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Buddhist Yak Butter Art of Sikkim

March 05, 2011 2 min read

I usually travel ‘blind’ – without detailed research. So I do not have a clear idea of what to expect. As a result, the experiences I go through along the way, guide my journey.

All I knew was that I wanted to explore monasteries in Sikkim – but I had no idea what aspects of monasteries would be revealed to me on this journey. I wasn’t seeking anything in particular. All I wanted was to absorb the experiences that came my way by keeping myself alert enough to notice and observe all the data that I was being exposed to.

I had visited 3 monasteries before I became aware of the wax art that Lamas produced. Beautiful abstracts made out of vanaspati / butter mixed with color and some stabilising ingredients.

These pieces of 3-dimensional art ranged from naive 6-inch pieces by novices to 4ft tall pieces by experts!

These pieces are created and left in the monastery as decoration, and are then burnt at the end of the year.

Following is a slide show of some remarkable pieces I saw on my journey. Also included are pictures of 2 ‘substitute’ pieces …that are used when the skills to creat the real thing are not available.

Whether this art is characteristic of Sikkimese Budhism or is prevalent everywhere, I do not know …

Click to view slideshow.

The output of this centuries-old art form – the butter-art pieces have a shelf life and are consumed in the ceremonies, and so have not been collected and shown in museums!  Yet these are as interesting as Thangkas and other lama-art forms!

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March 2011

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