Assembly Hall

The strictly regular three-level decoration of the Tabo Assembly Hall evidently follows an iconographic programme, the principal elements of which are relatively clear (◊ Tabo Assembly Hall Gallery).

The most striking feature is certainly the thirty-two clay sculptures placed side by side at eye level along the walls. Walking along the sculptures in circumambulation one follows the narratives of the ideal career of Prince Sudhana (Nor-bzang; see Steinkellner) in the southern half of the hall and the life of the Buddha in the northern half painted below the sculptures.

Further, the Buddhas of the Ten Directions as well as smaller groups of deities partly representing the core deities of mandalas, among them being the Protectors of the Three Families (rigs gsum mgon-po) and the Dharmadhatu-vagishvara-mañjushri-mandala, are painted above the sculptures.

  • Steinkellner, Ernst. 1995. Sudhana's Miraculous Journey in the Temple of Ta pho. The inscriptional text of the Tibetan Gandavyuhasutra edited with introductory remarks, Serie Orientale Roma 76. Rome.
  • Steinkellner, Ernst. 1996. A Short Guide to the Sudhana Frieze in the Temple of Ta pho. Published on the Occasion of the Monastery's Millennium, Arbeitskreis für tibetische und buddhistische Studien, Universität Wien. Vienna.

Sculptures of the Vajradhātu mandala

Together with the central four-fold Vairocana behind the altar the thirty-two sculptures along the walls represent the main deities of a Vajradhatu-mandala. Besides the four images of the Buddha Vairocana seated on a common throne there are four other Jinas, sixteen Bodhisattvas, eight goddesses and four gate-keepers, the four groups of deities being differentiated by their aureoles and size (◊ Tabo Assembly Hall Gallery).

The Jinas and their accompanying Bodhisattvas are seated along the south and north walls, while the goddesses are located in the corners of the east and west walls (Quarters of the Tabo Vajradhatumandala). The gate-keepers guard the entrance to the Assembly Hall at the east wall (E1 and E32) and the passage leading to the rear of the temple (W16 and W17; Names of the Tabo Vajradhatu-mandala deities).

The sculptures of the Vajradhatu-mandala are the most sophisticated clay sculptures known to date and are also securely dateable to the middle of the 11th century. (◊ Mandala Sculpture Gallery).

The web site contains three drawings and two picture galleries dedicated to the Vajradhatu-mandala. One drawing shows the arrangement of the mandala within the Assembly Hall (Quarters of the Tabo Vajradhatu-mandala), the respective quarters are linked to the gallery page with the Jina heading the respective Buddha family. The second drawing gives the names of the deities with each name being linked to the gallery page that contains the respective deity (Names of the Tabo Vajradhatu-mandala deities). The ◊ Tabo Assembly Hall Gallery shows the Assembly Hall and its sculptures in general views. The ◊ Mandala Sculpture Gallery contains the complete documentation of the Tabo Assembly Hall clay sculptures (468 photographs). The third drawing shows how the sculptures are mounted to the wall (Graphic: Mounting of the Tabo Assembly Hall Sculptures).

  • Luczanits, Christian. 2004. Buddhist Sculpture in Clay: Early Western Himalayan Art, late 10th to early 13th centuries. Chicago: Serindia.