The monastery of Tabo lies in northern India in the secluded Spiti valley, which was at one time part of the ancient kingdom of Western Tibet. The oldest continuously operating Buddhist enclave in India and the Himalayas, Tabo's historical role as ...
an intermediary between India and Tibet and the extraordinary beauty of its frescoes make it a place of unique importance. The main temple of Tabo is one of the masterpieces of Indian and Tibetan art. Built in 996 and renovated in 1042, the temple is remarkable not only for the exceptional quality of its sculpture and the decorative paintings that cover every surface, but also for the numerous portraits of royal patrons, members of the local nobility, and ecclesiastical figures, all identified by name. Tabo played a pivotal role in the history of Buddhism in the tenth and eleventh centuries, when Tibetan monks and Indian pandits studied together and translated scripture from Sanskrit into Tibetan. This meeting of trans-Himalayan cultures, and the devotions of their faithful, are vividly preserved in the magnificent paintings and sculptures that adorn the original temple and the monastery that surrounds it. Deborah Klimburg-Salter, who has published widely on this period, describes the art, iconography, and contemporary rituals of Tabo with the aid of more than 200 photographs, plans, and diagrams. The color photographs, which are largely the work of Jaroslav Poncar, illustrate the hidden glories of one of the most important sites in Buddhist history. Tabo also includes contributions by Luciano Petech, Professor Emeritus, University of Rome; and Christian Luczanits, Ernst Steinkellner, and Erna Wandl of the Institute of Tibetan and Buddhist Studies, University of Vienna.