It is in the Dungkar Caves of the 10th-11th century that you can find the oldest surviving Tibetan murals. These are at extremely high altitude in a very remote part of western Tibet, far beyond Mt Kailash. This graceful figure is very similar to those seen in the paintings of Nako, Alchi and other monasteries of this period. 108 monasteries are believed to have been made in this time, across Western Tibet, Ladakh, Lahaul-Spiti and Kinnaur. These were painted by Kashmiri artists, who were invited for the purpose. We see the exquisite shading and rendering of form of the ancient Indian tradition. We also see the protruding farther eye, which was a norm in the medieval tradition of Indian painting. It is believed that these in Dungkar Caves were made directly by the Kashmiri painters. However, I feel that these were made by artists who trained under the Kashmiris. This is the most ancient art which survives in Tibet.
Text and photo Benoy K Behl