Long lost tangkas returned

Buddhism has been very important in Mongolia for many centuries. The Socialist revolution of 1921 put a virtual end to the political and religious power of the Bogd Khan. When he past away in 1924(?) it meant the end of the influence of Buddhism. Persecution of Buddhist leaders, round-ups and the execution of Buddhist monks and the destruction of Buddhist temples and religious artefacts followed. Many lost their lives by the bullet or in the work camps, many artefacts were destroyed or looted. But some of it was hidden by very brave and couragous people; being caught meant prison, torture and possibly worse.

After the fall of the Socialist regime in 1989, Buddhism once again came to the front. Many of the old people had never entirely given up their religion but now they were once again able to go to temple and make offerings and have mantras read. The collapse of the economy in the early 1990s was a severe blow to Mongolian society, with many people becoming unemployed and very poor almost over night. Many turned to religion for comfort and support. And while some were drawn to Christianity, most were drawn to the religion of their ancestors: Buddhism.

Now that Buddhism is back to stay, there's also an increased interest in finding back those Buddhist artefacts that were hidden away all these decades ago. The follwoing article was copied from the Mongolia Today website.
Unique Tangkas

Very few people knew about the existence of these magnificent tangkas. Ever since the brutal crackdown of the Buddhist religion in 30s, they were hidden in cellars and only last year the residents of the capital city were able to see them for the first time.

Capital city residents saw this giant tangka of God Ochirvaani last in 1935. The picture is taken in mid-20s

These tangkas were made specially for annual Buddhist ceremony of summoning wealth and protection for Mongolia. On that day almost all monks marched around Urga (now Ulaanbaatar) streets chanting prayers and carrying on long poles these giant magnificent tangkas with the images of God Ochirvaani, the Protector of Mongolia and meaning eternity, longevity, health and well-being. The ceremony was completed with a Tsam Dance ceremony depicting a mythological battle between good and bad spirits.

Last time Tsam Dance was held in mid-30s and ever since tangkas were stored in the cellars of the Mongolian Fine Arts Museum. "Hand made silk is very strong. It is amazing that it remained almost intact despite decades of laying in humid cellars," says B.Davaasuren, an expert with the Fine Arts Museum. "We have underground water seeping in and have to keep the artifacts on wooden shelves."
Tangkas were so huge that the Museum has had to remove inside columns to spread them for restorarion works.

"We heard that there were even special technology and instruction for preserving such silk tangkas but we do not know. When we were unwrapping the tangkas I could her the fabric tearing off there and here. My heart was hurting by these sounds, they are more than 90 years old."

The Museum has another two huge tangkas. The size of God Sengiiraz alone is 16.17 meters long and 11.45 meters high. And nobody knows the condition of these tangkas as they were never displayed since 30s.

Tangkas were so huge that the Museum has had to remove inside columns to spread them for restorarion works.

The technology of making tangkas is very elaborate requiring teams of women to work for months. Often the tangkas were decoaretd with golden threads, silver and precious stones. Because of this technology such size tangkas were made very rarely and cost fortune. Only large monasteries were able to afford such tangkas to decorate their interiors.
The tradition of silk tangkas can be traced long time back, but their heyday came in the period of Buddhism expansion across Asia.
The biggest problem was to find space to lay down tangka for restoration. To spread 14 to 10.8 huge tangka the Museum has had to move away hall columns.

That period tangkas are made according to strict canons of Tibetan Buddhism. But since religious art played such a significant role being almost the only channel for artistic creativity, often art side won over religious meaning. For example, God Ganzai's tangka made by Urga master Khasgombo represent a real masterpiece. Made with only 2-3 dominating colors it has internal harmony and rhythm ingrained.

During the socialism the Buddhist arts were considered "reactionary" and "outmoded." As the result, tangkas were banned and forgotten.

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