserving the environment but also providing livelihood to so many rural families of Assam.