1. HAR Main Glossary
2. Animal Relationships
3. Bon Religion & Culture
4. Buddha Names
5. Caution Words & Sensitive Subjects
6. Function & Relationships Guide
7. Gesar Art Topics
8. Hand Gestures & Mudras
9. Mahasiddha Technical Glossary
10. Mandala Technical Glossary
11. Monastery, Residence & Retreat Terminology
12. Monastic Titles & Terms
13. Painting Sets Index/Glossary
14. Postures in Iconography Glossary
15. Protector Deity Glossary
16. Titles & Honorifics
17. Yama, Yamari, Yamantaka Index/Glossary
18. Glossary Resources Links Page (All)
C, D, E, F,
G, H, I, J,
K, L, M, N,
O, P, Q, R,
S, T, U, V,
W, Y, Z.
Abhayakaragupta: Indian Buddhist scholar, included as a pre-incarnation of the Panchen Lama line of incarnate Tibetan lamas.
Abheda, Arhat: included as the last of the members (#16) in the set of Sixteen Arhats. "On the King of Snow Mountains is the noble elder Abheda, surrounded by 1,100 arhats; homage to the one holding an enlightenment stupa."
Abhidharmakosha: a Buddhist text of the 4th-5th century composed by the scholar Vasubandhu. Detailed explanations of Buddhist cosmology serve as the basic components for the paintings with subjects such as the Wheel of Life, Mount Meru Offering (mandala) and the Rebirth Game.
Achala: Tantric Buddhist deity, depicted in many different forms and associated with many different Tantric texts.
Acharya (Sanskrit term): a Buddhist monastic religious title applied to scholars and academics. It is the most common honorific title used for teachers such as Nagarjuna, Asanga, Dharmakirti and others. In Tibetan the term is lobpon.
Achi Chokyi Drolma: a Tibetan woman of the 12th century. She was the great-grand-mother of Drigung Jigten Sumgon (1143-1217) and a protector of the Drigung Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism.
Afghanistan: in ancient times the region was known
as Gandhara, 2nd century B.C. to the 6th century A.D. (See Gandharan Art).
Ajita, Arhat: included as the second the members (#2) in the set of sixteen arhats. "On the Rishi mountain in Crystal Cave is the noble elder Ajita, surrounded by 100 arhats; homage to the one with the two hands placed in meditation."
Akanishta Realm (Skt.) (Tib. ogmin): the highest conceivable realm or heaven of the Buddhist cosmological system. It is on this level that the Buddhist purelands of Sukhavati (Amitabha Buddha), Abhirati (Akshobhya Buddha) and the Khechara pureland of Vajrayogini are found.
Akashagarbha, Bodhisattva: the nucleus, or womb, of space, one of the Eight Great Bodhisattva.
Akshobhya Buddha: The Buddha of the Vajra Family of Tantric classification and commonly representing the center or eastern direction in a mandala configuration. Akshobhya is the Buddha associated with many deities such as Manjushri, Achala, Mahakala, Chakrasamvara, Hevajra, Vajrabhairava, etc. Wrathful deities and blue deities typically belong to this Buddha Family..
Aku Trotung:: a character from the Gesar Epic, the maternal uncle of Ling Gesar.
Altar: a raised flat surface for the purpose of offering
up sacrifice as part of a religious activity. The word is sometimes used
in Hinduism but almost never used with reference to Buddhism. Shrine is a better word in Buddhist usage.
Amaravajra Devi: Buddhist deity, the Deathless Vajra Goddess, associated with the Chakrasamvara literature. She is sometimes included in the Thirteen Golden Dharmas of Sakya.
Amdo: a geographical region in the north-east of Tibet, cultural and ethnically divers although principally Tibetan. Considered one of the three principal early regions of Tibet and counted as one of the thirteen myarchies.
Amdo Painting Styles: (see Rebkong).
Amitabha/Amitayus Buddha: The Buddha of the Lotus Family of Tantric classification and commonly representing the western direction in a mandala configuration. Amitabha Buddha is found in both sutra and tantra literature. The Lotus Family is represented in all tantra classification systems. Deities such as Avalokiteshvara and Hayagriva belong to this Buddha Family. Amitabha is considered the nirmanakaya manifestation of Amitayus Buddha.
Amitayus Buddha: (see above).
Amoghapasha: a Buddhist meditaion deity, the Unfailing Lasso, arising out of his own body of literature he is also very much associated with Avalokiteshvara.
Amoghasiddhi Buddha: the last of the Five Symbolic or Celestial Buddhas. He is associated with the northern direction, the colour green and a horse supported throne. Typically his right hand is raised in a gesture (mudra) to the heart and the left placed in the lap in meditative equipoise. Deities such as Green Tara belong to this Buddha Family.
Amritakundali: swirling nectar, a wrathful deity associated with removing obstacles. He also plays a role in the Tantric initiation process and ritual.
Amulet Box (Tibetan: gau): portable shrines generally made of from repousse metal and often having a small window on the front with a religious image inside. Typically the front is very ornate and decorated with the Eight Auspicious Symbols. Amulet boxes are also used to store all manner of sacred materials such as small texts, consecrated medicine, relics, etc.
(Tibetan: tog chag. English: lightning metal): small metal objects thought
to be created in the ground by lightning striking the earth. Some objects
are recognizable and others are in abstract shapes. Old garment clasps,
book buckles, bits and pieces of horse bridles, etc., are all gathered
together under this one term.
Angaja, Arhat: the first of the sixteen arhats. "On the great snow mountain of Kailash is the noble elder Angaja, surrounded by 1,300 arhats; homage to the one holding an incense bowl and flywhisk."
Animals, Mythical and Real: Himalayan art is filled with exotic animals both real and of the imagination. See the Animal Relationships Glossary and Animal Headed Gods & Deities.
Anthropomorphic: applying human-like features to animals and inanimate objects. (Examples: Animal Headed Gods & Deities, manuscript pages, Elephant-headed God, Lion-faced Goddess).
Anuttarayoga: (Tib. ) the fourth and highest classification of the four sets of Buddhist Tantras according to a current and popular system. The three sub divisions of Anuttarayoga are:  Method (Father),  Wisdom (Mother) and  Non-dual. The name Anuttarayoga is often shortened to Anuttara. The names of the three lower tantra sets in descending order are Yoga, Charya and Kriya. The system presented here with accompanying links is based on a famous 19th century Sakya compilation of Tantric systems known as the Ngor Mandalas. There are minor differences in class and order between all of the Tibetan Buddhist traditions.
Applique: a textile work created by sewing patches of cloth together and often employing a certain amount of embroidery. Stones and pearls are sometimes added as ornamentation. Applique is a form of Tibetan tangka.
Apsara: (Skt.) an Apsara is a class of minor female heavenly beings commonly portrayed as decorative elements in art, often depicted as flying in the sky. Apsara can also be spelled Apsaras.
Architecture: (also see Cityscape & Monastery Paintings).
(Skt.) (Tibetan: ne tan): Buddhist saints representing the earliest followers
of the Buddha. In the Himalayas and Central Asia arhats are always found in a group of sixteen with Shakyamuni Buddha as the central subject, accompanied by the two principal students, Dharmatala and Hvashang, and the Four Direction Guardians. The complete group is comprised of twenty-five figures. In China they are called lohan and are represented as a group of eighteen or five hundred.
Artist Sketchbook: collections of drawings created by an artist as a reference manual for iconographic imagery, symbols and motifs. These sketchbooks are often passed down through families such as with the Newars of Kathmandu Valley, Nepal.
Artists: in Himalayan art the artists are not as well known as in the West. The names of the artists are mostly known through literature and biographical sources generally about the donors who commissioned the art to be made. In these sources the names of the artists come to light. In some cases the names of artists are written on the back of paintings, or around the base of sculpture.
Aryadeva (Karnaripa): Indian Buddhist Scholar famous as the student of Nagarjuna. He belongs to the group known as the Six Ornaments and the Two Supreme Ones of the Southern Continent.
Asana (Skt.): seated or standing postures of which there
are a variety of prescribed forms arising from iconographic descriptions
found in religious texts. The names of the postures differ between religious traditions. For example the lotus posture in Hatha Yoga is called vajra posture in Buddhism. The half yoga posture in Hatha Yoga is called the lotus posture in Buddhism. (See Postures Outline Page).
Asanga: Indian Buddhist Scholar famous for having met the bodhisattva Maitreya and travelled to the Tushita Heaven. He belongs to the group known as the Six Ornaments and the Two Supreme Ones of the Southern Continent.
Astrology: astrological charts and drawings along with special cosmological mandalas are so numerous in number that they make up one of the subject catagories of Himalayan style art.
Astrological Chart: paintings, or drawings, depicting astrological information and used as reference tools when casting a horoscope. Some astrological charts also function as protective talismans.
Atelier: the workplace of a particular artist, and more commonly thought of as a school when including the artist's students.
Atisha: an Indian Buddhist Scholar that visited Tibet in the 11th century. He is frequently found as a central figure in sculpture and paintings as well as a minor figure.
Attribute: a symbolic object associated with a particular subject based on well known examples and textual iconography.
Attribution: referring to the author or donor of a particular
work either from a signature or inscription, a provenance extending back
to the production of the work, or conclusive evidence based on style,
iconography, etc. See examples of paintings commissioned by Lhachog Sengge that include both the artist and donor name.
Aureola: the circle of light surrounding
the head of a spiritual figure.
Stories: narratives of the previous lives of Shakyamuni Buddha and close students,
illustrated in sets of paintings or as manuscript illuminations. The common literary source is the Bodhisattvavadanakalpata of Kshemendra (11th century, Kashmir).
Avadhutipa: Indian Buddhist Teacher of which there were several with this name.
Avalokiteshvara: a bodhisattva known for and exemplifying compassion. In the Mahayana Buddhist Tradition he is regarded as a bodhisattva. In the Tantric Buddhist Tradition he is understood to be a fully enlightened Buddha that appears as a bodhisattva or any number of meditational deities.
Avatar: the Ten Avatar, incarnations, of the Hindu god Vishnu are divided into four periods of time - ages of the world. In the first age are the Fish, Tortoise, Boar and Man-lion incarnations. In the second age are the Dwarf, Rama with an Axe and Rama of the Ramayana Epic. For the third age is Krishna. The fourth age is represented by the Buddha and Kalki. Kalki has yet to come.
Baiya (Pewar) Monastery, Tibet: a Sakya Monastery in Eastern Tibet that is known for its mural paintings because of conservation work done in the 1990s.
Bakula, Arhat: the ninth in the set of sixteen arhats. "On the northern [continent] of Kuru is the noble elder Bakula, surrounded by 900 arhats; homage to the one holding a mongoose with the two hands."
Balri Painting Style: inspired by the Newar Artists of Kathmandu Valley, using bright colours, detailed ornamentation and making full use of the entire canvas. This style was popular in Southern Tibet especially with the Sakya and Ngor monasteries.
Bamo, Sakya: a classification of Tibetan witch, subjugated, and employed as worldly religious protectors. There are three famous witches: Mamo Rikye, Namka Drolma and Shangmo.
Bardo (Tibetan): the state between death and rebirth and a topic of Tibetan Buddhism and literature. Human mental states experiencing the Bardo are personified and given form in Tibetan Buddhist art.
Begtse Chen: an enlightened protector deity of Tibetan Buddhism, associated with the Yangsang (Very Secret) Tradition of the meditational deity Hayagriva. The practice is most popular in the Sakya and Gelug Schools of Tibetan Buddhism.
Beihai Stupa, Beijing, China: built in the 13th century by the Nepalese artist Aniko under the supervision of Chogyal Pagpa and the patronage of Kublai Khan.
Bernag Chen, Mahakala: a particular form of Mahakala likely developing out of the Nyingma Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. It was the principal protector practice of the family of the 2nd Karmapa, Karma Pakshi. Through Karma Pakshi Bernagchen became the special protector of the Karma Kagyu School and the Karmapa incarnation line.
Bhairava (Sanskrit): a wrathful form of the great god Shiva. There are numerous forms and traditions for depicting this deity
Bhavaviveka: Indian Buddhist scholar and believed to be a pre-incarnation of the Panchen Lama incarnation line.
Bhimarata (Sanskrit): a Chariot Ritual practiced in Kathmandu Nepal as a birthday celebration for the elderly. It has mixed Buddhist and Hindu elements.
Bhurkumkuta: a Tantric Buddhist deity that functions as a defense and cure against various types of non-contagious sickness and disease.
Bhutan: the Himalayan Kingdom situated south of Tibet and to the north-east of India. It was established as an independent state by the Drugpa Kagyu teacher Shabdrung Ngagwang Namgyal (1594-1651).
Ground Painting: paintings that have a black back ground and the figures generally drawn in gold or brown outline. This type of composition was originally intended for depicting wrathful deities only.
Binder: the medium in which pigments are suspended
in a solution in order to be applied (as paint) to a surface.
a woodcut image in a relief technique where the image is left raised
and what is not carved is printed.
Vaidurya (Beryl) Medical Paintings:
a set of more than eighty paintings illustrating the famous medical text known as
the Four Tantras (Tib.: gyu shi), designed and commissioned by Desi
Sanggye Gyatso (1653-1705), regent of the 5th Dalai Lama. (See Vaidurya Texts).
(Tib.: jang chub sem pa): idealized beings in the appearance of youthful
heavenly gods, generally male and richly attired in silks and jewels.
They represent the principal students of the Buddha according to the
Mahayana literature (sutras) of Northern Buddhism.
the indigenous religion of Tibet and the Himalayan regions, founded
by Tonpa Shenrab of Tazik, Central Asia.
Cover: wooden boards, often
decoratively carved and painted, serving as the top and bottom protective
covers for folio manuscripts and block printed books from India to Siberia.
Book Illustration: commonly referred to as illuminated manuscript pages created to decorate the introductory pages of the Prajnaparamita Sutras and other Buddhist texts.
Brocade: silk textiles of Indian or Chinese origin, often with elaborate design, used to frame the borders of cloth paintings and create applique artworks (tangkas).
Bronze Sculpture: made from an alloy with 90 per cent copper and 10 per cent tin. This term is often used to refer to all metal three dimensional objects even though other metals may be present such as lead and zinc along with silver, gold and coppwe inlay.
Buddha: most often referring to the historical Shakyamuni Buddha,
however in the Mahayana Sutras (religious texts) there are many other
buddhas. The Tantric texts describe in detail the various appearances
of these other buddhas.
Buddhist Religion: the philosophy, or way of life,
taught in India by Gautama Siddhartha in the 5th century B.C. Buddhism
has been a major influence on the creation of art throughout asia.
Butter Sculpture: molded into a variety of shapes and
carefully coloured, they can stand 10 to 15 feet tall, and serve as
elaborate ritual food offerings during religious and harvest festivals.
The most elaborate of these are found in Amdo, northeastern Tibet.
stone, wood, ivory, horn and bone carvings were all popular in the Himalayan regions.
Chaitya (Sanskrit): a Buddhist architectural form intended as a funerary mound made of stone, a reliquary made of metal or clay, or a ritual object or painting symbolically representing the mind of complete enlightenment.
technical paintings, drawings and blockprints dealing with the subjects
of protection, astrology and medicine.
China: the country of China was one of the principal producers of Himalayan art style paintings and sculpture. China had a very large Buddhist population as well as royal patronage of the arts by many emperors. Beijing and Imperial Palace are the names of two of the sub styles within Himalayan art. Beijing style is a more general term while Imperial Palace style art is made inside the palace and of a very high quality.
Chorten (Tibetan): a Buddhist architectural form intended as a funerary mound made of stone, a reliquary made of metal or clay, or a ritual object or painting symbolically representing the mind of complete enlightenment.
Choying Dorje, 10th Karmapa (1604-1674): a famous painter, sculptor and religious leader who was greatly vily influenced by Chinese styles of the time and Indian and Kashmiri styles of the previous millenium. Examples of his
work exist today (see examples).
Composition: the arrangement of elements in a painting. In the paintings of Himalayan art there are several standard compositions: portrait, mandala, chart, landscape, narrative, etc.
Conservation: the practice of attempting to keep a
work of art in its original condition by using non-interventionist methods. (See links to Conservation).
Continuous Narrative, continuous representation: a
pictorial narrative device involving the representation of successive
episodes from the same story within a single picture and against a unified
background. The main characters are repeated in each scene and therefore
need to be immediately recognizable. This device is common in Himalayan
art and examples can be found in familiar painting sets such as the Avadana Stories and Milarepa biographical paintings.
Dakini: depending on the religious tradition and specific literature dakinis can be female nature spirits, witches, or deities assisting in spiritual development. In Tantric Buddhism a classification of meditational deity are also called dakini (Vajra Dakini, Vajrayogini, etc.).
Dalai Lama: The Dalai Lama tradition belongs to a system of recognized re-embodiments. Today, the current Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso (b.1935) is the fourteenth in the line. Since the mid-seventeenth century the Dalai Lamas have ruled over Tibet.
Deity: a word commonly used in Buddhism to describe meditational deities (Sanskrit: ishtadevata) and protectors (Skt.: Dharmapala). The word deity is not generally used to designate Hindu gods, Buddhas, mountain gods, nature spirits, etc.
Dharmapala: Buddhist protectors, deities that perform the function
of protection for both the religion and the followers.
In Tantric Buddhism there are two classes,  enlightened protectors (jnanapala) and 
worldly protectors (lokapala). The foremost example of an enlightened protector is Mahakala and for the worldly protectors the Four Guardian Kings.
Direct Carving, modelling.
Guardians: the four heavenly kings residing on either the innermost ring of islands, or on the lower slopes of the four sided mythical mount Sumeru, the center of the idealized Buddhist and Hindu worlds. Vaishravana (North), Dhritarashtra (East), Virudhaka (South), Virupaksha (West).
Distemper: a water based paint.
Donor: an individual, family, or group of people responsible
for commissioning an artwork. In Nepal there is a tradition of creating small donor sculptures to accompany large commissions. It is common in Nepalese and Tibetan paintings
to find the donors of the painting depicted at the bottom right or left
corner of a painting. Donors are sometimes named in inscriptions on the front or back of paintings. See examples of paintings commissioned by Lhachog Sengge that include both the artist and donor name.
Dough Molds, or Torma Molds (Tibetan: tor par): lengths of wood, intricately carved and used to create specific symbolic shapes when barley dough (tsampa) is pressed against the carved surface. The dough molds are used to produce large numbers of offerings for use in ritual services.
Dough Sculpture (Tibetan: torma. Sanskrit: balimta): torma are generally cone shaped ritual food offerings hand sculpted in a variety of shapes and sizes, coloured and then adorned with flat circular 'buttons' made from butter. Sometimes wooden dough molds are used to create the intricate shapes required for specific rituals.
Drawing, Drawing Book: (see Sketchbook).
Dunhuang: a location in Western China famous for cave temples, murals, Buddhist images and rare texts dating back to the 8th century. (See International Dunhuang Project).
ornamental stichwork applied to any fabric using any kind of thread.
Enlightened Protector: a Buddhist term, the first and more important of the two types of Dharmapala: Enlightened and Worldly. The Enlightened Protectors are wrathful emanations of the buddhas,
fully enlightened beings. Examples: Mahakala and Shri Devi).
Epigraphy: the study of inscriptions.
Many stone and metal sculptures have inscriptions written along the
base. Tibetan paintings often have verses of blessing
written on the back and very occaissionally they will have names of
donors or the person an artwork was intended for. Narrative and portrait
paintings often have name inscriptions on the front written beneath
each figure. Nepalese paintings typically place inscriptions in a bottom
register and also include a date for the work. Example: back of a painting.
Foot and Handprint Paintings: paintings containing the hand or foot prints of notable religious teachers. This is commonly found in the Kagyu Schools and based on a text written by Pagmodrupa in the 12th century explaining the technique and efficacy of creating such paintings. Stone carvings and paintings of the idealized feet of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni can be found throughout Asia.
Forgery & Fakery: an object or article deliberatly created to misrepresent and decieve generally with the intention of financial gain. Himalayan art is not without its fakes and forgeries.
Fresco: a word sometimes used incorrectly to describe the murals
of the Himalayan regions. The word Fresco implies a specific technique for creating murals which is a technique not employed in the Himalayas or Tibet. (See Murals).
Gandhara: an ancient kingdom
in the present day regions of northern Afghanistan and Pakistan, flourishing
between the 2nd century B.C. and the 6th century A.D. (See Gandharan Art).
Art: the art of Gandhara, predominantly Buddhist stone
sculpture, terra cotta and stucco.
both a mythical creature, a minor Hindu god, and a Buddhist meditational deity. He is depicted as being half man and half bird. The Bon religion has a similar deity called Kyung.
School of Tibetan Buddhism (also known as the Ganden School,
and New Kadampa): founded by Tsongkapa in the early 15th century. It
was very active in promoting the monastic system and creating very large
monasteries that housed thousands of monks.
Gesso: the basic ground coat or layer of a paint placed on the cotton fabric formimg the support of a tangka , pata or paubha painting.
Gilding: the process of covering a surface with gold
Gilt: the application of gold onto a cast metal sculpture.
God: the word god is generally used to describe Hindu subjects such as Shiva and Vishnu. In Tibetan Buddhism the word refer to the Hindu gods and to the Tibetan and Himalayan worldly gods and goddesses of the mountains and valleys.
Goddess: a term with broad meaning applied to all female deities and divine female figures regardless of hierarchical importance. See Index of Female Deities.
Gold Ground Painting: paintings created with the basic ground or back ground in gold. This type of art is copying the the Chinese use of painting on gold silk. Typically depictions of buddhas, bodhisattvas and wealth deities are painted on a gold ground.
Gouache: opaque water colours, a common western term
used to describe the paints used in Himalayan painting.
Ground: the primary paint layer applied to the canvas
or cotton cloth in preparaion of a painting. On top of this primary ground there are then four types of painted ground common in Himalayan art: coloured ground, black ground, gold ground and red ground.
Gupta Period (319-550): a kingdom established by King Chandragupta the 2nd that unified Northern India.
Guru: religious teacher or preceptor
in South Asia. For Vajrayana Buddhism the term is specifically used
for a Tantric teacher. The titles of acharya or kalyanamitra are used
for Sutrayana, or from a Tantric point of view - ordinary religious teachers.
Guruyoga: in Tantric Buddhism, a meditation and devotional practice focussing on the spiritual teacher (guru) in an idealized form. These forms can be based on accepted traditional images or on revelation experiences of previous spiritual leaders. Paintings and sculpture depicting forms of idealized teachers are commonplace in Himalayan art.
Hagiography: an idealized biography intended for the faithful, uncritical and often relying on, and embellished by, oral tradition and the visions of later followers. Most of the stories of the eighty-four mahasiddhas are relegated to the genre of literature known as Hagiography. See examples: Shavaripa, Aryadeva, Padmasambhava.
Halo: a circle of light, or rays of light surrounding or emmanating from the head, signifying a spiritual person. (See Aureola).
and Footprint Paintings:
paintings containing the hand or foot prints of notable religious teachers.
This is commonly found in the Kagyu Schools and based on a text written
by Pagmodrupa in the 12th century explaining the technique and efficacy
of creating such paintings. Stone carvings and paintings of the idealized
feet of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni can be found throughout Asia.
Himalaya: the large mountain range of Northern India, Nepal, Bhutan
and Pakistan that was formed when the Indian sub-continent plate joined the Asian continent.
Himalayan Art (Full definition): Himalayan Art is art that is indigenous to the Himalayas, predominantly Tibet and Nepal, and the areas under the cultural sway of these cultures. Himalayan art is primarily concerned with religious subjects and is recognizable through the use of composition, symbols and motifs. Individual works of art are commonly created in sets forming much larger works of art.
Himalayan Buddhism: the official name for the form of Buddhism practiced in the country of Bhutan. It can also represent all forms of Buddhism practiced in the Himalayan regions.
Himavat: is the god of the Himalayan mountain range. He is also the father of Parvati, goddess of the Himalayas. The narratives describing Himavat can be found in the Indian classics the Mahabharata and Ramayana as well as in various Puranic literature.
Religion: a general term referring to a group of religious and spiritual traditions of the indian sub-continent. Specifically it refers to the three principal religions of Vaishnava, Shaiva and Shakta and all of their permutations. The Vaishnava followers hold Vishnu to be the supreme god. The Shaiva followers hold Shiva to be the supreme god and the Shakta hold the Mother Goddess, Durga or Kali, to be the supreme god.
Iconography: the study and identification, often religious, of portraits, deities and symbols along with the context and general subject matter of an artwork.
Iconographic Source Texts: the literature that describes the appearance, function and rituals associated with meditational deities and gods.
the geometric rules, drawing guides and measurements used in the creation
of correctly proportioned figures in Indian and Himalayan art.
paintings, often figures or narrative scenes, used to decorate the pages
Illustration: a picture in a manuscript or a book accompanying a text.
Impasto: raised surfaces on a
painting giving an effect of three dimensionality, generally used for
ornamentation such as crowns and jewelry. Example: Akshobhya Buddha painting.
In Situ: in its original place, referring to
artworks in their original location where the artwork was intended to
be placed or kept. Examples are architecture, very large sculpture, rock carvings and paintings along with murals.
Adept (Skt.: maha siddha): the
great Hindu and Buddhist Tantric practitioners of medieval India. (See Outline Page).
Scholar (Skt.: acharya, pandita):
a term referring to scholars in general (acharya) and to those engaged
in translation, debate and disputation (pandita).
Cards (Tib.: tsak li): small
paintings, generally the size of playing cards, created in sets and
used in Buddhist and Bon rituals and initiations, containing illustrations
of deities, animals, objects, and abstract images.
Inlay: any type of metal, stone, shell or bone recessed in fittings as decoration on three dimensional objects - sculpture.
Inscriptions: words, phrases and sentences written on the front or backs of paintings and around the base, or on the backs of sculpture. (See Epigraphy).
Ishtadevata: a chosen, or personal meditational deity. These deities are generally chosen from the inventory of principal meditation practices common to a particular spiritual tradition. Examples: Hindu Shaiva, Bhairava; Hindu Shakta, Durga, Kali. For Buddhism examples might be: Nyingma, Vajrakila; Sakya, Hevajra; Kagyu, Chakrasamvara; Gelugpa, Vajrabhairava; Jonangpa, Kalachakra. For the Bon religion examples are: Walse Ngampa and Magyu.
Ivory & Bone: objects made from elephant tusk ivory, rhinoceros horn, or bone of various types, including human.
Stories: narratives of the previous lives of Shakyamuni Buddha, often
represented in sets of paintings, manuscript illuminations, or carvings. In Himalayan art the most common representations are based on the 3rd/4th century text of Aryashura called Jatakamala, Garland of Stories. This is a compilation and re-writing of thirty-four popular stories in both verse and prose style. (Read all Thirty-four Jatakamala stories).
Jewel: there are basically three groupings of jewels,  the Wish-fulfilling Jewel,  the Three Jewels, and  the Seven Jewels of Royal Power.
Karmapa: The Karmapas are a line of successive incarnations generally aknowledged as the first lineage of reincarnating teachers in Tibetan Buddhism. The main seat of the Karmapa is Tsurpu Monastery, north-west of Lhasa, and the specific tradition is known as the Kamtsang Kagyu (Karma Kagyu) belonging to the Marpa Kagyu and Dagpo Kagyu Traditions.
Kashmir: a region of north-western India, known to Tibetans as Kache, there were many great Buddhist pandits that came from this region along with trade and culture from India.
School of Tibetan Buddhism: commonly said to be comprised of four major and
eight minor branches.
Gadri Painting Style:
Valley Painting Style:
Khatvanga: a symbolic staff, carried in the left arm
by wrathful or semi-wrathful tantric Buddhist deities, representing the consort, male or female.
Kesi Textile Weaving: a slit weave technique from China.
Kings: a subject of art in all cultures. In Himalayan art there are three types of kings depicted,  Indian Kings,  Tibetan Kings, and  the Kings of the mythical land of Shambhala.
Kirtimukha (English: the face of glory): the face of
a mythical creature often found in Newar wood sculpture. (See link to a Pdf article).
Krishna: a form of the Hindu god Vishnu. Krishna almost always appears youthful and blue in colour, surrounded by adoring girls.
Kubera: referring to a wealth god, a proper name used
in old Indian texts for Vaishravana, the guardian king of the north.
The name Kubera is also used for various attendant figures found in
the mandalas of Vaishravana, Jambhala, Vasudhara and others. The word
Kubera is almost never found in Tibetan language texts.
Kushan Period: (130 B.C. to 185 A.D.). Links to Kushan history and costume and sculpture.
Painting Style: a style of Tibetan painting created by Kyentse Chenmo. Murals said to have been done by this artist are still extant in the monastery of Gongkar Chode.
Lama: religious teacher or preceptor in South Asia. For Vajrayana Buddhism the term is specifically used for a Tantric teacher. The titles of acharya or kalyanamitra are used for Sutrayana, or from a Tantric point of view - ordinary religious teachers.
Languages of the Himalayas and Central Asia:
Licchavi Kings, Chronology Chart: The following table shows a list of Licchavi Kings and some of their dates, as culled from three sources: Jayadeva (II)'s Chronology of AD 733 (as found in Dhanavajra Vajracarya's Licchavika-laka-Abhilekha. From the article A Kushan-period Sculpture from the reign of Jaya Varma, A.D. 184/185 Kathmandu, Nepal by Kashinath Tamot and Ian Alsop.
Lineage, Lineage of Teachers: (Skt. guru sampradaya), the chronological enumeration of religious teachers belonging to a specific family line, academic line, or line of initiation and instruction. The lineage always begins with a divine figure, Shiva, Buddha, or a deity placed in the center of the composition.
Lingam: an idealized phallus usually constructed of
metal or stone and used in the ritual worship of the Hindu god Shiva.
Lohan: the Chinese word for the Sanskrit word arhat. (See Arhat).
Lost Wax Technique:
Lotus: the lotus flower (Skt. padma) is a common symbol and motif in
Indian and Himalayan art.
Luohan: (see Arhat).
Lokapala: worldly protector or guardian; in Buddhism,
a lesser deity that performs the function of a protector that has not yet reached complete enlightenment. (See
the principal enlightened protector and most wrathful deity of Tantric Buddhism. (See Buddhist Protectors outline page).
Mahasiddha: Skt.: maha siddha): the
great Hindu and Buddhist Tantric practitioners of medieval India. (See Outline Page and Mahasiddha Technical Glossary).
Mahayana Buddhism (Great Vehicle): the Buddhism of
Northern India, the Himalayas, China and East Asia.
Makara: a mythical sea creature having a snout like
an elephant and the body like an alligator.
Mala: a string of beads used for counting prayers or mantras (mystical formula). The beads are usually made of wood, seeds, glass, rock crystal, or other substances. Tantric literature specifies different materials for different purposes and rituals.
a circular diagram, highly technical and precise, representing the entire
universe; the container and contained, animate and inanimate. Mandalas
are painted on cloth, on the ceilings of temples, as murals, fashioned
from metal, wood or stone, sometimes coloured threads and also from
Manla Dondrub: (see Mantangpa).
Mantangpa, Manla Dondrub (15th
century): founder of the Menri painting school.
Manuscript Page: palm leaf or paper pages often containing miniature paintings of figures or narrative scenes.
Masks: papier mache, wood or metal masks created as costumes for religious dance or theatrical performances.
Medium: referring to the liquid used to suspend the
Medical Painting: (see Blue
Painting Style: (New and Old)
Ming Dynasty: 1368 to 1644.
Miniature Paintings (Mongolia): small or miniature paintings about the size of a baseball card and made in sets
Mithuna, Maithuna (Tib.: yab yum): tantric deities
in physical embrace.
Modelling: in painting, the use of light and shade
to give the effect of three dimensionality on a two dimensional surface.
Molded Clay Image (Tib.:
tsa tsa): stamped clay, images typically of Buddhist subjects and stamped
from a mold. The clay sometimes contains the ashes of a respect deceased religious teacher.
Mongolian Buddhism: the name of the form of Buddhism practiced in Mongolia.
Mount: the brocade or textile frame surrounding a cloth painting.
Mountain Deity: deities indigenous to a geographic region and considered worthy of worship by the local populace. (See Machen Pomra, Tashi Tseringma and Werma Nyenya).
Mudra: hand gestures, part of a highly symbolic religious language.
any type of painting directly applied to a wall, or painted on cloth and
glued to a wall, or painted on wood and fastened to a wall.
Naga: mythical serpentine creature appearing as human
or snake, or both together with a human torso above and a coiled snakes
tail below. They inhabit the regions beneath the earth, and in the oceans, lakes, streams, or large rocks and boulders.
Nagaland: a region of Northeastern India with an ethnic population called Nagas. They are known for their weaving and wood sculpture, and follow their own forms of religion.
Narrative Painting: paintings that tell a story.
Naxi (Nakhi): a minorities people of China centered in the city of Lijiang and surrounding areas. They have a unique culture, language and written script. Both Tibetan Buddhism and Bon religion are practiced amongst other belief systems.
Nepalese Painting Style in Tibet: inspired by the Newar Artists of Kathmandu Valley, using bright colours, detailed ornamentation and
making full use of the entire canvas. This style was popular in Southern Tibet and with the Sakya and Ngor monasteries.
Ngor Painting: art produced at the monastery of Ngor Ewam in South-western Tibet. The art style is predominantly Newar influenced.
Nimbus: (see Aureola).
School of Tibetan Buddhism: the oldest of the four main
schools, established with the founding of Samye Chokor Ling monastery
in the 8th century by Padmasambhava and Shantirakshita. Nyingma
means old, or ancient, and differs from the other
three schools, Sakya, Kagyu and Gelug, in a number of ways. The three
later schools are collectively called the Sarma schools, meaning
new. A significant characteristic of the Nyingma is that it
is anarchic with no central authority. All of the other schools have
a clear authority and hierarchy.
a particular subject of Buddhist painting and sculpture, representing
items of clothing, weapons or food, and meant as offerings symbolically presented to various
Padma: lotus flower, a common motif in Himalayan art.
(Tib.: pema jungne): the Indian co-founder of Tantric Buddhism in Tibet, along with Shantirakshita and Trisong Detsen.
In the 11th century with the rise of the Revealed Treasure tradition
(Tib.: terma) the worship of Padmasambhava took on cult status. Hundreds
of new deity forms of Padmasambhava were created representing all aspects
of iconography and Tantric activity; peaceful, wrathful, male, female,
wealth, power, healing, etc. (See Padmasambhava outline page).
Pala Period: the Pala dynasty ruled Bihar and Bengal from the 8th to the 12th century.
Panchen Lama: closely associated with the Dalai Lamas and the monastery of Tashi Lhunpo, the Panchen Lamas are a line of successively re-incarnating teachers in Tibetan Buddhism. The first Panchen Lama, Lobzang Chokyi Gyaltsen, was the tutor of the 5th Dalai Lama and the most important Gelugpa teacher of his time.
Pandita (Sanskrit): a Tibetan Buddhist term used to describe either an Indian scholar that assisted, along with a Tibetan scholar, in the translating of Sanskrit texts into the Tibetan language, or a Tibetan scholar that translates Sanskrit texts into Tibetan. (See example: Sakya Pandita and Indian Scholar).
(Printed Images - painted).
Pastiglia: (see Impasto).
Pastose: (see Impasto).
Pata: an Indian painting on cloth.
Patina, Patination: referring to the surface colour
of bronze and metal sculpture as it has oxidized over time. The term
is also used for surface discolouration of other types of objects.
a painting on cloth. The Nepalese version of an Indian pata and a Tibetan
Petroglyphs: drawings of human figures, animals, and symbols etched onto rock or painted with substances such as red ochre.
Picchavai: narrative paintings portryaing the life
of the Hindu god Krishna, a form of Vishnu.
Pigment: the colouring agent in paint. Paint is pigment
suspended in a medium.
Prayer Flag: a printed image on paper or cotton cloth intended to be thrown into the wind or fixed in place where the wind blows. The flags often contain prayers and mantras along with images of deities and animals. Prayer Flags are common in the popular practice of both the Buddhist and Bon religions.
Print, Prints, Printed Image:
Proportion: in painting or sculpture, the relationship
between the constituent parts one to another, or any of the parts to
the whole. In Himalayan art proportion is moderated by the relatively
strict use of iconometry. (See Iconometry).
Protective Talisman: (see Chart).
Protector: deities and worldly gods that have the functon or duty to protect the religion, tradition or individual practitioners of a religious tradition from internal and external enemies, obstacles and foes. (See Buddhist Protectors Outline).
Provenance: referring to the prior ownership and history
of an artwork.
Purana: Indian Sanskrit texts often the source for
the study and iconographic descriptions of Hindu gods and deities.
Purba (Tibetan term. Sanskrit: kila):
a peg, shaped like a three bladed dagger, a ritual object represented
three dimensionally in metal, wood or crystal; for pegging down disturbances
and obstacles arising in the practice of Tantric Buddhism.
Pureland: (see Purelands Outline Page).
Qing Dynasty (1644-1911)
Raksha/Rakshasi: one of the three types of figurative appearance or mood in Himalayan style art. They are dangerous male and female spirits, sometimes characterized as demons, of classical Indian literature. Their fearsome appearance
became the model for wrathful Buddhist deities such as Mahakala, characterized
by round bulbous red eyes, gaping slathering mouths with large bared
canine teeth, flaming hair, dark skinned, large bellied and thick limbed. (See Three Moods).
Ratnasambhava: a principal buddha within Vajrayana Buddhism representing the qualities of enlightenment and residing in the southern quarter of a mandala. Wealth deities such as Jambhala and Vasudhara are associated with Ratnasambhava. "Arising in the southern direction is Ratnasambhava on a horse, lotus and sun throne; with a body yellow in colour the right hand is placed in the mudra of supreme generosity." (Dragpa Gyaltsen, 1147-1216).
Painting Style: a Tibetan painting style found in the far north-eastern province of Amdo. This region is currently part of the Qinghai Province of China.
Ground Painting: paintings with a red ochre or vermillion back ground and the figures generally drawn in gold outline. Power Deities and peaceful deities can be done with red ground. Paintings of wrathful deities are almost never done on on red background.
Relief, Relief Sculpture: a stone or wood sculpture
with the details standing above a carved flat background.
Reliquary: (stupa, chaitya).
sculpture or decoration hammered into relief from the reverse side of
Restoration of Artworks: restoring a worn, damaged
or aged artwork to its original condition, or the condition that the owner chooses.
Revealed Treasure (Tib.: ter ma): revelation, divine inspiration, pure vision - all based on the person of Padmasambhava.
Rock Painting: drawings of human figures, animals, and symbols etched onto rock or painted with substances such as red ochre.(See petroglyphs).
School of Tibetan Buddhism: named after an auspicious white patch of earth visible on the side of a mountain in south-western Tibet. A temple was founded by the Khon family in 1074. (See Outline Page).
Schist: sandstone of various colours, grey, etc., commonly
used in the creation of Gandharan art.
Sculpture: three dimensional objects made from metal, stone, wood, clay, etc., generally depicting kings, religious teachers and deities.
Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism: founded by Kedrup Kyungpo
Naljor in the 11th century, although having the same name, this school
is unrelated to the Marpa Kagyu School descending from Marpa, Milarepa and
Shaiva: a religion of India (Hindu) that holds the god Shiva in highest reverence. He is typically portrayed in a benevolent form, as a white or ashen skinned yogi, with the hair in a topknot and a trident (trishula) stuck in the ground at the side. In his malevelent form he is known as Bhairava, dark coloured, rakshasa-like, fearsome looking and often with many heads and arms.
Shakti: a female consort of a male deity found in Hindu Tantric art. This term is not found in Buddhist Tantric literature.
Shiva: the principal god of the Shaiva Religion of Hinduism. There are many iconographic similarities between Shiva and
various Buddhist deities such as Avalokiteshvara and Chakrasamvara. Shiva is also found in the Nyingma Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. (See Shiva Bhairava).
: a classification of female protector deities in Tantric Buddhism. Not all of the these deities are the same entity. Some are the wrathful form of goddesses such as Lakshmi and Sarasvati.
: (see Indian
(Sanskrit): a Tantric Buddhist meditational deity, the Lion-faced Dakini, generally associated with the Chakrasamvara
literature. The Five Deity Simhamukha is associated with the Kalachakra
literature and the Nyingmapa Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism regard Simhamukha as a secret form of Padmasambhava
Panchen Chokyi Jungne
: collections of drawings created by an artist as a reference manual for iconographic imagery, symbols and motifs. These sketchbooks are often passed down through families such as with the Newars of Kathmandu Valley, Nepal.
: a Buddhist architectural form
intended as a funerary mound made of stone, a reliquary made of metal or clay, or a ritual object or painting symbolically representing the mind of complete enlightenment
: Indian Buddhist texts, often written in Pali,
Sanskrit, or a regional language, the iconographic source for images of Shakyamuni
Buddha, the bodhisattvas and Arhats. See Illuminated Manuscript Pages
for an example of how these Sutras appear.
: meaning auspicious in the Sanskrit language. When turning to the left it is the principal religious symbol of the Bon and Jain religions. For the Bon a right turning svastika has no meaning. Several Bon historical figures and deities hold a single svastika, or a double svastika scepter. For Buddhists it is a decorative element occasionally having a more specific meaning within a specific Tantric context.
Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism:
Tangka: a Tibetan word referring to a painting or textile artwork.
Tantra: meaning continuum, a genre of Hindu and Buddhist religious literature.
Tathagata (Tib.: de shin sheg pa. English: Thus Gone One): a general term of respect for all buddhas, having gone, passed beyond cyclic existence.
Terma: Revealed Treasure: revelation, divine inspiration, pure vision - all based on the person of Padmasambhava.
Applique, Brocade, Kesi, Weaving, Embroidery. (See Textile Outline Page).
Tibetan Buddhism: a term commonly used to refer to all forms of Tantric Buddhism of the Himalayas, Central Asia, Mongolia, Siberia, etc. (See Himalayan Buddhism, Mongolian Buddhism).
Chart: a chart to correlate the names of Tibetan years
(animal, element, male and female) of the Sixty Year Cycle to the Western
Shenrab: founder of the Bon Religion, from Tazik, Central
Torana: the elaborate backrest, or arch, surrounding the central Buddha subject in paintings and sculpture.
bali): dough sculpture, cone shaped and sometimes elaborately decorated
and coloured, used as stylized food offerings in Bon and Buddhist rituals
and initiations. (Tibetan: torma. Sanskrit: balimta): torma are generally
cone shaped ritual food offerings hand sculpted in a variety of shapes
and sizes, coloured and then adorned with flat circular 'buttons' made
from butter. Sometimes wooden dough molds are used to create the intricate shapes required for specific rituals.
stamped clay images, molded clay.
Tsakli, tsakali (Sanskrit term): small ritual paintings, generally the size of playing cards, created
in sets and used in Buddhist and Bon rituals and initiations, depicting
illustrations of deities, animals, objects, and abstract images. Tsakli should not be confused with Mongolian miniature paintings.
Tsangri Painting Style:
Tushita Heaven: the abode of the bodhisattva Maitreya while he waits for his next rebirth.
Urna: the small dot on the forehead of the Buddha,
representing a white hair tuft, one of the thirty-two major marks of a buddha.
Ushnisha: the crown protuberance of a buddha, often topped with a jewel-like ornament; one of the thirty-two major marks of a Buddha.
Vaidurya: the Sanskrit word for a type of precious
or semi-precious stone, commonly used with reference to lapis lazuli,
blue saphire, or blue beryl.
Vaishnava: a religion of India (Hindu) that holds the god Vishnu in highest reverence. He has many different forms and is best known through his ten emanations (avatars), one of which is Krishna and another the Buddha. Some of his forms are comparable to the tantric forms of the Buddhist deities Avalokiteshvara and Amoghapasha.
Vajra (Tibetan: dor je. English: the best stone):  from the Vedic literature, the scepter of the Hindu god Indra namely a lightening bolt,  from the Puranic literature, a weapon made from the bones of a rishi, and  a word representing Tantric Buddhism - Vajrayana. As a Buddhist scepter it is a small object made of metal generally having five or nine prongs at each end that bend inward to form two rounded shapes. As a ritual object it is usually accompanied by a bell with a half vajra handle (Sanskrit: ghanta).
Vajravali Sanskrit Text: a famous Buddhist initiation and meditation manual that describes the various forms and function of mandalas along with detailed descriptions of the deities they contain.
Vajrayana: Tantric Buddhism, the form of Northern Buddhism
that relies primarily on the Tantras, technical manuals said to have
been taught by the Buddha, and offer complete enlightenment in one, seven, or twenty-one lifetimes.
Vishnu: one of the most important of the Hindu gods. He is often represented as the Ten Avatar. They are incarnations of Vishnu and represent four periods of time - ages of the world. In the first age are the Fish, Tortoise, Boar and Man-lion incarnations. In the second age are the Dwarf, Rama with an Axe and Rama of the Ramayana Epic. For the third age is Krishna. The fourth age is represented by the Buddha and Kalki. Kalki has yet to come.
Wax Technique: Lost
of Life: the Buddhist world view represented on cloth or
painted as a mural, illustrating the six realms of existence, the twelve
links of dependent arising and the three poisons.
White Vaidurya (Beryl) Astrological Paintings: various paintings
based on the designs and descriptions from the White Vaidurya (Beryl) Astrological
text of Desi Sanggye Gyatso (1653-1705), regent of the 5th Dalai Lama. (See Vaidurya Texts and examples of Astrological Drawings).
Wooden Book Cover: Carved wooden blocks rectangular in shape, often gilded and painted, serve as covers for unbound manuscript pages.
Protector: a Buddhist term
used to differentiate between enlightened protectors and worldly protectors. The Worldly Protectors are the Guardian Kings of the four main directions, the ten protectors of
the eight directions, above and below, along with regional and mountain
gods. (See Buddhist Protectors outline page).
Yaksha/Yakshi: male and female nature spirits of India,
of classical Indian literature and folk beliefs. These Yaksha are the basis for the depictions of wealth deities, royalty, along with some semi-peaceful/wrathful deities. (See the Three Moods).
Yuan Dynasty: the period in Chinese history from 1271 to 1368 when they were ruled by the conquering Mongols, most notably, Kublai Khan.
Yungdrung (Tibetan): meaning everlasting, the Tibetan word for the symbol commonly known as a svastika. When turning to the left it is the principal religious symbol of the Bon religion, also known as the Yungdrung Bon. For the Bon a right turning yungdrung has no meaning other than decorative. Several Bon historical figures and deities hold a single yungdrung, or a double yungdrung scepter. For Buddhists it is a decorative element occasionally having a more specific meaning within a specific Tantric context.
Zhangzhung: an ancient Bonpo kingdom in west Tibet located near Mount Kailash.
Zhangzhung Language: the ancient language of the Zhangzhung region and of the Bon religion.
The Bulfinch Guide to Art History. General Editor Shearer West. A Bulfinch Press Book, Little, Brown and Company, 1996.
A History of Tibetan Painting. David Jackson. Verlag Der Osterreichischen Akademe Der Wissenschafften, 1996.
Tibetan Religious Art. Part I and II, by Loden Sherab Dagyab. Otto Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden, 1977.
Tibetan Thangka Painting, Methods & Materials. David and Janice Jackson. Snow Lion Publications, 1984.
Copyright © 2013 Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation.