We are extremely grateful to the 13 donors who funded the butter sculpture workshop at Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute.
The art of making sculptures out of yak butter has been practiced by monks in the monasteries in Tibet for over 400 years. As part of elaborate rituals and celebrations, particularly the New Year, butter sculptures can be huge and impressive or tiny and intricate, but all require painstaking skill, learned from an excellent teacher and through years of practice.
At Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute in India the nuns have been learning how to make butter sculptures from their excellent teacher Gen. Karma-la who patiently takes them through all the steps and the significance of each butter sculpture technique. He finds that the nuns with their nimble fingers, their keen sense of color and design, and their endless patience make excellent students.
The increasing shortage of well-trained and skilled butter sculptors in Tibet means that it is crucial that in India the monks and now the nuns learn this religious art as part of their course of studies in order to keep it from dying out.
However, creating butter sculptures in the hot climate of India is problematic. The room must be cool and have access to cold water in which to lay the butter and cool the nuns’ fingers. Until the creation of the butter sculpture workshop, the nuns were forced to use a makeshift space that got very hot so they were only able to make sculptures during the coldest months.
Here is a series of photos taken by the Nuns Media Team in 2018 as the nuns of Dolma Ling prepare butter sculptures for Losar, Tibetan New Year.