Basgo: Chamba Serzang




The gilded copper-clad (gser zangs/Serzang) statue of Maitreya is seated at one end of the Lhakhang with the feet almost touching the base of the pillars (Fig. 1). The statue rises into the lantern constructed of wood. The glass window allows some light into the chamber and importantly provides access for the Maitreya to gaze over the village. The seated figure is approximately 6m high, and though it is often referred to as the tallest sculpture, the Maitreya sculpture in the upper Lhakhang is taller by several meters (Fig. 2). The quality of metal work is very good. The sheets of beaten copper follow the complex contours of the figure, mimicking the skin. The jewellery is in repoussé work encrusted with semi-precious stones.


The Lhakhang is richly decorated with paintings following the Drukpa Kagyupa lineage, with an emphasis on deities who ensure good health and well-being. The iconographic program follows canonical norms, with the images of the main figures displaying a high degree of precision and concurrence to the prescribed iconometry. The placement of the figures on the north and south walls is integrated, due to the absence of visual devices such as attendant figures and associates surrounding the deities. The horizontal space on each wall is emphasised by borders—on the top is the traditional motif of fabric pattern and on the lower side is a plain broad band (Fig. 3).


The horizontal space is divided into eight sections, with one major figure seated on a throne, and three associated figures placed at the top, in small roundels. On the north wall is the composition of the Eight Medicine Buddhas; and on the south are the eight Bodhisattvas. This iconographic program in the Lhakhang favours a pantheon that would ensure good health and a long life. This suggests that the Lhakhang reflected the concerns and aspirations of the individual patron—the king, and the royal family.


West Wall (Fig. 4): On the right wall (facing the west wall), of the seated Maitreya, is Vajrasatva seated on a lotus throne holding flower stems, in what appear like folded hands (the mudra is not very clear—it would appear that the dharmachakrapravartan [setting the wheels of the dharma in motion] mudra is implied). The flowers on both sides have a Vajra (thundervolt) and Ghanta (bell). The other figure is that of a lineage guru Jamgon Mipham Gyatso in the dharmachakrapravartan mudra. Both figures are surrounded by the Kagyu lineage gurus. Stagsan Raspa is shown seated on the left (proper) of Jamgon Mipham Gyatso. On the left (facing the wall) of the seated Maitreya, are images of Gompopa in the pravachan (teaching) mudra with a manuscript on the knees. Vajradhara is shown with arms crossed, holding a vajra and ghanta. At the centre of the throne pedestal is Vaisravana, shown seated on a snow lion, holding a parasol. He is surrounded by a foliated white cloud with several figures. The two main images have lineage gurus above them, among whom prominently identifiable are Mila ras pa, Naropa and Tilopa.


South Wall (Fig. 5): On the southern wall are depictions of eight Bodhisattva figures with their lineage gurus. The first, starting from the west corner is Manjughosha in the dharmachakrapravartana mudra, holding lotus stems. The lotus flowers on either side have a flaming sword and a book. Above Manjughosha, is Shakyamuni, along with Nagesvararaja. A stupa mounted with a sun and crescent moon on the finial, and the Buddhist deity Ushanishvijaya represented on the drum is located next to Nagesvararaja.


Vajrasattva is depicted on a lotus throne, seated next to Manjughosha, holding a vajra and a ghanta. Three lineage gurus are placed at the top, with Ushnishavijaya in the triangular space between the two prabha mandalas (halos). The third figure in the row is that of Avalokiteshwara Padmapani, seated on a lotus throne with hands in the dharmachakrapravartana mudra holding the stem of the lotus. At the top are figures of lineage gurus and a seated six-armed and three-headed figure. Next is a Bodhisattva in the pravachana (teaching) mudra with the other hand resting on the lap. Above this is a two-armed black Mahakala and a fierce Vajrapani in small roundels, along with a four-armed seated fierce deity.


The image of Vajrasattva is damaged due to water seepage, and some details are hard to read. The seated figure is depicted in the dharmachakrapravartana mudra with Bodhisattva Manjushri shown seated on a white snow lion, next to a fierce deity on the top.


Amoghsiddhi, blue bodied, with one hand in the vitarka (discussion) mudra, is depicted on a lotus throne, with his other hand resting on his lap. Above this is the image of Manjushri, seated on a white lion, flanked by a seated Bodhisattva Padmapani and another figure with six arms in the lalitasana (posture of ease). In the triangular space between the halos is Yellow Kubera (Pita Jambala), with his mongoose. Alongside Amoghsiddhi, is a seated Maitreya figure, with an amphora resting on a flower. Over the figure is a depiction of a white two-armed fierce deity flanked by Dhritarashtra playing the lute and a Dakini figure. In the triangular space is a unique representation of Kubera—shown as an ascetic with blue skin, matted hair, standing with a skull cup in one hand, and a mongoose from whose mouth jewels are pouring out.


At the other end is Amitayus in padmasana (lotus posture) and in the dhayana (meditation) mudra. Above him in the roundels are Goddess White Tara flanked by Avalokiteswara and Green Tara. Vaisravana, the protector deity, is shown seated on a snow lion, holding a parasol in the space over the shoulder of Amitayus.


North Wall (Fig. 6): The northern wall is dedicated to Bhaisajyaguru, the Medicine Buddha, and his retinue (Chandra 2006:218-20) (Asta Bhaisajyaguru [Chandra 2006:105]). The fourth figure from the left (facing the wall), Bhaisajyaguru, is seated in the padmasana on an elaborate throne with Makara figures on both sides. The throne is encircled by cloud-like motifs. The Medicine Buddha is shown  in the bhumisparsha mudra[i], touching the ground with one hand, and holding a bowl with a small plant and medicine balls in the other hand. The sun and moon discs represent the Suryavairocana and the Chandravairocana on either side of the throne.


The other seven figures of the retinue have appearances similar to the Bhaisajyaguru, shown seated in padmasana on a lotus throne, wearing a saffron robe, with the usinisa (mound of wisdom on the head) mounted with a jewel. Hand gestures are repeated. The first, third, sixth and eighth figures from the left (facing the wall) have the dharmachakrapravartana mudra. The second, fourth and seventh figures have one hand in the pravachana/vitarka mudra with the other hand resting on the lap. Each figure is seated on an elaborate throne with a prabha mandala behind the body and head. All the figures are surrounded by the lineage masters and gurus, with the exception of Bhaisajyaguru, who has two Kagyu masters offering khatak (fabric). The figures of attending masters and gurus have their faces directed towards the main image of Bhaisajyaguru, and the rest that do not look at the main image are shown in a frontal pose facing the viewer straight. No image is facing away from the main Buddha. This is a unique arrangement that ties the entire composition of the Eight Medicine Buddha theme.


East Wall (Fig. 7): The eastern wall has representations of fierce deities, but the geometric precision and the organisation of images on all the other walls is absent here. Over the area above the elaborately carved wooden doorway is Srivajrachakra, holding a vajra and a ghanta, with 12 manifestations arranged all around it. The manifestations are organised in two columns of three figures on either side.


On the left (facing the wall) is a Ghyusamaja (Fig. 8) with a Paldon Lamo figure next to it. Under these are the protector deities Virudhaka (Fig. 9) and Dhritarashtra. On the other side is an image of Mahakala and a fierce manifestation of Guru Padmasambhava. In the lower register, we see a depiction of Virupaskhsa and Vaishravana—the protector deities.


First Floor (Fig. 10): The first-floor courtyard has wall paintings, though the top surface of the paint layer has been washed off due to water seepage. It has left behind traces that inform of a wall painted in detail, with a large space reserved for inscription on the wall. Unfortunately, only the blank space survives today, with no trace of the inscription. This area was primarily for use by the monks. The exact function, however, is not evident.


East Wall (Fig. 11): The eastern wall is divided by the entrance door. On the left (facing the wall) is the large space for the inscription, and on the right is a narrative with multiple illustrated stories from the early Life of Buddha as Siddhartha, and from the Jataka tales (previous lives of Buddha). The composition is dominated by a number of buildings depicting a palace, a monastery, and a number of secular structures. The figures are shown wearing a typical Ladakhi long coat with a sash tied around the waist; while the head is covered with a turban.


North Wall (Fig. 12): This wall is dominated by the green of the landscape within which are depictions of the five Tathagatas, with attendants. The composition is peculiar as all the figures are of varying dimensions. The elements of the landscape—water bodies, mountains and trees—have been rendered in a detailed manner. The composition is populated with figures engaged in a wide range of activities—from travellers on their journeys, to people offering obeisance to the Tathagata. Along with the common people, there are a large number of minor deities around the main figures.


West Wall (Fig. 13): On the western side is a wooden structure encasing the torso of Maitreya. On one side is Vajradhara, and seated next to him is Buddha Amitayus, followed by a Kagyu lineage guru. This composition is dominated by the green of the landscape. On the other side is a figure with a turban. An important section of the painting is the depiction of Basgo village and the hill.


The courtyard (Fig. 14) also has some fine examples of woodwork—particularly on top of the cloud motif in the capitol—a floral design and a quaint roundel with a deer/lamb (Fig. 15).




[i] He is usually shown with his arm extended and the palm outward in the varadha (giving) gesture.




Chandra, Lokesh. 2006. Buddhist Iconography: Compact Edition. Delhi: Aditya Prakashan.

Basgo: Cham Chung




The external appearance (suggestive of a mosque or central Asian structure) of the small temple Cham Chung, is deceptive (Fig. 1). Once inside, it is hard to imagine or associate the structure with a ‘mosque’. The walls are covered with popular, fierce and wrathful deities—a shift from the peaceful and quiet iconographic programme in both Chamba Lhakhang and Chamba Serzang. The wrathful deities in Cham Chung have been executed in the fully developed Central Tibetan style, along with elements of the Newari (Nepal) style, particularly the red colour in the prabhamandala (aura). The details are very fine, with intricate patterns on the textiles, and the halo adding to the overall effect.


A painted stucco sculpture of Maitreya—fondly referred to as the ‘gentle small one’ (in comparison to the monumental statues in the other two temples)—is depicted seated on a platform, slightly off-centre in padmasana (cross-legged) posture, with the hands in the dharmachakrapravartan mudra (the gesture of setting the wheels of dharma in motion) (Fig. 2).


South Wall: On the southern wall, behind the sculpture, is a large panel dedicated to Shakyamuni and his disciples. At the centre, Shakyamuni is shown seated on an elaborate throne with two disciples—Shariputra (right) and Maudgalyayana (left)—standing on either side. In a column (eight figures on either side) are the 16 Arhats (elders).  Also represented are the four protector Guardian kings in the bottom row. The column of Arhats is followed by two columns of attendant figures on either side—in red, yellow, blue, white and green body colours (Fig. 3).


East Wall (Fig. 4): Starting from the north end, on the eastern wall is a fine depiction of Yamaraja (the bull-headed God of Death), holding a pasha (lasso) in one hand and a flaming sword raised high over the shoulder, in the other (Fig. 5). Next to Yamaraja, is a six-armed Mahakala (Gombo), with elephant skin over the back, held stretched in two hands, also holding a trident and a rosary. The hands in the centre hold a pasha and a damru (drum). The figure is shown with two arms close to the chest, holding a vajra (thunderbolt) in one hand and a kapala (skull) in the other (Fig. 6). The attendants and other associated figures are placed in a register above the main figure.


Next to the Mahakala is a fine depiction of Yamantaka (a representation of Manjushri), with his consort (Fig. 7). He is shown with nine heads—three wrathful on each side of the main bullhead, and stacked on top are two more—one wrathful and one fierce; the topmost head has a peaceful visage. The figure is dynamic with multiple hands holding various ayudhas (implements and weapons following specific iconographic injunction), and is surrounded by attendants and family.


In contrast to the fierce deities, the panel next to Shakyamuni is that of Tsongkhapa (founder of the Gelugpa sect—Yellow Hat), with his two disciples—Gyaltsap and Kedrup—standing on either side (Fig. 8). On either side above the throne are the lineage masters and other attendant figures.


West Wall (Fig. 9): The first panel next to the north wall was severely damaged and has been partially restored following surviving evidence. Chaturbhuja Mahakala (four-armed Mahakala) is seen in lalitasana (posture of ease), holding a sword raised above the shoulder and a trident in two hands. In his arms held close to the chest, he holds a vajra and a skull cup. Chaturbhuja Mahakala is surrounded by attendant figures and other icons of the kula (family).


Next to the Mahakala is a representation of Chakrasamhara with five heads, holding his consort. This is one of the most important figures in the Kagyu pantheon. Two arms are crossed around the consort with a vajra in both hands. The other five pairs of arms on both sides are spread out, with each hand shown holding an ayudha. The figure is surrounded by attendant figures.


Next to Chakrasamahara (Fig 10) is a wrathful depiction of Kalachakra, with his consort Vishwamata, in elaborate jewellery and costume, with four heads, 12 pairs of arms and 24 hands, each with an ayudha. The legs are stretched—lending to the aggression in the posture, with the face painted black, and the teeth exposed. This image is followed by a seated figure of Vajradhara with his arms crossed close to the chest, holding a vajra in both hands. The area had been damaged and has been partially restored. Avalokiteswara Padmapani (Fig. 11) and Vajrapani stand on either side of Vajradhara. Above, in two rows are other attendant figures in small roundels.


North Wall (Fig. 12): The wall was damaged due to water seepage, and the area has been restored. On either side of the door, in the top row are various lesser deities. Below this row, on each side, are the protector deities. At a small section of the wall, on one side of the door, there is a depiction of a scene from the Basgo Fort, with the king and his retinue shown. This is a significant record of how the artists chose to depict their surroundings. The panel is unique as it does not follow the conventional format of showing the royal family (patrons and donors). The scene shows the Basgo Hill in terraces, with a caravan load of goods in the lower register. The subsequent registers show the goods being taken up to the King, who is shown by the Queen, with his retinue seated in the palace at the top of the hill (Figs. 13 and 14). The area under this panel is blank but must have had an inscription, which is now completely lost.


The other side was extensively damaged due to water seepage and only the protector deities can be recognised and have been pictorially integrated on the basis of the remaining paint layer.


The space inside the lantern (Fig. 15) also has paintings. The compositions are of Shakyamuni with attendants, and another is of Tsongkhapa with his disciples. The rendition and colouring of these paintings are significantly different from the rest of the paintings in the temple (Fig. 16).

Basgo: Chamba Lhakhang (Temple)




Chamba Lhakhang (approximately 10 x 9 m, with the ceiling at a height of 5.5m) (Fig. 1) is located at the highest point of the fort complex at Basgo. Here, the large stucco of the Chamba is seated in an offset (approximately 3 x 3 m) on the north side, with its feet extending to the base of the pillars. The Chamba is flanked by two standing stucco figures of Avalokitesvara. (Fig. 2).


The Lhakhang was commissioned by Tashi Namgyal (bKra sis rnam rgyal, reign. c 1555–75) and the paintings were executed under the patronage of his nephew Tsewang Namgyal (Tshe dbang rnam rgyal, r. 1575–95). The paintings are attributed to Pon Dondrup Lepa  (dpon Don grub legs pa) from Spituk (Dpe thub).[i] Much of this information is recorded in an inscription on the royal panel (Bue 2007:189).


The paintings are bright with luminescent colours and measured organisation of the pantheon, all sitting in attendance with the Maitreya (the future Buddha) presiding. The abundance of wall space available due to the high ceiling has been used with restraint by the artist without overcrowding the composition[ii]. The paintings have been executed in the fully developed Central Tibetan style, marking a shift from a style influenced by the stylistics of the Indian subcontinent, in particular, Kashmir (Snellgrove & Skropski 1979:97). The geometric precision of the layout and the considered space division unify the individual panels into a grand narrative, intended to overwhelm the believers and the non-believers alike.


The painting technique—distemper (pigment mixed with glue, commonly referred to in India as tempera[iii]) on mud plaster—conforms to the canonical injunctions. The materials (pigment, gold, glue) are of very high quality retaining a luminescence, despite the centuries gone. Gold leaf has been used to express the area of the exposed body of all the major figures (for more details on the technique, see Dhar 2010).


A band of undulating festoons held in the mouth of Kirtimukha (an auspicious motif depicting a ‘face of glory’) with alternating sun and crescent moon symbols, runs all along the top of the wall. A horizontal band above the dado illustrates the Life of the Buddha. The horizontal space on all the three walls is divided into four parts. Each vertical has a seated figure (about 2.5 m) on a throne, surrounded by attendants and the Kula (family). In a horizontal band running above the dado are scenes from the Life of Buddha (Fig. 3).


West Wall (Fig.4): Following the chronology of the Buddha’s Life, starting at the north end of the west wall[iv]; the first image is of Vajradhara[v], the Adibuddha who is the originator of the five Tathagatas—‘Five Dhyani Buddhas’[vi] and the five kulas (Bhattacharyya 1958:44) with the 84 Mahasiddhas seated on all sides. A portrait of Mila ras pa, a Drukpa lineage Guru, is placed on the adjoining north wall, below Guru Padmasambhava. Vajradhara is shown with his hands crossed over his chest holding a vajra (thunderbolt) in each hand, seated in padmasaana (lotus posture) on a lotus throne, with mythical composite figures of bird men heralding on either side. The top of the throne is decorated with beautiful swirls of coloured flowers. On either side of the top of the throne are renditions of the sun and moon along with attendant deities. Next to Vajradhara is the figure of a seated Tathagata[vii], with one hand in the varada (act of giving) mudra (hand gesture) and the other hand  on his lap holding a bowl. He is flanked by Bodhisattvas Padmapani and Vajrapani, on either side. Above this, on one side of the elaborate throne is a four-armed Manjushri, while the image in the corresponding area on the other side is missing. On either side above are registers with repeated images of the five Buddhas, starting with the Akshobya (Blue), Ratnasambhava (Yellow), Amitabh (Red), Vairocana (White) and Amoghsiddhi (Green). Below these is a repetition of the five Buddhas in their sambhogakaya (earthly form, wearing jewellery). White Tara in lalitasana (one leg pendent and the other folded over) and the two-armed Mahakala with Buddha in sambhogakaya, are depicted on either side of the throne pedestal.


The remaining two images on the western wall (Padma Karpo, and the four-armed Avalokiteshvara) are not a part of the original painting scheme of the 16th century. This area must have been damaged due to water seepage, after which it has been  repainted.[viii] The image of Padma Karpo has been integrated with some of the original surviving 16th century paint. The area below the Avalokiteshwara has a plethora of all the favourite Kagyu deities in no particular order—Mahakala, Paldon Lamo, Manjushri, Guru Padmasambhava, Shambunatha and Chakrasamhara. The two latter images on the western wall are in contrast with respect to style and quality of execution. In order to complete the pentad of Buddhas in the Lhakhang, two Tathagatas would have been originally painted in the space where the two later additions of Avalokitesvara and Padma Karpo have been made.


South Wall (Fig. 5): At the west end of the southern wall is a beautiful depiction of the Goddess Green Tara seated on a Makara throne with Garuda at the top. Sudhankumara[ix] and Bhrikuti stand in attendance  on either side of the main figure. The area along the west corner was damaged. On the opposite side are multiple figures of female goddesses who do not carry any kind of ornamentation and are coloured entirely green. On the eastern end, White Tara in lalitasana, is depicted seated on a Makara throne, with eyes on her hands and feet. She has two standing attendants and is surrounded by figures of female goddesses in lalitasana, all holding a flower in one hand, and the other hand in the varada mudra. Each of these figures has a different body colour (yellow, brown, white and red). Above the entrance (centre) is a fine depiction of Vajrasatva holding a vajra in one hand and the bell in the other. He is shown seated on a lotus throne with an elaborate floral backrest. On either side of him, is a vertical band with six figures in pairs over three registers. The lower register has fierce deities (the only depiction of fierce deities in the entire Lhakhang); Above this are the protector deities of the cardinal directions, while the top register has other gods. On the left (facing the wall) top register is Manjusri alongside the Buddhist deity Ushnishavijaya. In the register below, there is Dhritarashtra playing the lute with the Guardian King Virudhaka. To the right in the same register are Virupaksa, holding a stupa; and Vaisravana, with the parasol. The bottom register has the two-armed Mahakala with a blue Yamaraja on the left side and minor deity Srikantha (holding a flaming sword and a skull cup) and another fierce deity on the right side.


East Wall (Fig. 6): Continuing the theme of the five Tathagatas on the east wall, the image close to the south wall depicts the Buddha in padmasana (cross-legged posture) on a lotus throne in the dhyana (meditation) mudra; with both his hands placed on the lap, holding a bowl. The lotus pedestal is held by a series of roundels that emanate from two vases held by a Naga couple. Each of the roundels has a snow lion, an elephant and a peacock; the pattern is repeated on the other flank too. On either side of the main image in attendance are two bodhisattvas. In the next image, one of the five Tathagatas is shown in the vitarka (debating/arguing) mudra as he holds the bowl with a stupa in his lap and is flanked on both sides by bodhisattvas as attendants. The throne has composite figures (birds and humans) playing musical instruments.


Next in the yellow conical Pandita hat[x], seated in the padmasana, hands in the dharmachakrapravartan (setting in motion the wheel of dharma) mudra, holding the stems of lotus flowers, with a flaming sword and a book placed on either side above the shoulder—is Tsonkhapa, the founder of the Gelugpa sect[xi], along with his two disciples, Gyaltsap and Kedrup  in attendance. On the throne, in a small register is a representation of the Guhyasamaja (Akshobyavajra) (Fig. 7) along with Yama Dharmaraja (Blue). Tsongkhapa is surrounded by the Gelugpa lineage gurus. It has been argued that this figure is that of Atisha. However, with so much concurrence in the iconographic detail with Tsongkapa, it is difficult to support the identity of this image as Atisha.[xii]


Close to the north wall, the composition opposite to Vajradhara is of Shakyamuni and the 16 Arhats (Indian Buddhist saints or elders) (Fig. 3). Shakyamuni is shown in the bhumisparsha (touching the earth) mudra with a bowl in his lap. His disciples, Shariputra and Maudgalyayana, stand on either side in attendance. He is depicted, surrounded by the 16 Arhats and the four guardian kings in a line, in the lower area.[xiii]


Life of Buddha: In the horizontal band above the dado is a fine example of the scenes from the Life of the Buddha (Fig. 8). The narrative starts from the west wall under the image of Vajradhara and ends on the east wall under the image of Shakyamuni. Each major life event is narrated following a long-established visual vocabulary and iconography, starting with the court of Shudhodan and ‘Maya’s dream’ and ending on the east wall with the Mahaparinirvana and Buddha’s cremation (Fig. 9).


The Royal Panel (Fig. 10): The panel to the right of the south wall (facing the wall) depicts the royal family along with their attendants. All the members of the royal family are arranged in order of the existing court hierarchy. King Tsewang Namgyal (identified by an inscription), with his two brothers, and other important members, are placed slightly off the centre and are shown larger than the rest. The composition then tapers on both sides in order of importance, with common people and attendants at the very end. The queens and other royal ladies are seen on the right—on the left are the senior court officials followed by their wives, and ladies of the court towards the very end. Both ends of the composition are filled with attendants and common people standing and facing the king. The scene appears to have been set in an orchard, with a decorated textile arranged as the backdrop. The King and his brothers have a canopy on top. In the foreground, attendants are seen serving food and drinks. All the figures are dressed in what has been called ‘Kashmiri/Moghul’ (Snellgrove & Skropski 1979:93) mode, particularly the headdresses of the men. The ladies though are dressed in the traditional Ladakhi/Tibetan manner with a perak[xiv] covering the head.




[i] Lo Bue, on the basis of inscriptions, suggests that the paintings in the Tsuk Lhakhang at the Tashi Choszang monastery in Phiyang belong to the same period as the Chamba Lhakhang, Basgo (2007:189).

[ii] Within the Lhakhang, the later additions in areas of loss, Avalokitesvara and Padma Karpo are filled with a number of gods placed next to each other without following any organising principles.

[iii] In India, the traditional technique of pigment mixed with glue or gum is commonly referred to as tempera. This is not correct since the term ‘tempera’ is defined differently in the West. However, the term now has a long history of usage within the Indian context. Distemper, or pigment mixed with glue, is technically the right word for describing the technique. 

[iv] Snellgrove and Skropski, commenting on the arrangement of the figures in the Lhakhang write, ‘On the two longer side-walls, there are a total of eight major figures represented, but the arrangement seems to be quite haphazard as is often the case in these later-style Tibetan temples.’ Then they go on to describe the various images starting from the east wall. However, this observation seems to be biased by the authors’ affinity to the Kashmiri painting style of Alchi.

[v] The iconography of the figures and identification is primarily based on Chandra, Lokesh (2006) and the Himalayan Art Resources website, online at:

[vi] The term ‘Dhyani Buddha’ to describe the pentad of Buddhas is avoidable as this does not have any historical precedent.

[vii] The head of this figure was completely lost due to water seepage. This area was extensively repaired and the missing head was reconstructed during the 2002–06 conservation campaign.

[viii] The exact time frame when these paintings were done is not clear; however, since Snellgrove and Skroupski have mentioned these paintings it can safely be assumed that they date prior to 1977 which is when Snellgrove visited Ladakh.

[ix] Identification of various deities is fraught with risks and problems because it is often difficult to identify the original context (literature) on which the dharni (descriptive mantra) of the figure is based. Attempts have been made to try and collate iconographic features on the basis of published encyclopedia but a wrong identification is possible, since this is the first time comprehensive deification has been attempted.

[x] Lo Bue has argued in favour of Snellgrove’s identification (Bue 2007:180)

[xi] The Pandita figure has been identified as Atisha by Snellgrove and Skroupski

[xii] Dr Jamspal has also identified the image as that of Tsongkhapa (Lobzang 1997:149)

[xiii] This composition usually has 25 figures; however, due to the damage and repainting in the lower corner adjoining the wall, the newly painted figures do not concur with traditional composition.

[xiv] The Perak is a flat metre-long base of fabric and leather, with flaps that fall over the ears when worn. The entire surface is covered with turquoise and coral stones.




Bhattacharyya, Benoytosh. 1958. The Indian Buddhist Iconography. Calcutta: Firma K. L. Mukhopadhyay.


Bue, Erberto Lo. 2007. ‘The Gu ru lha khang at Phyi dbang: A Mid-16th Century Temple in Central Ladakh.’ In Proceedings of the Tenth Seminar of the IATS: The Western Himalayas; Essays on History, Literature, Archeology and Art, edited by Amy Heller and Giacomella Orofino, 175–96. Leiden: Brill.


Chandra, Lokesh. 2006. Buddhist Iconography: Compact Edition. Delhi: Aditya Prakashan.


Dhar, Sanjay. 2010. ‘Documentation and Emergency Treatment of Wall Paintings in the Chamba Lakhang (Maitreya Temple): Developing a Methodology to Conserve Mural Paintings in India’s Ladakh District.’ In Conservation of Ancient Sites on the Silk Road: Proceedings of the Second International Conference on the Conservation of Grotto Sites, Mogao Grottoes, Dunhuang, People’s Republic of China, June 28-July 3, 2004, edited by Neville Agnew, 286–96. Los Angeles: GCI.


Jamspal, Lobzang. 1997. ‘The Five Royal Patrons and Three Maitreya Images in Basgo.’ In Recent Research on Ladakh 6: Proceedings of the Sixth International Colloquium on Ladakh, Leh 1996, edited by Henry Osmaston and Nawang Tsering, 139–56. New Delhi: Motilal Banarsi Das Publisher Pvt. Ltd.


Luczanits, Christian. 2005. ‘The Early Buddhist Heritage of Ladakh Reconsidered.’ In Ladakhi Histories; Local and Regional Perspectives, edited by John Bray, 65–96. Leiden: Brill.


Snellgrove, David L., and Tadeusz Skorupski. 1977. The Cultural Heritage of Ladakh, Vol I, Central Ladakh. Warminister: Aris & Phillips.



 Internet Resources


Himalayan Art Resources



Crafts and Craftspeople of Shahjahanabad


Shahjahanabad, now known as Old Delhi, has been a city where traditional crafts have been a part of the lifestyle of the residents. There is so much to see in its bazaars as we wade past the fruit sellers, tea shops, cloth merchants, artificial jewellery sellers, etc. The sounds and sights amaze us. We notice that the dialect also changes in Old Delhi––Urdu and Hindi are spoken in a special way. In local parlance, this dialect is known as Dilli Chhe (Delhi 6), named after the postal code.




‘Then there is Tikse, wonderful Tikse, with its gompa, perhaps the most picturesque and beautiful in all Ladakh, whose hundred buildings descend in steps from the top of a great ridge of rock right down to the plain below, which bristles with a forest of chorten.’ 

  • Giotto Danielli (1933: 275–76)


I. Introduction

Shahjahanabad: Physical vis-a-vis Socio-Cultural Space

Around c. 57 BC, ‘Dilli’ was founded by Raja Dhilu, a king from the Mauryan dynasty who reigned in the 1st century BC (dates vary in different accounts)—and in c. 1450 BC, Indraprastha was said to have been established by Yuddhishthira, the eldest Pandav. Delhi remained the capital for rulers of many Muslim dynasties. In the 17th century, it had a population of about half a million. During the Muslim period, several cities of Delhi had been built. While Qutubuddin built the Lal Kot, Allauddin Khilji established the city of Siri.