The sacred art of thangka painting dates back to the 7th century. Originating in Nepal, the art form evolved into several schools of painting. Centuries ago, these thangka scrolls served as the medium through which monks taught the Buddhist tradition to villagers. The paintings could be easily transported and unrolled in villages far from the monastery. Villagers would gather in the main square around the lama (or teacher). He would then proceed to teach them about the life and teachings of Buddha, pointing with a stick at the different parts of the thangka to illustrate his stories.
Though thangka paintings served various functions during public worship, teaching and ceremony, most importantly they are a tool for meditation to help bring a person further down the path of enlightenment. The buddhist practitioner uses the painting to imagine themselves as a particular deity thereby “internalizing the Buddha qualities.” Thangka paintings are thus a visual expression of the highest state of consciousness, which is the ultimate goal of the Buddhist spiritual path. Thangkas hang on or beside altars, and may be hung in the bedrooms or offices of monks and other devotees.