The Directorate of Handicrafts and Handloom was founded in 1957 by Sikkim government in an effort to preserve and promote traditional arts and crafts. With time it evolved as a centre for sustainable development of the region focussing on utilising the traditional knowledge and human resources. In modern perspective the centre serves as a important tool for providing employment and self-reliance across the strata of society covering diverse region, income rang and education. The centre has now expanded to 32 training centres with 650 trainees and 13 production units. The head office is located in Gangtok, the capital city of Sikkim. It provides training in carpet weaving, handloom, thanka painting, handmade paper, wood-carving, cane & bamboo craft, soft toys and multi-crafts. Training period ranges from 2-4 years depending on the craft. After that the artisans can either work in the centre’s production units or work outside on their own. In order to promote the initiative the government also gives stipend to the students.
Thanka painting is a Buddhist style of painting depicting the life of Buddhist gods and goddesses. It involves elaborate compositions generally with a central deity surrounded by other identified figures in a symmetrical composition. The compositions are highly geometric painted on silk or cotton. Thankas have religious and spiritual significance and often you will find them hanging in the monasteries and homes.
The training at DHH for thanka painting is a four year long course. It starts with instructions in drawing keeping in mind the grids and layout of the Buddhist paintings. It is followed by instructions in painting and culminates in painting real thankas on silk or cotton. The painting usually involves stone colours and vegetable dyes with gold dust and gold threads used for tapestry.