Ambulatory

Behind the altar of the Assembly Hall a tripartite passageway crowded with sculptures leads to the Cella surrounded by an Ambulatory (skor lam). One enters the circumambulation of the Cella exactly opposite the renovation inscription (Plan of the Tabo Main Temple). This inscription is accompanied by a donor depiction which presumably is headed by the 'royal monk' Changchub Ö (Byang chub 'od) and also represents the monastic community of Tabo monastery (◊ Donor Assembly).

The paintings of the Ambulatory, 32 Bodhisattvas mainly represented on the south and north walls and the 'Eight Historical Buddhas' on the west wall, are to be counted among the masterpieces of Indo-Tibetan painting. The upper row of Bodhisattvas represents the fairly well known group of the ◊ Sixteen Bodhisattvas of the Fotunate Aeon (bhadrakalpa), while the lower row of ◊ Sixteen Mahābodhisattvas is not known from elsewhere. Underneath the Bodhisattvas is a band of narrative scenes that until recently resisted identification. It turned out, that it represents the story of the Bodhisattva Sadāprarudita in search of the perfection of wisdom (prajñāpāramitā). On the back wall, the seven Buddhas of the past are joined by Maitreya represented as Buddha as well (◊ Eight Buddhas).

The outside wall of the Cella, and thus the Ambulatory's inner wall, is covered with repeated small Buddha images, the Buddhas of the Fortunate Aeon (bhadrakalpa). On some places, in particular on the south side of the Ambulatory, the original paint layer is visible underneath the renovation period murals. From these traces it appears that the iconography of the original decoration was very similar but the Bodhisattvas were represented standing (◊ Old Paint Layer).

As throughout the Main Temple the ceiling was decorated with painted textiles. In the ambulatory the painting represent flying deities with various offerings besides lotus blossoms. The Eight Auspicious Symbols are shown in the coner triangles (◊ Ceiling).

For the Renovation Inscription and the captions of the Bodhisattvas in the Ambulatory see:

  • Petech, Luciano, and Christian Luczanits, (eds.) Inscriptions from the Tabo Main Temple. Texts and Translations. Vol. LXXXIII, Serie Orientale Roma. Rome: IsIAO, 1999.