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The ancient art of Tibetan butter sculpture.

  This screening celebrates the 31st birthday of
His Holiness the 17th Karmapa Ugyen Trinley Dorje.


torma 01.jpg

TORMA features the unique Tibetan art of butter sculpture. These colorful, radiant forms called tormas are beautiful in themselves and spiritually significant. The film focuses on the artistic vision of the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, who, as supreme head of the Karma Kagyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism, is establishing a new torma tradition in his lineage.

Symbols, Motifs and Myths

We document this process by observing the torma makers at work, showing how the artists prepare the tools and materials needed to make their masterpieces and how they sculpt the butter.

The meanings of the stunning and intricate symbols, motifs and myths are discussed. Interwoven throughout these explanations are feature stories of the hopes and struggles of some of the key torma artists plus interviews with the Karmapa and other lineage masters.

The film documents this artistic process in its culturally specific context: the purpose of these sculptures is to enhance an aesthetic and religious experience shared by thousands of people. In essence, they are an elaborate art installation to be savored by all of the monastic and lay participants at the Kagyu International Prayer Festival for World Peace.

Tormas in Tibetan Culture

In addition, we explore butter sculpture in its ethnographic aspect, examining the roots of this tradition and its relevance to modern Tibetans. Our film will answer the simple question: what is a torma? This includes showing how tormas are used in the daily life of Tibetans. In Tibetan culture before anything of significance is begun, a torma is offered. This is true not only in Tibet, but also Ladakh and Sikkim. For instance, when building a house, the first thing Tibetans do is offer a torma, in order to insure cooperation from local spirits and deities.

Kagyu Monlam Tormas

Since 2005, the Karmapa’s sculptures have been showcased at the Kagyu International Prayer Festival held annually in BodhGaya, India. The main section of the film will tell the story of several monks and nuns chosen by the Karmapa to be specially instructed in the art of butter sculpture. They train for months in advance before they are prepared to carry out the artistic visions of the Karmapa. Finally, they arrive in BodhGaya about a month before the prayer festival begins and create the sculptures under the Karmapa’s direct supervision.







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