Butter Sculpture

The artists of Potala Paintings are adept at creating butter sculptures, an ancient Tibetan art form.

Butter Sculptures

Monks Creating Butter Sculptures

Butter sculptures symbolize impermanence, (a main tenet of Buddhism,) along with more ritualistic components, and are usually destroyed in anywhere from a day to a few years. Butter sculptures are displayed on altars and shrines in monasteries or family homes. They are traditionally made every Losar, the Tibetan New Year, and for the Butter Sculpture Festival, part of the Great Prayer Festival, or "Monlam Chenmo" that is held soon after Losar. In it, monks made huge, story high butter sculptures displayed outside the Jokhang in Lhasa, the holiest temple in Tibetan Buddhism.

Three Butter Sculptures

Three Butter Sculptures

Butter sculptures are displayed in many different ways; typically, they are made on a paddle, as free standing sculptures, or a decoration on tsampa cones called tormas. They are usually made in the form of flowers, "metog," or traditional symbols such as the 8 auspicious signs.

These Butter Sculptures were made as offerings to Buddhas, Deities, and Bodhisattvas and placed on an altar.

Lotus Center

Making Butter Sculptures

Butter sculptures are traditionally made with yak butter, but in exiled Tibetan communities, as the weather is usually warmer, they are made with ghee, fat, and wax.