We visited the famous Norbulingka Institute known for keeping the Tibetan culture and values alive in India for the Tibetans living in exile. It is named after the traditional summer palace of Dalai Lamas in Lhasa, Tibet. It was established in 1995 for preservation of ancient art practices of Tibet, especially the crafts.
Norbulingka is dedicated to handing down tradition and restoring standards by providing training, education and employment for Tibetans. It supports an environment in which Tibetan community and family values can flourish. It reconciles the tradition creatively and respectfully with the modern, and seeks to create an international awareness of Tibetan values and their expression in art and literature. It offers training in Tibetan statue making, thangka painting, printing, thangk applique and tailoring, wood carving, wood and metal craft.
We saw the young students working painstakingly on all these arts. I have always admired the intricate designs and pattern of thangka, and for a long time had wished to own at least one such painting. However, the cost has always been a prohibitive factor. This time Chitra instructed me to get one, she offered to finance the acquisition. She suggested that there I would not only get an authentic thangka, but the price could also be less than the market price. But the cost this time also was way beyond my expectation. However, this time I realized that what we were offered in commercial markets of Dharamsala or Kathmandu or Gangtok were perhaps not hand-made authentic work. The traditional thangka is totally hand made and may take a year or more to produce a piece measuring 2 x 2 ft. But the end result is truly breathtaking.