Artwork at Nalanda Monastery


 Order at the workshop

023 tsatsas 600x


We currently produce tsa-tsas and moulds from some old and more recent holy objects and works of art, mainly for people connected with FPMT and Lama Zopa Rinpoche. Nalanda has a well-equipped art workshop in which statues, stupas and tsa-tsas (plaster-cast images) are produced, painted and gilded.


We do not supply them for commercial use e.g. making statues to sell; as our workshop is maintained only by a few monks whose main work is the study of the Dharma, we can only provide you with the limited service of making silicone moulds for the time being.

Statue Filling

If you have a statue which you would like to be filled with blessed substances and mantras, our monks can do this as well. For information about this please contact us at or use the contact-form.

Further Information

Below you can find our information letter that tells you everything you need to know about ordering moulds from us and also a list of our available moulds. Additionally there are also three booklets which contain information about the practice of making tsa-tsas.


Statue Filling:
Alot of items will be put into the body of the statue.

Buddhist artwork at Nalanda

Nalanda has a well-equipped art workshop. Our primary service is making molds for individual tsa tsa practices, or making molds for centers, stupa building projects, and other Dharma related activites. While it is possible to order statues, stupas and tsa-tsas (plaster-cast images) from the Nalanda Art workshop, this is not our primary activity, so allow plenty of time when ordering these objects.  Many people who visit the Monastery are attracted to the colors and detail in the nicely painted tsa tsas. Most of what they are seeing are gifts to the monastery and were not necessarily painted here.  The Nalanda Monastery Art workshop can easily provide the unpainted tsa tsas, however the availability of capable and talented painters always lags far behind the demand for statues, stupas and tsa tsas.

If you would like to order a tsa-tsa mould, please have a look at the Order section. The workshop is only maintained by a few monks, students, or volunteers at any given time, so while molds are more easily made and delivered, we are not running a factory, thus everything is made to order as it ordered and one needs to allow plenty of time for delivery.

"The existence of Buddha’s teachings for a long time depends on the existence of the holy objects of Buddha. To have the scriptural understanding and realisations of the teachings is not easy. For these, you need to have a lot of merit. The most powerful merit that one can accumulate, and accumulate so easily, in is relation to holy objects. By making statues of Buddha and making offerings to statues of Buddha, one accumulates infinite, inconceivable merit that immediately becomes the cause for enlightenment."

Lama Zopa Rinpoche

We are well known for our high quality tsa-tsa moulds. These are provided so that practitioners can create merit and fulfil commitments given to them by their teachers.

Over the years we have gained a great deal of experience in making tsa-tsas, and so are able to give advice ranging from “first-timer” instructions, to the best material to use for the finest detail.

There are well equipped working areas, as well as a custom built house for their long-term storage.

Former projects include the 1000 Buddhas which are all placed in the altar of the new gompa. It took five years to complete, and they were all blessed by Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tenzin during his visit to Nalanda in October 2008. Future projects include large statues of Maitreya and Lama Tsongkhapa for the main gompa.

Another project of our workshop is the large Tara statue made by Bertrand Cayla which, which is now at Osel Ling in Spain. Lama Zopa Rinpoche has said that this Tara will be famous in the years to come. See the article in Mandala Magazine. The original can now be found at our neighbour centre Institute Vajra Yogini. 

Please contact us if you are interested in finding out more about working in the workshop or would like to make a donation.

Sonam Sherpa Artwork gallery


2006 Lama Zopa Rinpoche advice...

In 2006, while the new public monastery building was under construction at Nalanda, Venerable Jean-François Bergevin, who designed and worked tirelessly to complete the building, asked Lama Zopa Rinpoche for specific instructions for the altar of the new Gompa. Rinpoche advised that having the statues of the 16 Arhats would be very beneficial for the community, and after some investigations, it turned out that a set of 16 Arhats statues had been made two years earlier by Jonathan Partridge at the FPMT Tushita Center in McLeod Ganj, in Northern India. By bringing this set of statues to Nalanda, the Nalanda workshop would be able to make molds so other centers could acquire this artwork and it's blessings as well.

At that time, Venerable Yonten had been a part of the Nalanda's community for three years as a novice monk, and he also had been given permission to take the vows of a fully ordained monk (Gelong). The ceremony was planned for February 2007 in Dharamsala in the presence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and so Yonten's part in this story came about from Venerable Jean-François' simple instruction, "Yonten, go to India, take the ordination and bring back the 16 statues!"

yonten 800x600
Venerable yonten

The crumbled statues...

What Yonten discovered in Tushita Center was not really what he expected. The statues were there, but after two years of Indian mountain weather of heat, cold, and monsoon under a plastic sheet in Lama Yeshe's room, their hollow clay construction had started to crumble. They were so very fragile. Yonten understood that he was facing more of a challenge than he had expected, as there was not only the ordination of a lifetime to focus on, but the safe transportation of the 16 very fragile statues (50 cm in height and 5 kg weight each) from McLeod Ganj to Toulouse, France!

"How to start? was my first question" recalls Venerable Yonten. "I'm in the foothills of the Himalayas in the middle of winter, and no idea on how to get hold of materials for this sort of thing, or how the statues would survive such a trip". The timing was tight; with three weeks in India, and with the ordination in two weeks' time.

Transport arrangement...

First step was to arrange transport boxes that needed to be individually made to suit the individual statues, and to protect them for a 12 hour road trip to New Delhi in winter over unpredictable roads, as well as handling as air-cargo to France. Then of course, packing materials were needed to cushion them inside the boxes in the hope they wouldn't be reduced to crumbled pieces by the time they'd completed their journey.

Packaging the statues...

Fortunately, there are carpenters abound in India, so Yonten was assured that making 16 boxes in a week would not be a problem. A trip to a building supplier for plastic sheeting brought about the idea of using construction caulking foam to keep the statues cushioned and fixed in the boxes. However, 12 cans of that would have to be ordered from New Delhi and brought by courier . . . soon! "Then a walk through the village brought me to a carpet making shop, so I went in and found a room full of carpet cuttings they'd be happy to let me have. Perfect for packing the hollow spaces inside the statues."

However, India will always be a country of the unexpected. One week later, the carpenter had still not started the 16 boxes because of a family wedding; and by the end of the following week, he had just started. "Yep, that's when I started to get worried" recalls Yonten, "That and when the aerosol cans of foam arrived without any application nozzle, and no time left to order them with 5 days left in the trip and the rumor His Holiness might have to cancel the ordination in 2 days' time."

Departure to Delhi...

The night before departure in February, winter brought snow. Yonten, as a newly ordained Gelong, had the 16 boxes and packed them entire night, helped by three people. In the process, they discovered the only way to get the foam out of the cans was to use an old pen jammed into the top of each can, which meant it was more than difficult to get the foam in the small spaces of the boxes without creating a right merry mess. Another discovery being the sacks of wool scraps had a rather odd texture and odor about them. Closer examination revealed it to be the last resting place of several decomposing rats.

The following evening, the 4wheel drive jeep turned up on time for the 12 hour night trip to Delhi, but it turned out to be too small to fit all the boxes in the back. The only option was to strap two of them to the roof, and leaving the spare tire on the driveway.

"All I could think about was the reaction of Venerable Jean-François as I listened to the 2 boxes on the roof bouncing at every pot hole in the road, when suddenly the driver started cursing in Hindi." A flat tire! After taking off the wheel, the only words of the driver were, "Whatever you do, stay in the vehicle, and don't unlock the doors under any condition. I'm coming back in one hour." Yonten watched him disappear into the darkness. After at least two hours of worries and doubts, he saw the driver coming back rolling the tire down the road in front of him. Unfortunately, one hour later, the tire was flat again! Second repair, third start, and by the early morning Delhi appeared, direction cargo airport.

After 2 days and 2 nights of sleep deprivation, the blessings of His Holiness, and a whole heap of purification, worry and success, Yonten offloaded the boxes at a loading bay at New Delhi International Cargo Airport. First job was to find a cooperative porter with a large enough trolley for the boxes to be taken to Customs for checking, while the intrepid taxi driver was gratefully paid and free to leave.

Practice of patience...

Once inside the cavernous airport, the Customs officer's first question was, "Are they antique?" Despite assurances they were made 2 years ago by an Australian, Yonten now had to now prove with documents they were not antique! With the taxi driver now on his way back, and no way to get documents, the prospect of no way forward and no way back was looking like a possibility. The Customs officer advised him to go to New Delhi University with all the boxes, find a certified authority in antiquities so he could file the relevant documents, and then the boxes would be ready to leave Mother India! "Oh, what purification, yet another challenge I didn't know where to start!" recalls Yonten. After a great dealing of wandering around, he found himself at the door of the Head of Customs and Excise who, it turned out, was not having a particularly good day, and wasn't at all concerned about this very tired and worried English Buddhist monk now sitting on the other side of his desk. The power of prayer definitely didn't work in this case.

Desperation and hope...

In total desperation, Yonten explained the challenge to the Lufthansa cargo office during their kind hospitality of tea and biscuits, and by an amazing coincidence, the manager explained to him that if Yonten would care for more tea, the Head of Customs and Excise would be ending his shift, and be replaced by a someone he felt would be kinder and more understanding of the issue. So after tea, a few more prayers, and a very kind Lufthansa manager explaining the mission to a refreshed official, a flurry of red stamps on forms completed in triplicate took place, and the precious boxes could be moved towards loading. "Ah, the satisfaction of presenting the completed forms signed by the Head of Customs to the first officer was immense", reminisced Yonten.

But, then …"The Customs Officer played another card as he wanted to know where my ownership document was, after I told him I wasn't the owner". And so, it was back up the stairs to the angels at Lufthansa, who by that time were taking great interest in this variety to a regular day, to borrow a phone to call Nalanda for them to create some sort of ownership letter to fax to the Lufthansa office while more tea was being served. Again, great satisfaction presenting this to the customs officer, and to then watch the precious cargo bouncing along on another porter's trolley as they were carried off into the depths of the departure warehouse.

Arrival in Toulouse...

The 16 Arhats arrived in Toulouse before Yonten did and he still laughs a lot as he imagines the face of Jean-François when he opened a box, and took out a statue to find all of the strange carpet filling falling out. Thankfully after all that, the damage to the statues was repairable, rather than being reduced to a pile of biscuit clay in the bottom of each box.

Incredible as it may seem, the 16 Arhats stayed in their boxes until 2014! Lacking the necessary skills and money, they waited seven years for their restoration, until Cai, a Spanish woman, came into the picture. But this is another story,

Ten years after...

Even after 10 years Yonten is still moved by his adventure:
"This whole experience was something I remember vividly. Most definitely an intense experience of purification directly connected to my ordination, and giving me the perfect opportunity to practice patience in abundance. At that time, I was very familiar with travelling in India, but on this occasion I learned a great deal about what seemed like making the seemingly impossible very possible on each step of the adventure. I will never forget the huge kindness of all the people that helped me bring these precious statues to Nalanda."

Resident artist Sonam Sherpa


Nalanda is really lucky to have Sonam Sherpa as resident artist since 2008. Despite his young age (born in 1983), Sonam is recognized as a highly talented artist.

Born in a small village in east Nepal "Hile Bagpaile," Sonam had predisposition to draw and paint since he was a child. This is why he was encouraged by his elder brother to go to the school of art in Boudhanath Kathmandu, the Tsering Art school founded by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche one of His Holiness the Dalai Lama's teachers. Sonam studied there for six years the thangka painting art following the lineage of Konchog Lhadrepa, the exceptionally qualified painting master of the Karma Gadri tradition famous for the beauty of its spacious landscapes combined with a minute attention to deities' details respecting the accuracy of the texts.

After having graduated in 2004, Sonam started working for monasteries in Nepal and India and then started to run a thangka workshop with a friend. In 2007, they met venerable Tendar, Nalanda's director on that time, who invited them to come to Nalanda to work in the new Gompa, to paint the main Buddha statue and the thousand Buddha statues arranged on the back wall. But after two months of work they decided to leave to Holland.

Five months later, in 2008, Sonam came back and decided to stay to finish the new Gompa: working on all the details of the main Buddha statue, opening the eyes of the Buddha statues in the back wall (doing more than 600 in about 5 months), painting and decorating the altar area and doing other works outside the Gompa. This amazing work took 2 years to be fully accomplished and ended just before the visit of Lama Zopa Rinpoche in 2009.

The visit of Lama Zopa Rinpoche was a turning point in the life of Sonam as Rinpoche was really impressed by the quality of his work and ordered him various works as Thangkas and logos for FPMT centers including Maitreya Buddha projects Logo. "Rinpoche’s appreciation is an important reason why I am still here. At some point, I thought my work was finished. But then Rinpoche asked me to do more thangkas for Nalanda."

sonam work

Those thangkas represent the three protectors of the Lam Rim. Vaishravana, a deity sitting on a snow lion, which is now on the left wall in the Gompa, White Mahakala which has also been finished and Kalarupa that Sonam hopes to finish soon. Nowadays, Sonam is mainly dedicated to paint the original statues of the 16 Arhats sculpted by Jonathan Partridge and he will also paint copies for other FPMT centers.

Sonam has always been very happy to fulfil Lama Zopa Rinpoche's wishes and benefit the monastery. Now Sonam is completely installed in France and since beginning of 2016 he is the proud father of a little girl.

Bertrand CaylaBertrand Cayla was born in Sallanches (Haute Savoie, France) in 1954. In 1972 he was accepted into the ‘Academie des Beaux-Arts de Paris’ where he studied drawing for two months. He continued to train as an autodidact artist in sculpture and painting. During the 1980’s he created a series of small sculptures for a ceramist and later he worked as a designer in the textile industry in Paris.

Inspired by Buddhist philosophy he took ordination in 1992. For the next 12 years he lived as a Tibetan Buddhist monk at Nalanda Monastery near Lavaur, France. There he founded the monastery’s workshop. He created a one meter high Kadampa stupa and established the tsa-tsa mould collection at the workshop which still produces statues and moulds for centres and practitioners all over the world.

Between 2001 and 2006, at the request of Lama Zopa Rinpoche, he created a large three meter high statue of Green Tara, a female deity embodying the activities of all the Buddhas. In July 2009 the statue was taken to the Osel Ling Retreat Centre in the Alpujarra Mountains near Granada where it was installed in the centre of a manmade lake. In 2006 Bertrand was commissioned to make and paint a life size sculpture of the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo for the altar at Maitripa Univeristy, Portland, Oregon USA.

Bertrand Cayla lives close to Nalanda Monastery, where he is still often at work. For Nalanda, Bertrand completed a life size clay sculpture of the Buddhist deity Ganapati in 2014. He also produced a large oil and canvas ‘thangka’ of Lama Tsong Khapa which can be seen in Nalanda's big gompa. Recently, he was involved in restoring and making moulds of statues of the Sixteen Arhats sculpted by Jonathan Partridge on the request of Lama Zopa Rinpoche.

You can find more information about Bertrand Cayla on his own website.

FaLang translation system by Faboba


 Osël Hita Torres at Nalanda monastery

 Osël Hita Torres at Vajra Yogini Institute


 Venerable Jesus how to do a 3 months retreat