Main Temple

The largest temple of Nako, the Tsuklak Khang (གཙུག་ལག་ཁང་, Main Temple) or Lotsawa Lhakhang (ལོ་ཙ་བ་ལྷ་ཁང་, Translator’s Temple), is also the oldest monument preserved in the village. The main hall of the temple is approximately 8 metres long and 8.25 metres wide, and it has a large niche in the back (ca. 2.7 meters deep and 4.40 meters wide). The ceiling of the room is extremely high (5.5 to 5.7 meters) allowing for the mandala circles on the side walls to cover almost the entire walls.

The niche in the back of the temple is occupied by the clay sculptures of the five esoteric Buddhas with Vairocana in the centre (◊ Niche). On the main wall to the niche's left is an independent image of the goddess Prajñāpāramitā (◊ Main Wall). The south wall contains a large Dharmadhātu mandala, which is the most detailed and expressive depiction of this mandala throughout the Himalayas. The mandala occupying the north wall has been repainted in the centre while some outer parts are still fairly well preserved. It can be identified as a variant of the Sarvavid mandala from the Tantra for the Purification of All Bad Transmigrations (Sarvadurgatipariśodhanatantra). Remarkable are the expressive representations of the lower realms of rebirth in the corners of this mandala. The entrance wall was almost completely replaced during a historical restoration and now preserves only a few fragments of a donor depiction to the left of the entrance.

Clay Sculptures

The five Jina in the niche represent the core deities of a Vajradhātu mandala the secondary deities of which have been painted around them (◊ Niche). But, besides the few original sections of painting around Ratnasambhava, which allow to conclude that the sculptures are contemporary with them, the niche has mostly been repainted. Apparently this area of the temple has suffered considerably through history as documented by the alterations to the sculptures. Also the fact that the repainted areas stems from several restorations at later periods is evidence in this regard.

These clay sculptures in the niche go back to the time of the foundation of the temple, but they have been restored and repainted. For example, all jewellery of the sculptures was replaced at some stage, and some figures preserve nothing of their original appareance. Despite the repainting the throne frames of the main images, in particular the fantastic depictions of the sea-monsters (makara) placed on the upper cross-bar, are evidence the high quality of the original workmanship.

The niche also preserves highly fragmentary remains of a large wall-text, while underneath Prajñāpāramitā an equally incomplete inscription of four stanzas accompanies an only vaguely discernible donor depiction.

The goddess on the main wall to the left of the niche does not belong to the main group and can be identified as the goddess Prajñāpāramitā. Like Vairocana, she is surrounded by an elaborate throne frame. This image has been damaged considerably in 1999 during a water intrusion and subsequently restored, the photography assembled in the ◊ Main Wall gallery, thus, is a valuable document today. All the images are placed at a height of slightly more than two metres.

  • Müller, Petra. 2016. Representing Prajñāpāramitā in the Temples of Nako. In Nako. Research and Conservation in the Western Himalayas, ed. Gabriela Krist, 184-193. Wien, Köln, Weimar: Böhlau Verlag.
  • Pöllnitz, Gunn. 2010. Die figurale Ausstattung des Tempelkomplex Nako, Himachal Pradesh, Indien: Lotsawa Lhakhang. Konservatorische-Bestandsaufnahme. Universität für Angewandte Kunst.
  • Luczanits, Christian. 2004. Buddhist Sculpture in Clay: Early Western Himalayan Art, late 10th to early 13th centuries. Chicago: Serindia.

Quotation below from Francke, August Hermann. 1914 / repr. 1992. Antiquities of Indian Tibet, Part I: Personal Narrative. Vol. 38, Archaeological Survey of India, New Imperial Series. Calcutta / New Delhi: Archaeological Survey of India / Asian Educational Services: p. 33.