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Painting Of Nepal

About Nepal

Painting Of Nepal

Two media that reveal a lot about Nepalese culture, both past and present, are painting and sculpture. Fortunately, there are many fine and well-preserved pieces that have survived the passage of time and thus enable detailed research to be made. Looking briefly at the history of Nepalese painting, it appears that ancient icons and religious paintings entered the Valley during the Lichchhavi period. Lichchhavi inscriptions inform us that traders, monks and Brahmans as well as artists from neighbouring areas, visited Kathmandu Valley from the mid-fifth century A.D. The visitors may have brought religious icons and paintings with them which served as models for local artists.

The Chinese envoy, Wang Hsuan Tse, Who came to Nepal in the seventh Century A.D; described quite eloquently the houses in the Valley, which at that early time were embellished with sculptures and paintings. Although there are no surviving examples of paintings from the Lichchhavi period, it can be surmised that the murals or wall paintings noticed by the Chinese envoy were just as sophisticated as the surviving pieces of culture from this period. The earliest examples of Nepalese painting are in the form of manuscript illustrations on palm leaves. Nepalese manuscripts go back to the ninth century; however not all Early manuscripts were illustrated. The earliest known example of an illustrated manuscript is the Astasahasrika Pragyaparamita, dated A.D. 1015. These manuscripts invariably consists of narrow folios of palm leaves about thirty centimeters long, depending on the text, but not wider than five centimeters. The manuscripts are perforated in two places, loosely held together with string and protected by wooden covers on both sides.

These wooden covers, a large number of which have surviffved are more lavishly painted than the manuscripts themselves. In palm leaf manuscripts the scribes left spaces for the artists to later paint in the figures of divinities. After the introduction of paper, palm leaf became less popular; however it continued to be used until the eighteenth century. Early paper manuscripts imitated the oblong shape but were wider than the palm leaves.

Influence of Religion on Painting :
All surviving illustrated manuscripts, whether Buddhist or Hindu, are illustrated with hieratic images of gods and goddesses. A large number of manuscripts are devoted to the principal events from the life of Buddha or the hieratic representations of Vajrayana deities, which bear little relation to the tet. During the early medieval period, Pragyaparamita, the personification of wisdom, became one of the most popular deities in Nepal. Manuscripts consecrated to this deity were repeatedly copied. Besides These Buddhist manuscripts, illuminated manuscripts of Hindu divinities such as Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Kartikeya and Ganesh were also frequently represented. Manuscripts continued to be painted and copied for centuries, for the act of donating a manuscript to a monk, priest, monastery or temple was considered by both Hindus and Buddhists to be an act of great virtue. Early illustrated manuscripts were executed in the same basic style. But later examples, particularly paper manuscripts, clearly show signs of deterioration in quality.

Paubha (Thangka) Painting :
Religious paintings worshipped as icons are known as Paubha in Nepalbhasa and Thangka in Tibetan. The origin of Paubha or Thangka paintings may be attributed to Nepalese artists as early as the ninth or tenth century. Realizing the great demand for religious icons in Tibet these artists, along with monks and traders, took with them from Nepal not only metal sculptures but also a number of Buddhist manuscripts. To better fulfil the ever-increasing demand, Nepalese artists intited a new type of religious painting on cloth that could be easily rolled up and carried along with them. This type of painting became very popular both in Nepal and Tibet and has remained popular to this day. One of the earliest specimens of Nepalese Paubha painting dates from the thirteenth or fourteenth century and shows Amitabha Surrounded by Bodhisatwas. Another Nepalese Paubha with three dates in the inscription (the latest one corresponding to A.D 1369), is one of the earliest known Paubha with inscription. The 'Mandala of Vishnu", dated A.D. 1420, is another fine example of the painting of this period. Early Nepalese Paubha are simple in design and composition. The main deity, a large figure, occupies the central position while surrounded by smaller figures.

Influence of Tantrism on Paintings :
From the fifteenth century onwards, brighter colours gradually began to appear in the Nepalese painting. Because of the growing importance of the Tantric cult, various aspects of Shiva and Shakti were painted in conventional poses. Mahakala, Manjushri, Lokeshwara and other delties were equally popular and were also frequently represented in Nepalese paintings of later dates. The embrace of male and female is another common motif of the Tantric Buddhist art of this period.


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