The Sacred Art of Nepal
Online galleries of master paubha painter Dr Renuka Gurung(Pradhan) PhD
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Method and Methodology of Paubha painting

Paubha the traditional art of Nepal has its own unique method of painting and a reason to be painted. The painting process need to be strictly according to the principles and guidelines of holy sastras. Therefore it is indeed a time consuming process. First, a canvas has to be prepared by a painter which takes about a week. For canvas making a cotton cloth is stretched on a rectangular wooden frame where a mixture of glue (Saresh) and white clay (Sapeta) is applied uniformly on the surface. Then it is allowed to remain under a shade for a while to dry.

Prepared Canvas Once it is dry, the cotton surface is burnished with a smooth stone ( shown above) to give it a final appearance. Burnishing is also a time consuming and tiring task. One has to rub the cotton cloth with the stone regularly about 4/5 times a day at repeated interval. Once the cotton surface becomes like animal hide then the canvas is ready to be painted.

Paubha Painting by Renuka Gurung(Pradhan)

Paubha Painting by Renuka Gurung(Pradhan) Paubha Painting by Renuka Gurung(Pradhan) Paubha Painting by Renuka Gurung(Pradhan) Paubha Painting by Renuka Gurung(Pradhan) Paubha Painting by Renuka Gurung(Pradhan)

The entire colour for a paupbha painting is prepared from minerals and plants. These minerals are derived from the laps of Himalayas which are then broken down and hand ground into a fine powder. The process of hand grining is itself a sadhana (contemplation) toward materializing the divine energy. It requires intensive manual work and patience while grinding in a mortar and pestle. The mineral is hand ground for months to achieve good result. The mineral for colour preparation are available in Nepal however some of the minerals for supplementary colour are imported from India and Afghanistan as well. Traditional “Paubha” is painted with five basic colours - red, blue, yellow, black and white. Saresh is used as a binder.

Paubha Painting by Renuka Gurung(Pradhan)

White colour of Nepal was very famous in ancient time. The colour of each deity needs to be according to the principle of holy sastra. Sketching is also another very important part of the Paubha painting. The painter must have a sound knowledge of iconographic and iconometric principles. The painter cannot sketch any deity out of mere imagination but it has to be according to the principles set by the realized sages and mahasiddhas, who had recorded visions of the different deity in their meditation. After the initial coat of colour is applied, the painter starts shading. Shading and gradation is a time consuming part of the painting process. Once the shading is complete, the painter then gives fine lines to the deity in order to give it a perfect shape. Painters also apply gold and silver to the painting as an act of contemplation to the deity and to achieve spiritual merit. It has been learnt in the earlier times, the painter used to sketch the drawing by a measurement done by “Angul” (finger breadths). The eyes of the deity are opened in the end which signifies that the painting is complete. Once the painting is complete the Priest then consecrates (give life to) the deity, this process is known as PranaPratistha (skt- Prana- life, Pratistha- establishes). There was a tradition of Hasta -puja (worshipping the hands and the tools) of the painter prior to the beginning of Pauha painting. However, these traditions are long lost.

Paubha Painting by Renuka Gurung(Pradhan)

The process of Paubha painting is very different. The ritual (as mentioned earlier) which is carried out during the process of “Paubha” painting is long lost and is not practiced nowadays. In this regard, this art form is already extinct. At present, the paintings are usually not created for any religious reason, because of shortage of time, intensive work¬manship and unavailability of an initiated painter who knows the sastras and remain under strict discipline. However some tradition¬al painters are struggling hard to continue the tradition so that everyone would get an opportunity to observe, understand and enjoy the ultimate bliss thereby attaining the Buddhahood.