Revealing Sculptures

Gumrang (Gung rang) is a small village on the north-western slope of the lower Bhaga valley (called Gar) in Lahaul, only about half an hour’s walk from Kyelong (Kye lang). At the top of the village is a small temple, its original parts in a ruinous state (◊ Gumrang Gallery).

The temple at Gumrang contains 12 badly damaged clay sculptures together with extremely fragmentary remains of painting on the entrance wall and on the ceiling. Apparently the whole of the back wall, i.e., the wall facing the slope, collapsed or had to be replaced, as none of the clay images is in its original position. However, the fragmentary state of the sculptures means that they are extremely revealing in respect of the technique used for making them.

Eleven of the clay sculptures are placed on a comparatively narrow ledge (only about 35 cm deep) along the back wall. One goddess, seated on the ground in front of the ledge, is surrounded by other fragmentary remains of sculptures and their frames. The comparatively small size of the images and the relative differences in size between them suggest that the original composition resembled that at Lalung, Alchi etc., and covered at least the main wall. On the main wall, they probably formed the core of a mandala or were part of a mandala-like composition (◊ Gumrang Clay Sculpture Gallery).

The probable main configuration would have had Vairocana at the centre framed by an elaborate throne structure. The makara head was certainly part of the structure framing the main image, and the lions would have once supported the throne. The four other Jinas and the four goddesses, presumably their wisdom partners (prajñā), would have been seated on either side of Vairocana. As they are not very much smaller than the main image, the Jinas and the goddesses probably sat side by side in two rows.

  • Luczanits, Christian. "Another Rin chen bzang po Temple?" East and West 44 (1) (1994): 83-98.
  • ———. Buddhist Sculpture in Clay: Early Western Himalayan Art, late 10th to early 13th centuries. Chicago: Serindia, 2004: 107–12.