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Beyond Paradise

EXPRESS FEATURES SERVICE, Jan 7, 2009

Leh, Ladakh (india) -- Photographs from Ladakh usually showcase the beauty of that desolate, arid terrain or its snow-clad mountains peeping out from between dense clouds.

However “Alchi”, the month-long exhibition at National Museum, gives us a glimpse into an entirely different side of Ladakh, with pictures of 11th century, Kashmiri-style wall paintings of Lord Siddhartha, a decadent banquet scene of the royal couple sullied by a deep crack, and even a striking portrait of a young monk in a yellow robe.

The exhibition — organised by Likri monastery, the Centre of Buddhist studies in Leh and the National Museum — displays 94 photographs of wall paintings and woodworks from the 1,000-year-old Alchi monastery. The origins of the monastery go back to early 11th century and it is situated about 70 km from Leh. Most of the paintings from Dukhang and Sumtsek temples located in the Alchi monastery show the influence of Kashmiri miniatures.

“Since the founder Lotsawa Rinchen Zangpo, a great traveller himself, brought 32 artists from Kashmir, the paintings and sculptures have a Kashmiri influence. However, some show Ladakhi characteristics such as the headgear called Perak worn by women in this painting,” said Koncho Ringzen, research officer, Centre of Buddhist Studies, pointing to the royal banquet scene.

While most of the miniatures have survived the onslaught of time and the vagaries of nature, wall paintings such as Royal Servants and Guards in Dukhang Temple have developed deep cracks. Visit the exhibition to see the most prevalent icons of Buddhism, Goddess Manjushri and the eight-armed, bedecked Goddess Tara warding off evil in a scene from Asthabhaya. Also, see the majestic scene from Worshippers at Shiva Temple with women worshipping on an elaborate pavilion strewn with flowers.

The exhibition is on till February 4


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