In the early 1980's, Kelsang Yeshi, Minister of the Department of Religion and Culture, and his wife Kim Yeshi began to imagine an institute in India which could act as a cradle for the revival of Tibetan art, and provide a haven for artists to practice their crafts. With generous donations from many patrons who believed in the vision of Norbulingka, the land was purchased in 1984 and construction began in 1988. The ground plan was designed to follow the proportions of Avalokitesvara, the deity of compassion. The workshops and offices were to be constructed in the shape of his thousand arms. The temple would be his head, while in the middle would be a water spring, representing his heart, emanating kindness to all living beings.
Woodcarvers and carpenters helped to erect the buildings, while thangka painters worked tirelessly to complete the frescoes on the walls of the temple. Meanwhile, our team of statue-makers were absorbed in the construction of a 14ft gilded Buddha to grace our temple, crafted from hand-hammered sheets of copper. In 1995, Norbulingka Institute was officially inaugurated by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Gradually, Norbulingka came to include nine workshops including thangka painting, statue making, thangka applique, woodcarving, applique, wood painting, tailoring, weaving, and screen printing. Now nearing our twenty year mark, all of our original masters have passed away and it is now their students who carry the legacy forward. The quality of our craftsmanship remains at the highest standard today, a testament to the dedication of our masters, and their faultless transmission of their craft. And where the area around Norbulingka was once only fields, a thriving Tibetan community has sprung up filled with cafes, restaurants, shops, and homes.