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Tamgaly-Tas Buddha images.

Excursion and trip to Tamgaly Tas petroglyphs.

"Ot mani padme hum"

Tour to petroglyphs of Tamgaly Tas.

Tamgaly-Tas is a site of Tibetan-Oirat art and epigraphy of the XVIIth - XVIIIth centuries, located in the Almaty Region, 25km north-west of Kapshagay City, on the right bank of the Ili River.
In the middle part of Ili Kapshagay (canyon), at the foot of the erosion rock ledge about 500 m long and 40 - 45 m high, an accumulation of boulders has 17 surfaces depicting four Buddha images (Shakyamuni, Bhaisajyaguru, Akshobya and Nageshvararaja), bodhisattvas of Avalokiteshvara and about 30 inscriptions executed in Tibetan and Oirat writing.
Typology and Dating. The site contains temporally different images and inscriptions created in four stages.
The first stage includes images of Buddha Shakyamuni, bodhisattvas of Avalokiteshvara, Bhaisajyaguru Buddha and accompanying Tibetan inscriptions on the central panel, an epigraphic figure of Buddha Nageshvararaja as well as various prayer texts including two mantras of Buddha Manjushri, an address to the Fourth Panchen Lama, Lobsang Chökyi Gyaltsen (1570 – 1662), and four six-syllable mantras “оm ma ni pad me hum” carved on different rocks in a circumference.
The second stage includes ten texts of the six-syllable mantra similar in technique, paleography, and content and executed in Oirat “clear script”. Simultaneously or a bit earlier, the pictorial series in the sanctuary was supplemented with an image of Buddha Akshobyi, later surrounded by a new cycle of Tibetan epigraphy.
In the third stage, a mantra dedicated to Akshobyi appeared later around his image on different faces of nearby boulders –a series of Tibetan inscriptions– including a triple six-syllable mantra, a mantra of Buddha Shakyamuni and even two mantras of Manjushri at the southern edge of the sacred site.
The fourth stage included the creation of the longest text in Tamgalytas, reproduced in 11 lines in cursive “clear script”. In the recent translation of Yakhontova N.S. it offers gratitude to the Buddha images depicted and to bodhisattva for “overcoming dangers (beginning) from diseases to starvation” and wishes to find “long and endless serenity in this land.”
The history of the Tamgalytas complex pertains to the epoch of military and political might and cultural prime of the Dzhungarian Khanate (1635 - 1757), accompanied by intensive dissemination of Lamaistic Buddhism among the Western Mongolian tribes of Oirats.
The creation of the sanctuary is related to the religious and political activities of Galdan Boshugtu Khan (1644 – 1697): in his day, Lamaism was established among the Oirats. The location for a Buddhist sanctuary was chosen because it is near one of the main river crossings of the Ili River.
Which played an important role in the network of trans-regional communications in Semirechie at the end of the XVII century – first half of the XVIIIth century as well as in implementing a policy of conquest by the Dzhungarian Khanate in Southern Kazakhstan and Central Asia.
Rock Art in Central Asia 24 The sanctuary no longer actively worked or was visited by Lamaists from about 1758, after the defeat of the Dzhungarian Khanate by the troops of China under the Tsin Dynasty and the consequent return of Kazakh and Kyrgyz clans to the lands of Semirechie.
A final stage of cultic epigraphy at the Tamgalytas sanctuary pertains to a climactic episode of the last great migration of Volga’s Kalmyk-Torguts led by Ubashi Khan in 1771 from Russia to the lands of the former Dzhungarian Khanate.
Thus, the Lamaist sanctuary in Tamgalytas Gorge functioned for about 100 years –from 1676/1677 to 1771. The complex of rock engravings and inscriptions in Tamgalytas has no analogies in the western part of Central Asia, neither by the composition of personages of the Tibetan pantheon presented, nor by the number of texts – different in content and languages.
There are more than 20 known sites of Tibetan Buddhism dated to the XVIIIth – middle of the XVIIIth century in Kazakhstan, with isolated sacred art sites among them. Cultic sites with the similar replicated prayer formula “om ma ni pad me hum” (Taygak, Akkaynar, Kegen Arasan and others) prevail among several dozens of registered locations of Tibetan and Oirat epigraphy.
Tamgalytas images and early inscriptions show some similarity with a group of sites of Tibetan Buddhism in Northern Kyrgyzstan (Yssyg-Ata and Tamga). However, Tamgalytas stands out due to its artistic originality, diversity of epigraphic texts and time span of their creation, which unquestionably reflects its special significance at the time of its creation and functioning. 

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“Rock Art Sites in Kazakhstan”.  Alexey E. Rogozhinskiy.

Alexander Petrov.