Junior Torma Makers Extend Their Skills

Monlam Pavillion, Bodhgaya
January 4 – 30, 2020

Each year, Kagyupa International Monlam Trust supports the work of the torma makers who gather to create the butter sculptures for the Kagyu Monlam Chenmo and any rituals which will take place. The team in 2020 comprises 14 nuns and 53 monks, a mix of highly skilled and experienced senior torma makers and less-experienced junior ones.

Until now, the most complex butter sculptures, especially Buddha images, have been made only by senior torma makers, while the junior ones concentrated on the easier, more straightforward butter sculpture work such as leaves, decorations, the eight auspicious symbols and the 6 –syllable mantra [Om Mani Padme Hum]. This year, under the direction of Chöpon Ösel, in order to extend the range of skills of the junior torma makers, it was decided that all the Buddha butter sculptures would be made by junior torma makers, assisted and overseen by senior ones. The lead teachers were Chöpon Sonam Rinchen and Chöpon Karma Samten,though all the senior torma makers were involved in tutoring and encouraging the juniors.

It has been a great success.

1. A junior torma maker sculpts a Buddha.

 

2. A monk carefully sculpts the lotus throne of Buddha.

 

3. An offering bowl for one of the six-foot tormas takes shape.

 

4. Precision working on the Buddha's halo.

 

5. It takes years of training and experience to produce this level of butter sculpture.

 

6. Endless patience, concentration and care are essential.

 

7. The tools are made from a special Bhutanese wood which butter does not stick to.

 

8. A butter sculpture seven jewel offering bowl for one of the six-foot tormas.

 

9. Although this is a traditional Tibetan Buddhist art, the modern age has some advantages.

 

10. Cling-film can be used to protect finished parts of the butter sculpture.

 

11. These great offering tormas are called shalze; they are a type of food offering.

 

12. The shalzes are mounted on decorated wooden stands. These nuns are working on the decorative bases of the shalzes.

 

13. This intricate butter sculpture of a conch will be used to decorate a shalze.

 

14. A butter sculpture medallion to be used on a shalze.

 

15. The completed shalze.

 

16. Amitabha Buddha holding a begging bowl

 

17. This sculpture will be mounted on a wooden plaque, called a gyentra in Tibetan.

 

18. Assembling the elements of a torma onto the gyentra.

 

19. A beautifully sculpted Dorje Chang (Vajradhara).

 

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37th Kagyu Monlam Schedule

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Recorded during the 37th Kagyu Monlam, Bodhgaya, India. January 28-30, 2020.