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Phase II: Regional expansion

Arunachal Pradesh

Project overview and objectives

The initial project seeks to improve the situation in the Tawang group of monasteries, where the architectural and decorative art heritage is threatened and there is a lack of awareness of their cultural significance amongst the monastic as well as lay community. Consequently, the initial project work plan prioritized the revival of traditional building crafts and preventive conservation of Buddhist structures. Due to the shift in project focus from building crafts to Buddhist arts, crafts and skills, particularly those related to the ritual of workshop, to give emphasis on the revival of Buddhist arts, crafts and skills that are at the verge of extinction.


Relatively isolated, the Tawang Monastery is one of the largest monastic communities of the Gelugpa Sect in India. Project activities aims to revitalize threatened Buddhist crafts and monastic rituals in accordance with the following objectives, as elaborated by the local project team:

  • to be able to achieve purity of the soul through the medium of physical execution of the craft or ritual development of purity into the contemplator (rather than just the beholder)
  • the created physical form of the craft should be good enough to be able to encourage patron(s) to work towards purification of their souls.
  • the act of commissioning and helping to revive the crafts/rituals should itself help the patron(s) to work towards purification of their souls.


The local monastic community was mobilized in May 2006 to identify the members of the Local Coordination Committee and Local Advisory Board. The governing council of the monastery comprising of ten monks have short listed the following crafts and related rituals for revival and for a sustained continuation amongst the young monks and novices of the monastery:


  • butter sculpture (Chezo kargyen)
  • mandala creation (Kilkhor) 
  • larger three-dimensional mandala creation (Loylang)
  • sacred chanting (Dontayang)
  • musical instruments – playing and making (Silnyenrolmo)
  • clay modeling (Lha zho)
  • ritual movements / dancing (Cham)
  • manuscript creation, including paper and ink making, and writing techniques (Pecha) 
  • tangkha painting (Lhadi)
  • wall painting 
  • conservation of sacred collections


Project output to date

In order to facilitate detailed documentation of crafts and practices, preliminary documentation and understanding of the process have been worked out as following:


  • ‘plastic arts’ such as clay modeling (Lhazho), tangkha painting (Lha-di), mandala creation (Kilkhor), etc., which are highly imbued with ritual and intangible content
  • chanting (Dontayang) and musical instruments (Silnyenrolmo), which are practiced by monks
  • performing rituals, such as dances and the Cham
  • preservation of manuscripts and sacred objects


Trainers and trainees for craft and rituals on the mandala creation (Kilkhor) and butter sculpture (Chezo Kargyen) have already been identified. Initial project activities including research, documentation and pilot training programs are expected to start during the last quarter of 2006.