Image 8: Kalápa, Capital of Shambhala

Shambhala and the Prague Thangka: The Myth’s Visual Representation

Image 8: Kalápa, Capital of Shambhala

Kalápa, the capital of Shambhala, is surrounded by yurts; such depictions are rare and imply a Mongolian origin for the thangka. According to Buddhist texts, such as the Description of the Route to Kalápa (see Newman 1996), Kalápa is a splendid palace, a paradise on Earth, where everyone is happy, where people do not know evil, hatred, and ignorance, and where they live until the age of one hundred. Kalápa is said to possess a special spiritual power, which manifests itself by enabling an advanced pilgrim to achieve all the natural and supernatural perfections (siddhi) by paying respect to the holy sovereigns; a less advanced pilgrim receives spiritual guidance, which will assist him in the successful completion of the spiritual journey. The text of the Description of the Route to Kalápa is probably the most helpful and interesting text concerning Tibetan ideas about manners, possibilities, and conditions for a visit or pilgrimage to Shambhala. It is not known where or when the text originated; Tibetans first encountered it through the translation of a Nepalese manuscript by Tāranātha (Gyalkhampa Tāranātha; Tib. rGyal khams pa ta ra na tha, 1575–1634). The translator Tāranātha mentions in the colophon that he had been assisted by the Brahmanic pandit Krishna.

Reference

Newman, John. 1996. “Itineraries to Shambhala.” In Tibetan Literature: Studies in Genre, edited by José Ignazio Cabezón and Roger R. Jackson, 485–499. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion Publications.