Himalayan Art Resources

Painting Set: Margapala [17]

Margapala Lineage Paintings

A painting set depicting the Sakya Lamdre (Margapala) Lineage of the Ngor Monastery of Tsang Province, Tibet. The Ngor Monastery was founded by Kunga Zangpo and soon became an important center for Sakya studies and a branch school of the Sakya Tradition itself. (See a map of U-tsang and the location of Ngor Monastery).

Margapala Sets (Four Figures)

Only five paintings from the set are currently known to still exist: right 2, left 2, and right 4. In sequence, counting from the first painting they are #4, #5 and #8. Although the set appears to end with the eighth painting (4th right) is it also likely, for the sake of symmetry, that a ninth painting was added as the 4th left. If this were the case then it would probably depict deities, both wealth and protection, chosen by the donor or the artist.

The early lineage of teachers depicted in the painting set follows the standard list of names for Lamdre teachers. The last painting contains the names of two Ngor Monastery abbots that are significant in the Ngor tradition of Lamdre teachers for that time period, but are no longer considered part of the direct line of Lamdre teachers continuing up to the present 21th century. The names of the final two teachers are Konchog Pelwa (1445-1514, yongs 'dzin dkon mchog 'phel ba), 7th Abbot of Ngor Monastery [P1873] and Muchen Sanggye Rinchen (1450-1524, mus chen sangs rgyas rin chen), the 8th Abbot of Ngor Monastery [P1027].

The artistic convention of placing four lineage teachers in a single composition - register based - is found almost exclusively with the Sakya Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism and most popular in the 15th and 16th centuries (see other examples). Register based compositions almost completely disappear after the 17th century with the introduction of the Floating Figure composition which remains popular right up to the present time. The Karma Kagyu Tradition employed a two figure register based composition known from examples created in the 16th century (see examples).

The last painting (right 4, #8) that depicts the lineage teachers also depicts a donor figure at the bottom left corner. The painting set can be roughly dated to 1525 or slightly later based on the death of the last prominent teacher Muchen Sanggye Rinchen (1450-1524. mus chen sangs rgyas rin chen), the 8th Abbot of Ngor Monastery [P1027].

Jeff Watt 1-2013 [updated 9-2020]