Tangka history

About Tangka

A thangka, variously spelt as thangka, tangka, thanka, or tanka, is a Tibetan Buddhist painting on cotton, silk appliqué, usually depicting a Buddhist deity, scene, or mandala.

Thangkas are traditionally kept unframed and rolled up when not on display, mounted on a textile backing somewhat in the style of Chinese scroll paintings, with a further silk cover on the front.


Based on technique and material, tangkas can be grouped by types. Generally, they are divided into two broad categories: those that are painted (Tib.) bris-tan—and those made of silk, either by appliqué or embroidery.

Tangkas are further divided into these more specific categories:

  • Painted in colours
  • Embroidery
  • Black Background
  • Gold Background
  • Blockprints
  • Red Background


Thangka is also known as scroll painting. Initially, designs are drawn on a gelatin paper using pen. The cloth is tied to an iron or wooden frame using cotton threads. To avoid pores on the cloth, a mixture of distemper and gum boiled with water is applied on the cloth before painting and dried.

There are six themes in Thangka paintings and each theme has its own significance:

  • Minti Theme (More importance is given to use blue and green colors.)
  • Chanti Theme (Light colors are used more.)
  • Kamgatti Theme (Sketch based painting.)
  • China getti Theme (Painting through comic designs.)
  • Gotti Theme (Floral designs are made without making the outline floral.)
  • Khamtti Theme (Paintings are made using the place name as base.)

Famous Tangkas