All about Applique Thangkas

is Known as göchen in . The Huns of Central were the first to use to decorate saddle blankets. It traveled eastward along the , and accepted it as a holy form.

Fabric were created in the 15th century utilizing an indigenous applique method. These thangkas, which are lavishly embroidered and appliqued, immediately became popular in Tibet.

Because of its excellent materials, durability, suppleness, and potential to last many generations, appliqued thangkas are typically believed to be superior to painted thangkas. Using specific stitching , each item is expertly hand-sewn.

In Tibet, senior have traditionally passed down the highly esteemed ability of thangka making to the younger generation. Unfortunately, in Tibet, this custom has largely been lost. Though it has revived in and . The preservation of this art form is important since it carries enormous cultural and for Tibetans and around the world.

What is applique Thangka?

Vajrapani Applique Thangak
Applique Thangak

Applique Thangka is the way of hand sewing small fabrics together to give shape and design the same as the painted thangka.

Different colorful pieces are sewn together with horsetail following strictly adhering to the proportions of deities as they are laid down in Buddhist scripture

It is an incredible amount of – much more work than a thangka.

Origin and History of Applique Thangka

Buy Online Shakyamuni Buddha Thangka
Buy Online Applique

The applique Thangka was initiated by the great Sontsen Gampo in 7th century from Tibet, Applique Thangka is an art form where colored cloth generally silk, which is imported from or brought from (India) is cut in the required shape.

Pieces are sewn to each other or to a background silk fabric. One of the main reasons for introducing the applique technique was to make it more durable than . Applique Thangka lasts longer compare to Thangka painting as the effect of moisture, dust, and heat does not affect much to applique thangka while traveling.

Materials used in Applique Thangka

Applique Thangkas are made by using specific stitching techniques, each item is expertly hand-sewn. The majority of the materials used in applique come from nature.

Varanasi (India) silk cloth and thread were brought in, and Mongolian horse tail hair was purchased. The following is a list of other and raw materials used:

Silk Fabric

Silk fabric is used mainly as the base of the painting and also to make the different cut pieces of the design.

Silk fabric in Nepal is usually imported from India.

Silk Thread

Different color silk threads are used used to wrap around the horse tail hair and also to stitch the parts on the cloth.

Horse Tail Hair

Horsetail threads are placed on the outline made on fabric and stitched. 


The needle is used to stitch the cut pieces on the base fabric.


To stick the fabric on the base cloth.

Heating Tool

Electric iron box helps to fasten the cut piece on the base fabric.

Tracing Paper

Tracing is used to trace the design on the fabric. In the picture, we can see the final piece of the applique thangka with the traced paper.

Tracing paper is helping to maintain the of the deity according to the model thangka.

Chalk Powder

Once the thangka is traced on the fabric by using tracing paper, the chalk powder is used to form the design on the fabric.


Scissor is used to cut the silk, fabric according to t the desired shape and design.

Applique Thangka Masters Dorjee Wangdu

Dorjee Wangdue was born in , Tibet in 1962. At the age of 16, he joined Namgyal of His Holiness the and studied basic and tantric . It was his precious teacher and guide, Venerable Thubten Jamyang, a ceremony and master assisting His Holiness the , who encouraged him to learn and improve his inborn talent in making images of appliqué.

His first appliqué thangka was a three-long life deity as the main object of the at the palace of His Holiness the Dalai in Ladakh made in May 1987. When His Holiness the Dalai Lama saw and it, he found the quality of work up to the standard and advised to continue to improve and preserve this inborn talent in .

From that day on he worked very hard and further improved his skills in making appliqué thangka. Following this, he established an appliqué thangka center in , North India, where many younger Tibetans are trained so that this unique art-making applique thangka is preserved. He believes this art form to the younger generation of Tibetans is also important since most of the trained in Tibet have passed away and the Chinese also continue to restrict anything that is related to practice. So far he has trained over 150 students who are able to make appliqué thangka. His contribution to reviving and preservation of the art is revered and recognized in the Tibetan community.

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About sadiksha

Namaste! I am a Nepali Art Dealer specialized in Mandala and Thangka paintings. I love to write articles about the monastic culture of the Himalayas.

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