The Kadampa Style
Twelfth through Fourteenth Centuries
Table of Contents:
2 Visions and Visualizations
3 Kadampa Style
4 Sakyapa Style
5 Thankas from Western Tibet
6 Landscape Tradition
7 Age of the Dalai Lama
Bibliography There seems sufficient evidence now to postulate that a uniform style of painting developed in Tibet in the second half of the eleventh century mostly in association with the Kadampa monasteries. The religious order of the Kadampas was established by Dromton, the chief disciple of Atīśa Dipankara Srījñāna who arrived in western Tibet in 1042. After spending two years in the region, Atīśa moved on to central Tibet where he died in 1054 in the Sña-than (Nethang) monastery. Atīśa’s biography makes no mention of any artists accompanying him to Tibet, but it is almost certain that he must have carried with him manuscripts, some of which may have been illustrated, as well as paintings and bronzes. It is interesting that among the gifts sent by Tsongkhapa to Karmapa Dezin Shegpa was a bronze image of Maitreya belonging to Atisa. Thinley, p.75 But whether he did so or not, there was vigorous traffic at this period between the monks and teachers of the two countries. In particular, Tibetan monks were a constant presence in the well-known monasteries of ancient Magadha (modern Bihar), known generally as Vangala to the Tibetans. These included Vajrasana (Bodhgaya), Nalanda, and Vikramaśīlā in Bihar and Jagaddala and Somapuri in Bangladesh.
That there was an active centre for writing manuscripts and for painting in the ancient port of Tāmaralipti in West Bengal is evident from the Chinese pilgrim Faxien (Fa-hsien) who visited the city early in the fifth century. Prima facie evidence for a flourishing school of painting during the rule of the Pāla dynasty (9th through the 11th century) is provided by Buddhist manuscript illuminations which are now well known to scholars (Pl. 5). However, that there were also religious paintings on cloth which were the forebears of the Tibetan thankas is clear from the Mañjuśrīmūlatantra where an extensive description of painting such a pata is given. See Lalou 1930. Moreover, a Chinese source of the Song dynasty gives some interesting information about paintings on cloth in Nalanda that seems to have been generally overlooked by Indian scholars. The passage runs: ‘In India, at the temple of Nalanda, the priests paint many Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Lohans, using the linen of the West.’ H. A. Giles, An Introduction to the History of Chinese Pictorial Art (Shanghai: Kelly and Walsh, 1918), p.157. Although neither murals nor cloth paintings of this school have survived, a good idea of how they must have looked can be formed today with the vestiges of murals in early Kadampa shrines in Tibet and from the group of thankas which is the subject matter of this chapter.
Tucci was the first scholar to publish both murals and thankas in this style and considered them to be ‘Nepalese.’ The next publication (in Chinese) which illustrates some murals in this style has nothing to say about the paintings except to suggest dates which we will presently discuss. Liu I-se, Figs. 17-19, 23. In 1969, while discussing the largest thanka in this style (Pl. 7), now in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, I suggested that the style was distinct from the Nepali style and pointed out, I believe for the first time, that the same style is visible at both Dunhuang and in thankas recovered from Kharakhoto Pal 1969, p.131. (Figs. 8-9). This is now generally accepted by most scholars who have written on the subject. See Karmay 1975 and Hatt. There also seems no doubt that the style derived directly from the Pāla style of eastern India and owed very little to Nepal, at least at the early stages. However, by the early fourteenth century, as we will discuss shortly, the style was modified considerably by Newari artists, especially in Sakyapa monasteries.
The primary reason why I feel it would be perfectly appropriate to designate this style as Kadampa is its consistent association with early establishments of that order. The vestiges of the style may be observed in the murals of Iwang, Samada, Nethang, Nenying, Chasa and in the Jokhang in Lhasa. All these establishments were closely associated with the Kadampa order during the period, and hence, it would not be inappropriate to refer to the style by the designation of the order. The Chinese publication referred to earlier has reproduced a number of murals executed in this style from a monastery whose Chinese name referred to in the book is difficult to transcribe into Tibetan. Most scholars I have consulted have read the name as Ladong. In all probability this is the Landang (Glang-Thang) monastery founded in 1093 by Dorje Senge, a disciple of Potopa. Landang is situated in ’Phan-yul in central Tibet near the monastery of Nalendra, which however was a later foundation. Wylie 1962, p.162 regarding Langdang. In any event, it seems clear that the earliest diffusion of the Kadampa style occurred in central Tibet where Atīśa spent most of his twelve-year residence in the country and where his principal disciples established the earliest temples and monasteries of the order, mostly in the second half of the eleventh century. It is conceivable that they brought artists from Magadha to decorate some of the monuments.
In western Tibet the extension of the style can be observed principally in the murals of the Lhakhang Soma at Alchi (Pls. 10 and also at Saspol, which is not far from Alchi). Murals in this style may also be seen in the Guru Lakhang and Gyung drung gompa, though these may be slightly later than the Lhakhang Soma. The style probably was also prevalent in the Kailash region, and although originally all these monuments were associated with the Kadampa order, I have elsewhere shown that the Lhakhang Soma murals may have been rendered under Kagyupa influence in the thirteenth century. Pal 1982B. The Kagyupas may also have been responsible for the spread of the style at Kharakhota in northwestern China, as has been suggested by Heather Karmay. Karmay 1975, pp.41-42. As to the murals in this style in some of the Dunhuang caves, probably painted in the thirteenth century during the reign of Kublai Khan, the most likely order which would have undertaken the task would have been the Sakyapas who were closely associated with the emperor. Unfortunately, most pre-sixteenth century murals at Sakya itself have been destroyed, but it may be pointed out that some of the paintings at Shalu, executed in the first half of the fourteenth century under the supervision of the renowned Buton Rinpoche (1290-1364), reflect a modified version of the Kadampa style. I have a slide in my possession given to me by Michael Henss which illustrates a thanka in this style. After all, the new temple was built on a site consecrated by Atīśa himself, and it is very likely that the older murals of both Shalu and Sakya were painted in the Kadampa style.
That the early Sakyapa murals were painted in the Kadampa style is evident from a thanka depicting the life of Śākyaśrī (1127-1225) known as Khache Panchen or the Pandita of Kashmir (Fig. 10). At the invitation of Tröphu Lotsava (b. 1173), Śākyaśrī came to Tibet in 1204 and returned to Kashmir in 1213. The painting is based on the biography of Śākyaśrī written by Tröphu Lotsava, and hence the painting may have been rendered in the second half of the thirteenth century at the Tröphu monastery. Like the early fourteenth century Shalu murals, it shows an admixture of both the Kadampa and the Nepali manners which is not surprising since Tröphu Lotsava was closely associated with Nepal.
Thus, it is clear that as was always the case in Tibet, a particular style was not confined to a particular order, and certainly the Kadampa style was the first pan-Tibetan style which spread beyond the confines of the country. Having reviewed the spatial diffusion of the style, let us now discuss its broad temporal parameter.
The mid-eleventh century can easily be determined as the terminus a quo of the style for most of the monasteries and temples of central Tibet where its remnants are visible were built during the second half of the eleventh century. It has already been mentioned that by the early fourteenth century when the murals of the Serkhang at Shalu were painted, the style had become considerably altered by the inclusion of both Nepali and Chinese elements. The early thirteenth century thankas of Kharakhota (Figs. 8-9) are rendered in a more cursive version of the style, as is also the case with the murals of Saspol and Alchi. The Dunhuang murals, however, probably executed around 1275 appear to be much closer in style to some of the thankas published here which we consider to be typical examples of the pure Kadampa style.
Among the murals in this style, none can be dated with certainty. The fragmentary remains at the Jokhang and those at Iwang and Samada may be the earliest and may belong to the late eleventh or early twelfth century. Slides of the Jokhang were also supplied to me by Michael Henss. For others see Tucci 1949 and 1956. Such a date would be a likely period for the first renovation of the Jokhang after the revival of Buddhism. Iwang, Samada, Nenying and Chasa are all early temples and there is no reason why the murals should not belong to the twelfth century.
In publishing the murals in the Ladong monastery, the Chinese author has suggested a 1039 date for a composition with two Lotsava and generally twelfth century for the others. See note 4. It is of course possible that 1039 is a misprint for 1093 when the monastery was founded. It is more likely, however, that this painting too is of the early twelfth century and the two monks engaged in conversation may represent the founder and his guru. Among the many thankas painted in this style, only one bears an inscription which provides some circumstantial evidence for suggesting a late twelfth century date. This is the now well-known example at Los Angeles (Pl. 7) and I have discussed the evidence at length elsewhere. Pal 1983B. Otherwise, the Kharakhota thankas and the Xixia prints remain the principal datable material of the Kadampa style. Karmay 1975. One may generally state that the Kadampa style flourished unmodified from the second half of the eleventh through the end of the thirteenth century.
The Los Angeles thanka of Amitayus (Pl. 7) is typical of a group of Kadampa style paintings in which the dominant figure in the centre is invariably a bejeweled and diademed Buddha, obviously of the sambhogakāya. Two other closely similar thankas are also illustrated here (Pls. 8-9). In all three, the eminent Buddha is flanked by two standing bodhisattvas and a group of bodhisattvas and Buddhas on either side of the central figure’s head. The number of figures in this group differs from one thanka to another, but they are always shown seated in the same manner. Invariably also, a group of Buddhas, bodhisattvas, or other deities are represented in different combinations along the bottom of the thanka, below the lotus on which the central Buddha sits. In some thankas a monk’s figure is added in the lower left-hand corner. Generally the bodhisattvas, including the two who are standing beside the principal Buddha, are twelve in number, and only in the Amitayus painting are there two additional Buddhas among the group. It must also be pointed out that Vairocana in the Benares thanka makes the bodhyanagimudrā (chi ken-in in Japanese) which is his prescribed gesture in his sambhogakāya image. Pal 1983A.
This combination of a central Buddha surrounded by bodhisattvas appears to have constituted a principal iconographic programme in most of the early Kadampa temples visited by Tucci. Tucci 1956. It is found both in sculptured and painted representations in Iwang, Samada, Chasa and most other early existing temples. Although generally the number of bodhisattvas is eight in these shrines, following the Mandala of the Eight Bodhisattvas (which was especially popular in the Nalanda region), Pal 1972-73. the presence of ten or twelve bodhisattvas is also in perfect harmony with Mahāyāna philosophy. For example, the ten bodhisattvas may represent the ten spiritual stages (daśabhūmi) of Mahāyāna and the number of bodhisattvas, as we know from other sources, can also be as many as sixteen. In any event, the iconographic scheme of this group of thankas representing sambhogakāya Buddhas related to the Yogatantra can clearly be associated with Kadampa beliefs.
Among the other principal subjects represented in the surviving thankas of the style are Tārā, One of the earliest and finest thankas of the Kadampa style now in the possession of Mrs. Alice Heeramaneck represents the goddess Tara. Indeed, in my opinion this thanka may well be of Indian origin, or was perhaps painted by an Indian artist in Tibet. If the former, then it may be the only example of a Pala painting on cloth known to date. A later and more cursive version of this thanka is illustrated in a mural in the Guru Lakhang in Ladakh cycles of Samvara and Vajravārāhī, Mahākāla and portraits of eminent lamas. It may be pointed out that these subjects also predominate in the murals at Alchi and Saspol as well as among the thankas of Kharakhota. All these themes were expounded by Atīśa and played an important part in Kadampa ritual.
Tārā was the tutelary deity of Atīśa, and, according to his biography, he was in constant communication with the goddess. Whenever he encountered difficulties, the goddess appeared to him in a dream or a vision and instructed him to make the right decision. The cult of Mahākāla was brought to Tibet from Bodhgaya by the great Rinchensangpo, and it was popular with the Kadampas and the Kagyupas as well as the Sakyapas. However, the surviving thankas represent only a fraction of the paintings that must have been dedicated during the period, and it is certainly not our intention to suggest that these were the only iconographic themes depicted. In terms of the portraits, only the representation of Śākyaśrī can be identified with any certainty.
Inscriptions in the Iwang temple inform us that the murals there were rendered in the style of India and Li yul (Khotan). Tucci 1973, p.94. It is not clear, however, whether these two styles were represented separately or whether they were synthesized in the murals of Iwang. Apart from the fact that it is difficult to determine what exactly was the style of Khotan, a comparison with the art of Khotan, as recovered by Sir Aurel Stein, offers very little that can be specifically related either to the Iwang murals or to the Kadampa style in general. The paintings that have survived at such sites at Rawak, Dandan-uliq or Endere in Khotan, where Tibetan inscriptions abound, are considerably earlier than the twelfth century Kadampa paintings and reflect a style related much more directly with the art of Kashmir than with that of Magadha. Certainly some Khotanese monks and artists may have sought refuge in Tibetan monasteries after the conquest of Khotan by the Muslim Turkish dynasty of Kashgar around the turn of the first millennium. It is rather curious that although artists and styles of Li yul are frequently mentioned in Tibetan textual tradition, Buddhist monks of Khotan are alluded to only once in the Blue Annals and that too in the context of the eighth century.
The other suggested stylistic source for the Kadampa style is Nepal. While it is undeniable that Nepal is a constant presence in the art of Tibet, and hence certain Nepali traits may always be discernible in a given Tibetan painting, by and large the Kadampa style is related much more directly to the Pāla rather than to the Nepali tradition. The figural type employed in these Kadampa style thankas is far closer to those seen in Pāla than in Nepali manuscript illuminations. The svelte, slim figures of bodhisattvas with their long faces and pointed chins are derived directly from Pāla illustrations (Pl. 5). There too the figures sway with exaggerated stances and languorous grace. The postures of the seated figures in the upper section are identical to those seen in Pāla pictures. The garment design of the principal Buddhas with its striped patterns is very similar to that seen in Pāla rather than Nepali illuminations. One of the peculiarities of the garment worn by the standing bodhisattvas is that it is densely colored around the hips, appearing like underpants, and then becomes completely diaphanous down to the ankle, thereby clearly revealing the smooth contours of the thighs and legs. This is a characteristic of Pāla rather than of Nepali illuminations, where the male figures generally wear shorter dhotis which are painted with uniform density. It may be pointed out though that in a series of Ashtabodhisattva Mandala paintings from Nepal, which I have dated to the thirteenth century but which may in fact belong to the twelfth century, Pal 1978, Figs. 68-70. the standing bodhisattvas are given diaphanous dhotis but their designs and fashions are completely different.
There are many other features in these Kadampa style thankas that are derived from Pāla sources. Perhaps the most prominent is the shape and form of the rocks against which the figures are seated in the beautiful lineage thanka (Pl. 6). Not only is this distinctly different from the Nepali formula for rocks, which is derived from Ajanta murals, but it is obviously borrowed from Pāla manuscript illuminations (Pl. 5). Similar rocks also occur in the Kharakhoto woven Tārā (Fig. 8) and in the paintings of the Ananda Temple in Burma. G. H. Luce, Old Burma-Early Pagan 3 vols. (New York: 1970). There can be little doubt that both stem from a common source which must be Pāla art. Another obvious borrowing is the form of architecture employed in the thanka of Śākyaśrī (Fig. 10) and the beautiful Tārā in the Cleveland Museum (Pl. 18). Although this painting may actually have been painted by a Nepali artist, for reasons we will discuss later, the shrine in which the goddess sits so gracefully copies faithfully the kind of temple architecture that was prevalent in Bihar and Bengal and which is best preserved in the temples of Pagan in Burma. Other details that relate to Pāla rather than Nepali manners will be pointed out in the discussion of the individual thankas that follow, but it should be clear to the reader by now that just as the early Khache-Tibetan paintings help us to glean the lost style of painting that was once prevalent in Kashmir, these Kadampa style thankas are of equal significance for determining what the religious paintings created by the artists of ancient Magadha looked like.
What is perhaps most striking about the Kadampa style thankas is the smooth but vivid colours - with tonalities that are quite different from those encountered in the early Alchi murals (Pls. 1-2) or in the Lhakhang Soma (Pls. 10 and 14) and Kharakhoto thankas. They seem to confirm the Chinese historians’ claim that the artists of Nalanda had developed a very distinctive sense of colouring. Although red always predominates in paintings of the Indo-Nepali tradition, it is counterbalanced in these pictures by glowing yellows, greens and blues. Indeed, altogether the palette is much richer than that which one encounters in either Pāla or Nepali manuscript illuminations, though the comparison perhaps is not altogether fair because of the diminutive size of the illuminations. The difference in the media as well as the talent of the individual artists certainly contributed to the stylistic differences between the various representations of the style. For instance, the figures in the Pāla illuminations are far more perfunctorily and freely drawn than those in the Nepali style miniatures. Sometimes the features, such as the eyes and the hair, are almost impressionistic dabs in Pāla illustrations, but the Nepali artist drew their figures with greater care and with a steadier hand. As a result the Pāla illuminations appear more lively and spontaneous, whereas the Nepali manner is elegantly dignified and gently sensuous. Similarly, the figures in the Lhakhang Soma murals and in the Kharakhota thankas (Figs. 8-9) are more summarily drawn, the standing figures often being more awkward and disproportionate than those in the central Tibetan Kadampa style thankas. The colours in the former group are not quite as smooth or vibrant, and even though some attempt is made at shading, the modelling is far more perfunctory, so that the figures appear flat.
The central Tibetan version of the Kadampa style, on the other hand, although strongly linear, shows much more sophisticated modelling of the figures which seem to stand out from their background, as do those in the Pāla miniatures. The outlines in the central Tibetan Kadampa style thankas are drawn much more carefully than in the Pāla illustrations; consequently, the loss of a sense of liveliness is compensated by greater elegance. This may well be a modifying influence of the Nepali manner or the Newar artists who may have been responsible for some of the thankas. The lithe, weightless figures sit or move gracefully and buoyantly on the surface of the thankas and all the various elements, the figures, the lotus flowers, the rocks, trees and streams, the thrones (whether simple or elaborate), the architectural designs or the leaping flames, are rendered with meticulous care and with mellifluous rhythm. Whether the figures stand or sit, kneel or prance, dance or fly, there is an underlying rhythmic vitality that make the forms fluid and animated. Technical certitude is not allowed to stifle the unstinted fluency and seductive grace of the overall design. Although the composition is invariably the same, with a large central figure surrounded by Buddhas, bodhisattvas, acolytes and human teachers, these figures are not confined within elaborate arches and pilasters, as they are in Nepali paintings. Rather, they are separated by simple arches or are represented in medallions formed with meandering vines that enhance the rhythmic quality of the composition.
The beautiful lineage thanka (Pl. 6) is probably the earliest of a type of hieratic portraiture which is characteristic of Tibetan art. Whether such lineage paintings were known in India cannot be determined today. Certainly the vast body of surviving Pāla and Nepali manuscript illuminations contain no portraitures of any Buddhist luminary, whether realistic or idealized. In Tibetan lineage paintings, however, although a stock formula is repeated, sometimes the faces are remarkably realistic, as in this example, and at others they are highly conventionalized. It appears to have been much more common in Tibet to create an image of a high dignitary soon after his death. Whether this is characteristic of Tibetan culture or whether it was borrowed from China, where realistic portraiture was an ancient custom, is a question worth looking into. Be that as it may, this sensitively rendered and resplendent thanka of a high religious dignitary, as well as the two other early Kadampa style portraits known, See note 4. represent the highest achievements of early Tibetan portraiture and anticipate the later Sakyapa tradition of such paintings. Unfortunately we do not know the identity of the hierarch who is the principal subject of this thanka. A clue to the order to which he belonged may be provided by his luxuriant garments and some of the deities represented. In later lineage thankas such garments are usually worn by Sakyapa hierarchs. Moreover, the deities represented above are Mañjuśrī, Vajradhara, Vajrasattva and Vajrayogini; the blue figure in the middle of the bottom row is either Mahākāla or Jambhala. The central position given to Mañjuśrī would tend to associate the thanka with the Sakyapa order. In that case, the principal figure may well represent Konchok Gyelpo (1034-1102) of the noble family of Khon who founded the Sakya monastery in 1073, or it may depict his son and successor Kunga Nyingpo (1092-1158), who was the real founder of the Sakyapa order. Although I am not quite sure of the very interesting and unusual investiture (abhisheka) scene included at the bottom right (the enthroned figure must be a royal person), there seems little doubt that this is an early twelfth century thanka. Therefore, if it belongs to the Sakyapa order, then the central figure must be Konchok Gyelpo and it may have been painted soon after his death.
Equally colourful and joyously vibrant is a mandala of Samvara which is probably the earliest known mandala in the Kadampa style (Pl. 11). In terms of colours this is clearly a symphony in blue highlighted with yellows and reds which enhance the brilliant intensity of the basic hue. Otherwise the colours are of the same basic tonality as the lineage or the other Samvara paintings (Pl. 12) and differ strongly from the Nepali manner of colouring where the deep red is a purer vermillion. However, some Nepali elements are present, especially in the seated bodhisattva figures in the cemeteries, and in the forms of the trees and the rocks in two of the vignettes along the top. The convention of painting such rocks, although derived ultimately from Ajanta, was a favourite device of Nepali artists. Especially imaginative are the trees with sinuous trunks and bent and extended branches capped with leaf domes, which are even more fanciful than anything encountered in either Pāla or Nepali illuminations and anticipate some of the delightfully decorative trees seen in fifteenth century Indian paintings.
Many features in this mandala appear to be unique and are not encountered in more typically Nepali mandalas or those portrayed in the early murals at Alchi. The broad shape of the petals of the central lotus as well as the peculiar treatment of the petals of the peripheral lotus - which are given unusual volume - are noteworthy. The design of the portals is also unusual, although the shape of the red and white bell-shaped towers is somewhat similar to those seen in the dhoti of Avalokiteśvara in the Sumtsek temple at Alchi. Pal 1982B, P1.54. As a matter of fact, the easy, relaxed disposition of the figures in the cemeteries and the rich tonality of the blue are other elements that the mandala share with the early Alchi murals, but the styles are distinctly different. Another interesting detail is the manner in which the prongs of the thunderbolt on either side of the portal rise directly from the wall of the citadel. Both in Alchi and in Nepali mandalas the prongs invariably emerge from the mouth of a makara and appear as its tongue. Finally, the lively ring of fire as well as the mode of representing the flames behind some of the deities in the cemeteries have exact parallels in the Pāla miniatures. In most Nepali mandalas the tongues of the flames were far more stylized and increasingly assumed ornamental shapes.
Like some of the others already discussed, this painting, too, was closely modelled after a Pāla original. In fact, if someone were to cut off the lower register, one could easily suggest a Maghadhan origin for this painting. Except for the Indian pandit wearing a yellow cap at the lower left, all the others definitely represent Tibetan monks. One of them (at the far right) wears the type of broad- brimmed hat that is commonly seen in western Tibetan murals. This, together with the other minor similarities, may tempt us to suggest a western Tibetan origin for the thanka. But it is possible that the monk alone may have been from western Tibet; several western Tibetan monks, such as the Zanskar lotsava, were equally well-known in central Tibet. Moreover, this type of hat was worn generally by Tibetan monks during travel. What does deter us from suggesting a western Tibetan provenance is the notable difference between this thanka and the Kadampa style murals in that region (Pls. 10 and 14). In its accomplished drawing, delicacy of its ornamental features, polished elegance of its figural forms and the sensitivity of its vividly evocative colors, this thanka, along with the Sakyapa portrait is a classic example of the high Kadampa style that I believe flourished in the temples and monasteries of south and central Tibet in the twelfth century. Notwithstanding its borrowed elements, it demonstrates how adept the Tibetan artists were in assimilating various manners to create an original and beautiful work of art.
But for one figure wearing a pink garment of floral print (third figure from the right in the topmost row), the extraordinarily beautiful thanka of Samvara has nothing that is typically Tibetan (Pl. 12). This is true also of a small but certainly early Mahākāla (Pl. 13), which was probably rendered for a Kagyupa. The same Mahākāla sits at the extreme end of the bottom register in the Samvara thanka, and this form of Mahākāla is closely associated with Kagyupas. He is prominent among the Lhakhang Soma murals (Pl. 14), where too he is surrounded by bird- and animal-headed figures, as in the thanka illustrated here. Moreover, the iconography of this Mahākāla thanka differs notably from that of the more typical and later Sakyapa representations (Pls. 27-28). Among the most striking visual elements of the Samvara thanka are the two golden footprints prominently placed on either side of the central deities, each footprint being supported by a lotus. They almost certainly represent the footprints of the Buddha.
In any event, except for the details mentioned, nothing in these paintings betrays their Tibetan character. On the contrary, the figural forms, especially the two kneeling figures with pots in the Mahākāla thanka and the two nāgas kneeling at the corners of the throne in the other, have exact parallels in Pāla bronzes. Similarly, the meandering vine on either side of the throne contains figures that may just as well have been rendered by the same artists who did the manuscript illuminations at Nalanda and Bodhgaya. Just as the Samvara mandala in the Kadampa style may actually have been executed by Newari artists, these two thankas could have been painted by Indian artists from Magadha.
The close relation of both these paintings, though their colouring differs considerably, to other Kadampa style thankas is quite evident. For instance, Mahākāla’s elaborate necklace with fringes is quite different from the type of necklace he wears in later paintings, but is very similar to those seen in some of the Kadampa thankas (Pls. 8-9). The design of the lotus as well as the figural forms of these Kadampa thankas and the Mahākāla painting are also very similar. The Mahākāla could hardly have been painted much later than the Lhakhang Soma mural of the same subject.
As to the Samvara it is difficult to understand why it has recently been suggested that this is a ‘Western Trans-Himalayan’ painting of the late thirteenth century. Klimburg-Salter: p.123. The accomplished and sophisticated rendering of this thanka makes a western Tibetan origin most unlikely. As it has been noted already, the western Tibetan version of this style is considerably more crude and provincial. Moreover, its similarities with the other examples of the Kadampa style paintings from south-central Tibet are clear. Compare the various representations of Mañjuśrī in the second row from the top with those at the bottom of the Banaras Vairocana (Pl. 8), or the pedestal below the lotus with their grinning faces with that in the Lineage thanka (Pl. 6). The figures in the Lhakhang Soma generally lack the suave elegance of those in the Samvara or the Lineage thankas, while the grinning faces in the western Tibetan representations are even more cursive and impressionistic. Thus, if the Lhakhang Soma murals and the Kharakhoto thankas were rendered in the first quarter of the thirteenth century, it would be difficult to date the Samvara thanka later than the end of the twelfth, and certainly it must be regarded as a fine example of the high Kadampa style of south-central Tibet. mahāsiddhas. Moreover, the dancing figures both at the top and the bottom appear to be more Chinese.
Two more outstanding paintings of the Kadampa style represent the Goddess Vajravārāhī or the Adamantine Sow dancing with her companions (Pls. 15-16). Both thankas may also be compared with a third from the Kharakhoto group (Fig.9) which was painted before 1227 A.D. The two thankas must at least be contemporary with the Kharakhoto painting, if not slightly earlier. mahāsiddhas. Moreover, the dancing figures both at the top and the bottom appear to be more Chinese.
What is interesting is that although painted in the same basic style, the three paintings differ considerably not only iconographically but also in their visual elements. All eight cemeteries are represented with greater detail in one of the thankas (Pl. 15), while in the other two (Pl. 16 and Fig. 9) they are more perfunctorily added within the central zone, almost as an afterthought. Both in Pl. 15 and Fig. 9, the goddess, accompanied by six (female) companions, dances on the orb of the sun placed on a prostrate body or corpse which lies fully stretched on a large lotus. But in Pl. 16 she is accompanied by a larger number of female companions and her left foot rests directly on a crouching figure which is placed on a small lotus. The figure of Vajravārāhī herself differs considerably in the three representations in their proportions as well as their physiognomic features. The representations in Pl. 15 and Fig. 9 are considerably more linear, but the outline of the figure in Pl. 16 has been reinforced with broader brushstrokes to create more modelled forms. In fact, most of the dancing figures in this thanka have been similarly treated. Monks and mahasiddhas are included in all three paintings but in their iconography as well as forms, those in the two Tibetan thankas are more alike. The Kharakhoto monks and mahasiddhas are not as well proportioned but are certainly livelier. The Kharakhoto painting was very likely meant for a Chinese patron as is indicated by the empty cartouches besides the monks and the
As has already been noted, the Kharakhoto paintings may have been associated with the Kagyupa order. It is interesting to note that the dark monk in the vignette immediately to the left of Vajravārāhī’s lotus also figures among the monks in the lower register of Pl. 16 (second figure from the right). However, the mahāsiddhas appear to be different in the two paintings. As a matter of fact, the mahāsiddhas in the Kharakhoto thanka can be identified more easily than they can be in the other two. The figurative forms of the monks and mahasiddhas in both the Tibetan Vajravārāhīs are much closer to those in the early Lineage or Samvara thankas (Pls. 6 and 12), and there can be little doubt that despite their differences, they belong to the same basic style.
These variations within the same given style clearly demonstrate that the artists not only enjoyed considerable freedom but that the iconographic constrictions placed on them did not always suppress their creative flair. How excitingly different the three paintings are in their compositional arrangements, visual passages, application of colours as well as in their overall aesthetic effect!
It has already been noted that the murals in the Kadampa style may be seen as far west as Saspol and Alchi in Ladakh (Pls. 10 and 14). It would appear that the style may have been carried to these regions from south-central Tibet by the Drigungpas, a subsect of the Kagyupas, perhaps early in the thirteenth century. Earlier murals in the monasteries and temples in the region are decorated primarily in the Khache-Tibetan style derived from Kashmir. Curiously, very few thankas in the Kadampa style have emerged from western Tibet or Ladakh. Some were recovered apparently from the Kailash region and have been published elsewhere. Olschak Wangyal, pp.50-52.
One of the finest thankas painted, probably in western Tibet, but in the Kadampa style, depicts Vajrasattva and his consort (Pl. 17). Very likely, the thanka formed the frontispiece of a series from which another example depicting a monk is now in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The two figures of Vajrasattva and his consort stand out boldly against the overwhelming red which is the predominant colour. The feeling of tenderness and conjugal harmony between the two is well expressed not only by their intimate postures but also by their smiling countenances, as one sees in Pāla images of Umā-Maheśvara. The jewelries they wear and the striped garments are especially attractive. The figures surrounding the pair are either Buddhas or bodhisattvas. At the bottom, however, are the seven auspicious symbols consisting of the king, the queen, the horse carrying the jewel, the elephant carrying the wheel and the general. The monk worshipping in the corner wears the red robe typical of Indian monks in early Tibetan paintings.
The attire of the king and queen provides one clue that the thanka was painted in western rather than south-central Tibet. This may be further confirmed by a comparison with the Lhakhang Soma murals (Pls. 10 and 14), though the artist responsible for the thanka wielded a finer brush. In spite of the fact that the figures in the sambhogakāya thankas (Pls. 7-9) are not as suave and carefully drawn as the figures in this thanka, they are certainly more graceful than those in the Lhakhang Soma murals. This is also the case with the lions and the elephants that decorate both the sides and the base of the thrones in the mural and the thanka.
By the fourteenth century the Kadampa style appears to have run its course. The monasteries in Magadha and Bengal ceased to function by the thirteenth century, and thereafter, Nepal became a more important source for Tibetan Buddhism. Newari artists, of course, were present in Tibet from a much earlier period, but one can well imagine that as long as the Maghadhan and Kashmiri monasteries were flourishing the Tibetans continued to maintain direct contact with them. After their dissolution, however, it was natural for them to turn to Nepal both for spiritual and artistic nourishment.
This is clearly evident from a painting of the Goddess Tārā now in the Cleveland museum (Pl. 18). We do not know exactly where the painting was done, but it reflects a combination of both the Kadampa and the Nepali styles, as does the Śākyaśrī thanka (Fig. 10). Although the red predominates as in Nepali paintings, its tone is somewhat different from the Nepali red. The goddess is elaborately enthroned within a shrine whose tiered roofs are beautifully fringed with flowering foliage of various shades of green. While the shrine itself is copied from a Pāla miniature and is obviously meant to portray a famous sanctuary of the goddess in India, the elaborate throne with its intricately designed torana is clearly Nepali. Such thrones are not encountered in Pāla illuminations and constituted a stock motif of eleventh century Nepali miniatures. That a Nepali artist was responsible for this vivid and sparkling painting is clear and the fact that it contains no Tibetan figures led us earlier to consider this as a Nepali painting.
Cosmic Form of Avalokitesvara
Central Tibet (Gyantse style), 15th century
Professor M. Driesch Collection, Cologne It is doubtful if one will ever be able to determine absolutely whether this was rendered in Nepal or in Tibet. However, one or two features that indicate a Tibetan relationship must be pointed out. The grinning faces of lions and elephants are not encountered in any Nepali paintings but, as we have already seen, occur frequently in Kadampa style thankas in Tibet. The shape and features of the face are drawn with the same kind of sharpness and icy precision that one finds in the thirteenth century murals of Ladong and the later wall paintings of Shalu and Gyantse. Indeed, the facial features and their precise delineation are comparable to the face of Avalokiteśvara in a later painting which may have been painted in Gyantse (Pl. 45). Finally, the treatment of the lotus in which the goddess sits and the sense of colouring in general are closer to such Kadampa style thankas as the Samvara mandala (Pl. 11) than they are to Nepali paintings of the period.
While archaistic survivals of the Kadampa style may be traced in many of the western Tibetan and Ladakhi monuments, by and large, the Kadampa style was supplemented in the fourteenth century in central Tibet by a new style that drew its inspiration from Nepal. The monastic order that was primarily responsible for the emergence of the new style was that of the Sakyapas in the province of Tsang.