The painting was created by Nicholas Roerich in Darjeeling after the Central-Asian expedition (1924-1928). Here the artist captured a fragment of an ancient mystery common in India, Tibet, Buryatia, and the northern part of Mongolia. N. Roerich saw it in 1926-1927, when he was in Mongolia with his expedition. Since it was a religious ceremony, in 1930-s the Mongolian Tsam ceased to be held in the region. Thus, the painting by N. Roerich depicting this rare religious service is very important for modern oriental studies.The wide space of the painting is filled with many abstract figures depicting the ceremony spectators. On the opposite side of the Temple there is a canopy made of red, blue and yellow silk that casts a shadow on the ground. Over the canopy there are several huge tankas with the images of the highest deities of Buddhist pantheon. In the left part of the painting we can see ritual pipes on a stand. A group of Lamas dressed in special garments and hats perform a ritual around the mandala, the tension of their poses reflecting their full concentration on the ritual. The sacred mystery music and dances tell us about the victory of good over evil. Besides the common idea, there is a hidden deep meaning to this ceremony that had always been protected and kept unavailable for the uninitiated ones. The central tanka is dedicated to Amitayus — the Buddha of Eternal Life, whose red body symbolizes love and mercy for all living beings. In his hands folded in a meditation mudra he is holding a bowl with Amrita (the nectar of immortality). White Tara (in the right part of the painting) is holding a lotus that symbolizes purity and holiness. In the eight hands of Ushnishavijaya we can see attributes of spiritual health and long life. The enormous size of the tankas with the images of the highest deities depicted on them is a symbol of these deities’ presence at the ceremony. The symbolism of the dancing Lamas’ costumes, the meaning of their magical movements and words remain shrouded in mystery connected with the cosmic processes involving both Gods and people. This creates an affinity between the oriental mysteries born in ancient days and the Egyptian and Ancient Greek mysteries, all of them being a source of the higher knowledge and beauty.


  • Title: Mongolian Tsam Religious Ceremony
  • Date Created: 1927 - 1928
  • Physical Dimensions: w1525 x h965 cm
  • Painter: N. Roerich
  • Original Artwork Title: Монгольский цам (Религиозная церемония)
  • Type: Paintings
  • Rights: Museum by name of N.K.Roerich of the International Centre of the Roerichs

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