Leh: The Hemis Museum located at 12,000 feet above sea level, 43 km southeast of Leh in Jammu and Kashmir is a treasure house of more than 200 ancient Buddhist Thangka paintings and rare Gandhara icons.
The museum was opened to people in July 2007. Earlier, the religious motifs were considered very secret and they were kept only in a sanctum meant for secret rites. Now, these ancient Buddhist art is gradually coming out of the closet to join the diverse genres of Indian heritage art.
The museum attracted lots of visitors at a recent festival last week, most of whom were new to Buddhist and Gandhara art.
Art has been a part of Buddhism from its inception in the 6th century BC in India. The art, mostly sculptures in bronze and gold and inlaid with precious stones, flourished in the ancient kingdom of Gandhara in the vale of Peshawar ruled by the Buddhist Kushan kings and travelled to India and Southeast Asia along the Silk Road.
The museum at Hemis, which collected its Gandhara artefacts from Tibet, Pakistan and Afghanistan and Central Asian countries over the centuries, boasts of icons of the goddess Tara, the Sakyamuni Buddha and his different incarnations, the wrathful deities of war and anger associated with Buddhism and the ancient lamas.
The museum houses Thangka paintings, some of which are nearly 1,000 years old- are vivid, delicate and detailed, etched on silks, canvases and coarse cotton cloth in golden and coloured inks.