Buddhist symbols in Bhutan: the unique weaving qualities of Kelzang
2017-07-02 - Mesmerising Bhutan, Land of the Thunder Dragon, is the last standing Buddhist Kingdom in the world. Vajrayana Buddhism, an extension of the better-known Mahayana Buddhism, is neatly interwoven into the lives of the vast majority Bhutanese people.
Buthanese people are proud of their culture. Many women and men wear, almost on a daily basis, the national Bhutanese dress, kira for the women and gho for the men. Almost all buildings are built in typical traditional style, their facades covered in Buddhist ornaments.
Lovers of textile know since long that in Bhutan the most beautiful textile can be found. Each province in the country specialises in different weaving techniques and uses different raw materials.
In Central Bhutan the women create beautiful carpets and blankets from sheep and yak wool, while in the Eastern part of the country women are specialised in weaving Kishuthara, an extremely intricately patterned silk textile.
Kishuthare textile, like the carpets and blankets, is woven by hand and, in some cases, is covered with Buddhist symbols. Kishuthara is a classic example of the traditional and exquisite kira, the women's dress.
The exclusive wrap on these photos originally is a panel of such kira. Kelzang worked six months to finalise this piece. The wrap/kira is extra special because Kelzang not only wove Buddhist animal figures but also included the eight auspicious symbols. A weaving technique only mastered by few artisans in the country.
If you look closely at the wrap/kira you will find:
- Parasol (chattra) symbolising royalty and spiritual power;
- Golden Fish (suvarnamatsya) symbolising good fortune, fertility and salvation;
- Treasure Vase (kalasha) symbolising spiritual and material abundance;
- Lotus Flower (padma) symbolising mental and spiritual purity;
- Right-coiled White Conch (sankha) symbolising the fame of Buddha's teachings;
- Endless Knot (shrivasta) symbolising the infinite wisdom of the Buddha;
- Victory Banner (dhvaja) symbolising the victory of the Buddha's teachings and wisdom over ignorance;
- Dharma Wheel (dharmachakra) symbolising the teachings of the Buddha.