Buddhist
Architecture
in the Western
Himalayas
Western view of the village. Neuwirth 2002
North-western view of the site. Neuwirth 2002
North-western view of the monastery. Neuwirth 2002
North-eastern view of the Main Temple and the Maitreya's temple next to it. Neuwirth 2002
Eastern view of the Maitreya's temple and the Smaller Temple of 'Brom-ston next to it. Neuwirth 2002
Western view of the Main Temple and the Maitreya's temple next to it. Neuwirth 2002
North-western view of the Main Temple. Auer 2003
North-eastern view of the temple complex. Auer 2003
North-eastern view of the Smaller Temple of Brom-ston and the Maitreya´s Temple. Auer 2002
North-eastern view of the Mandala Temple. Neuwirth 2003
Eastern view of the Main Temple complex. Neuwirth 2002
Assembly in front of the Main Temple. Auer 2003
The cave monastery on the northern hill range of the village. Neuwirth 2003

The temple complex of Tabo

Coordinates of the site: 32° 5'36.96" northern latitude and 78°22'55.50" eastern longitude, at an altitude of 3285 meters.

The village of Tabo is located in the lower Spiti valley, about 160 kilometres (airline) north-east of Shimla, the capital of the northernmost Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. Tabo is located on the northern banks of the Spiti river. The area lies in a wide plain of farmland, flanked by mountain ranges. The extensive temple complex is situated in the southwest of the village. Tabo is the oldest Buddhist monastery in India that is still in use. Its original decoration and iconographic artwork are intact. For this reason it was the first monastery in the Western Himalayas to catch the attention of extensive scholarly research.
The temple complex consists of nine temples from different periods which are surrounded by a high wall that encloses an almost rectangular area of about 6700 square meters. Of the nine temples within the sacred enclosure only the Main Temple is attributable to the earliest period of Buddhism in the 10th century, while the other temples range from the 14th to the 19th century.
The Main Temple (no. 1) is located in the centre of the complex. It consists of a small entry hall, an assembly hall and a cella which is surrounded by an ambulatory. Both the main axis and the original entrance are almost precisely orientated in an east-west direction, deviating with only 3° to the south. The central axes of the other temples vary slightly, between +7° and -8°, from the orientation of the Main Temple. The meaning of these deviations is yet to discover.
The building documentation shows that the Main Temple (no. 1) originally was isolated whereas today it is connected with the Protector’s Chapel (no. 6), the New Entrance Hall (no. 9), the adjoining rooms in the east (no. 10) and with the large ‘Brom-ston Temple (no. 7) in the south. Apart from the room structure the walls differ drastically from each other in terms of thickness. The walls of the oldest parts are 115 centimetres thick while the more recent structures, like the walls of the Protector’s Chapel and the Large ‘Brom-ston, range between 50 and 80 centimetres. The latest renovations reinforced some parts of the outer walls, for example the western wall and at the corners of the Main Temple.
The sections of the Main Temple show the complexity of the rooms with their different heights ranging between 4.40 metres and 5.10 metres. Additionally the sections depict how the different parts of the Main Temple are illuminated naturally through lanterns in the ceilings. The Main Temple is single storeyed, whereas the later added structures are two-storeyed: the Protector’s Chapel (no. 6), the New Entrance Hall (no. 9) and the adjoining rooms in the east (no. 10) with ceiling heights between 2.10 m and 2.40 metres. As a result of the plan documentation the building phases of the complex and the changes can be determined.

2D plans

Site plan of the monastery

Cross section of the temple complex

Floor plan of the Main Temple, the New Entrance Hall and the Protector's Temple

Longitudinal section of the Main Temple, the New Entrance Hall, the kitchen and storerooms

Cross sections of the Main Temple

Cross section of the Protector's Temple and eastern elevation of the Main Temple

Northern and southern elevation of the Main Temple

Floor plan of the Maitreya's Temple

Sections of the Maitreya's Temple

Eastern and southern elevation of the Maitreya's Temple

Western and northern elevation of the Maitreya's Temple

Floor plan of the Smaller Temple of Brom-ston

Sections of the Smaller Temple of Brom-ston

Eastern and southern elevation of the Smaller Temple of Brom-ston

Western and northern elevation of the Smaller Temple of Brom-ston

Floor plan of the Golden Temple

Sections of the Golden Temple

Eastern and southern elevation of the Golden Temple

Western and northern elevation of the Golden Temple

Floor plan of the Mandala Temple

Sections of the Mandala Temple

Eastern and southern elevation of the Mandala Temple

Western and northern elevation of the Mandala Temple

Floor plan of the Large Temple of Brom-ston

Sections of the Large Temple of Brom-ston

Floor plan of the Nun's Temple

Sections of the Nun's Temple

Eastern and southern elevation of the Nun's Temple

Western and northern elevation of the Nun's Temple

Site plan and sections of the cave temple on the northern hillside of Tabo

3D Model

Spatial model of the monastery

North-eastern elevation of the Main Temple

Spatial section of the Main Temple

Cross section of the Main Temple's cella

Cross section of the Main Temple in front of the cella and its ambulatory

Cross section of the Main Temple's assembly hall

Cross section of the Main Temple's former entrance hall

Cross section of the New Entrance hall and the Protector´s Chapel

Spatial model of the Large Temple of Brom-ston

Spatial section of the Large Temple of Brom-ston

Spatial section of the Large Temple of Brom-ston

Spatial model of the Golden Temple

Spatial section of the Golden Temple

Spatial section of the Golden Temple

Spatial model of the Mandala Temple

Spatial section of the Mandala Temple

Spatial section of the Mandala Temple

Spatial model of the Maitreya's Temple

Spatial section of the Maitreya's Temple

Spatial section of the Maitreya's Temple

Spatial model of the Smaller Temple of Brom-ston

Spatial section of the Smaller Temple of Brom-ston

Spatial section of the Smaller Temple of Brom-ston

Spatial model of the Nun's Temple

Spatial section of the Nun's Temple

Spatial section of the Nun's Temple

Spatial section of the Nun's Temple

Photomontages of the interior

Wall paintings on the eastern wall of the Mandala Temple

Wall paintings on the southern wall of the Mandala Temple

Wall paintings on the western wall of the Mandala Temple

Wall paintings on the northern wall of the Mandala Temple

Painted ceiling of the Mandala Temple

Wall paintings on the eastern wall of the Golden Temple

Wall paintings on the southern wall of the Golden Temple

Wall paintings on the western wall of the Golden Temple

Wall paintings on the northern wall of the Golden Temple

Painted ceiling of the Golden Temple

Wall paintings on the eastern wall of the Smaller Temple of Brom-ston

Wall paintings on the southern wall of the Smaller Temple of Brom-ston

Wall paintings on the western wall of the Smaller Temple of Brom-ston

Wall paintings on the northern wall of the Smaller Temple of Brom-ston

Wall paintings on the southern wall of the New Entrance Hall

Wall paintings on the western wall of the New Entrance Hall

Wall paintings on the northern wall of the New Entrance Hall

Wall paintings on the eastern wall of the New Entrance Hall

Building phases of the monastery

Phase 1: 996 AD. Main Temple

Phase 2: 1042-1100 AD. Maitreya's Temple, Smaller Brom-ston and Mandala Temple

Phase 3: 1450-1550 AD. Golden Temple

Phase 4: 1600-1900 AD. Large Brom-ston, New Entrance Hall, Protector´s Chapel and Nun's Temple

Situation in 1933

Situation in 2002

Phase 1: 996 AD. Main Temple

Phase 2: 1042-1100 AD. Maitreya's Temple, Smaller Brom-ston and Mandala Temple

Phase 3: 1450-1550 AD. Golden Temple

Phase 4: 1600-1900 AD. Large Brom-ston, New Entrence Hall, Protector´s Chapel and Nun's Temple

Situation in 1933

Situation in 2002

Interior of the Main Temple

Access to the Main Temple's entrance hall. Neuwirth 2002

Entrance hall of the Main Temple. Neuwirth 2002

Interior decoration of the Main Temple's assembly hall. Neuwirth 2002

Interior decoration of the Main Temple's assembly hall. Neuwirth 2002

Interior decoration of the Main Temple's assembly hall. Neuwirth 2002

Interior decoration of the Main Temple's assembly hall. Neuwirth 2003

Interior decoration of the Main Temple's assembly hall. Neuwirth 2003

Interior decoration of the Main Temple's assembly hall. Neuwirth 2003

Cella of the Main Temple. Neuwirth 2003


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