Tsaklis, or tsakalis or tsaglis, are small paintings used in religious rituals in Tibet and neighbouring regions. They have the size of postcards or somewhat larger or smaller. They are mostly made on thick paper, made by glueing several layers on top of each other, but also on canvas. On the reverse side there are often texts, often in beautiful calligraphy. They have been made for centuries. They were used in religious rituals.
The religion is a mixture of Tantric Buddhism, the indigenous Bon religion and the shamanistic and animistic folk religion. There is a great variety of deities and demons, which all are to be served with proper ritual. Many of the deities and demons are depicted on the tsaklis.
Tsaklis played a significant role in the rituals, together with other religious implements. The deity pictured on the consecrated tsakli was thought to be present during the ceremony.
Tsaklis were used as a visualization aid for meditation, for teaching purposes and for initiation ceremonies. Tsaklis are also called initiation cards. Very important rituals were the death rituals, during the Bardo period of up to 49 days between death and reincarnation. In a typical buddhist Bardo ritual the soul of the deceased meets a hundred deities, which are all pictured on tsaklis. Special rituals could also be performed in the name of the relatives, accompanied by specially made tsaklis.
Tsaklis were also used for the rituals of the folk religion, to apease demons and divinities and ward off evil influences.
On this website we present three books about tsaklis. One book is a catalogue of a small exhibit of some material from my collection of tsaklis and other miniatures, with short commentaries. One of the others is a more extensive treatment of this material. The third, Tsaklifolia, is a more personal account of my tsakli-folly, of collecting them.
Some examples of tsaklis
Samantabhadra and Samantabhadri
The yungdrung or swastika on a Bon tsakli
A Bon deity with consort in yab yum
A demon with a head of a yak, a human torso and and a snake as the lower half of its body; he carries an antelope skin