The Vienna Exhibition | Gods and sacred mountains


Object Title
Object Description

Dancing mask

Mask, cotton cloths with painting; size: 45 cm x 25 cm; loan from a private collection
Masks for religious dances are produced out of wood or glued textiles. With this mask the dancing monk represents a guard at a place of cremation.

Clay crafts
Thangtong Gyalpo

Bronze, fire-gilding; measurements: 30 cm x 20 cm x 15 cm; loan from a private collection
Thangtong Gyalpo (1385-1464) taught in monasteries of all of Tibetan schools. He has been venerated for his anti-sectarian attitude. A lot of what he handed on to his numerous disciples, he had learned from deities in visions. Thangtong Gyalpo is seen as saintly builder of the iron-chain bridges in Bhutan, which is indicated by a few chain links in his left hand.

The lama
Sacrificial offerings to the gods

Thangka; size: 101 cm x 66 cm; loan from Josette Schulmann
Representations of symbolic offerings (kangdzä) are either put up in monasteries or serve as bases for meditations. In the most inner cycle, offerings are given to the protective deities of Sumeru, the world's mountain. At the top of the mountain there is Indras, the palace of the gods. The offerings to the gods range from gifts in skull beakers, pleasing to the senses, to herds of black rams, horses and yaks.

Influencing the world
A Dakini
Thangka; measurements 126 x 90 centimeters; object lent by Michael Rutland
With sparse golden brush strokes a Dakini*, a »heavens wanderer« is represented. As such, she is at home in all three worlds, – the heavenly, the earthly and the subterranean – . These female heavenly beings initiated many Yogis into esoteric rituals and lead them to meditiation experiences that should lead them to becoming one with the absolute. Their nakedness is an expression of the undisguised truth which they embody. With a chopping knife, having a Vajra handle, she destroys ignorance and the skull bowl in her right hand is a holder for knowledge.
The gold painted Thangkas with a black background shape a mystical, esoteric character. Black is the color of hate, which is transformed through wisdom into the recognition of the true reality. Only those very advanced Yogis on the path to enlightenment use Thangkas of this kind as meditation images.
The Life of the Guru in India
Guru Rinpoche as Padma Gyalpo

Free-standing mask depicting a fierce deity, wood; 17th century; height 44 centimeters; on loan from Josette Schulmann
A depicition of Guru Padma Gyalpo, the aspect of Guru Rinpoche, that shows him as the »Lotus King«. Thus he contributed spiritual and material gifts to his people.

The Guru in Tibet
Guru Rinpoche on the Copper Mountain

The South-West Paradise of Guru Rinpoche, zangdog palri; Thangka*; 125 x 77 centimeters; on loan from Josette Schulmann
Guru Rinpoche is portrayed in his south-west paradise on top of a majestic mountain, glowing of copper. From this mountain paradise no return to the cycle of of rebirths is necessary. Although Buddhism rejects speculations regarding the beyond, there are, however, still depictions of paradise, into which believers may enter.
For the Bhutanese, the mountain plays the role of expressing spiritual purity and represents the home of the gods.

The South-West Paradise
The Biography of Guru Rinpoche

Mural on cloth; 19th century; 245 x 121 centimeters; on loan from the Völkerkundemuseum der Universität Zürich
In Bhutan, murals are painted on cloth, that is then glued to the wall. Sometimes, extra details are patched (Pastiglia) on.

The Second Buddha
Dance Mask

Mask, paper mache; height 32 centimeters; late 19th century; on loan from Josette Schulmann
  The mask represents a deity (ging) from the heavenly paradise of Guru Rinpoche.

Preparation for the Dance
Dance Mask

Mask, paper mache; height 31 centimeters; late 19th century; on loan from Josette Schulmann

Preparation for the Dance
Dance Mask

Mask, paper mache; height 30 centimeters; late 19th century; on loan from Josette Schulmann
The mask represents a wrathful deity; peaceful gods often take on this appearance in order to overcome malevolent powers.

Preparation for the Dance
A Model of the Universe

Thangka; synthetic color on canvas; 173 x 116 centimeters; 20th century
This scroll painting was commissioned especially by the Museum of Ethnology Vienna for the Exhibit "Bhutan ­ Mountain Fortress of the Gods".

A Model of the Universe
Landscape portrayal with holy men in meditation caves, rhinocerous horn; height 15 centimeters, length 20 centimeters, width 12 centimeters; on loan from the National Museum of Paro
In this portrayal of a scared landscape one can recognize, between the cliffs and the waterfalls, one of the founders of the Kagyüpa* school. Namely the great Asket Milarepa (1040-1123) who was famous for his mystical songs.
The Deities of the Bar

Thangka; 133 x 89 centimeters; 18th century; on loan from the National Museum of Paro
The Goddess Tsheringma is originally a pre-Buddhist diety who, after her magical defeat by Guru Rinpoche, now protects man as well as Buddhism. Riding on a lion, she holds in her left hand the vase of longevity and in the right hand the vajra*. She is surrounded by her four sisters, who are also portrayed on their mounts. In the middle ot the top row sits Amithaba*, the Buddha of long life. To the left of him is Guru Rinpoche and to the right is Yogi Milarepa. Both play important roles in the taming and in the Buddhification of Tsheringma. The two outer figures above represent Dakini*, "heavenly wanderers", that portray the fleetingness of earthly existence. Below, in the middle, sits Men Tshogdag, an elephant-headed diety who is associated with wealth.

The Deities of the Bar
Hat of a Medium
Hat of a Medium 
The Course of the Ritual

Tunic (shingkha), wool, wool and silk applique; length 121 centimeters, width 97 centimeters; on loan from the Völkerkundemuseum der Universität Zürich
Tunics of this kind are nowadays only worn by the women of the Kurtö region at rituals for the mountain gods. The wearers emphasize that this is not everyday wear. In many villages, these are only allowed to be worn by women from the most important families.

The Course of the Ritual
Ritual Cake

Ritual cake of a warrior (magtor), unfired clay, painted; height 38 centimeters; on loan from the Museum für Völkerkunde Wien
Clay replica of a ritual cake which was originally made out of dough. This object was created by a monk in Bumthang. It represents a belligerent deity, as he is used during the yearly ceremonies of worship. In the course of the ceremony, this figure serves as a body for the deity.

Village Ritual
Tsen Mask

Free-standing mask, wood; height 38 centimeters, width 29 centimeters; on loan from the National Museums & Galleries on Merseyside, Liverpool
Tsen* portrayals in mask-form are stored in the altar rooms. Here they are meant to be protectors of the Buddhist teachings. The lay-population also turns to them for protection in their everyday lives.

The Worship of the Gods
Ritual Dagger

Handle: brass, blade: iron; length 20 centimeters; on loan from a private collection
Ritual daggers, made of iron, are used for the symbolic killing of demons.

The Bumthang Province
Double-Sided Drum (Damaru)

Bone, snakeskin, silver, silk, silk velvet, cotton, imitation coral; measurement of the drum base 9 x 6,5 centimeters; on loan from a private collection
Hand drums, which are beaten on both sides, symbolize the simultaenous existence of both the relative and the absolute truth. They accompany the Lama in his meditation, please the gods' ears or call for the deities in ritual.

The Farm House
Ritual Dagger

Bone; length 27 centimeters, on loan from a private collection
Ritual daggers, carved entirely out of bone, are kept mainly on the altar as decorative objects or are used in secret rites.

The Farm House

Especially in the Paro valley, Tsheringma is venerated, a mighty mountain deity who embodies herself in Chomolhari, more than 7000 metres high.

Gods and Sacred Mountains

The Vienna Exhibition
.  In the monastery ..
.  Gods and sacred ..
.  The teachings of Buddha
.  The becoming of Bhutan
.  The fortresses - monks ..
.  The way to the throne
.  Modern monarchy
.  Ethnic mosaic
.  The south
.  The midlands
.  The house altar
.  The kitchen
.  The high alpine ..

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