Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Arhat/Sthavira (Buddhist Elder) - (Attendant) Dharmata

གནས་བརྟན། 罗汉
(item no. 158)
Origin Location Central Tibet
Date Range 1600 - 1699
Lineages Uncertain
Size 96.52x60.96cm (38x24in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment, Fine Gold Line on Cotton
Collection Shelley & Donald Rubin
Catalogue # acc.# P1994.10.12
Painting School Khyenri
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Person

Appearance: Arhat

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

Dharmatala, the upasaka (Tibetan: gen nyen dhar ma ta), the layman attendant to the 16 Great Arhats.

Tibetan: Ge nyen dhar ma ta

Mature in appearance, with black hair piled on the top of the head, long dark eyebrows and a growth of facial hair, he looks upward to the sky. The right hand holds a flywhisk with a red handle and a tuft of yak tail hair attached at the end. The left hand holds a dark blue water flask. Adorned with gold earrings, he wears a long cloak brown in colour with a floral pattern, blue and white pants and black sandals. Across the back he carries a red travelling case filled with religious books, bowls and provisions - topped with a circular yellow canopy fringed with red and blue. Stooped over from the load, he walks with the companionship of an orange striped tiger at the side. Emanating as a fierce protector of the 16 Arhats, the tiger arises from the right knee of Dhamatala.

In the sky above, drifting on a bank of variously coloured cloud is the buddha Amitabha, red, with the two hands placed in the mudra of meditation, seated atop a dark blue lotus blossom encircled by rays of light. A large pine tree, rocky blue peaks and green-red clouds fill the background. The foreground is a green landscape with a stream wandering through a meadow adorned with attractive birds.

"To the noble upasaka Dharmata, with the hair in a topknot and a load of books, gazing forward on Amitabha in the sky; homage to the One holding a flywhisk and vase." (Sakya liturgical verse).

Dharmatala belongs to a thematic set of paintings known as 'Shakyamuni Buddha and the 16 Great Arhats.' The full group comprises 25 figures: the buddha Shakyamuni, together with the two foremost disciples - Shariputra and Maudgalyayana, the 16 Arhats, the attendant Dharmata, the patron Hvashang and the Four Guardians of the Directions; Vaishravana, Virupaksha, Dritarashtra and Virudhaka. As a late addition, Dharmatala was attached to the group of Arhats during the time of the Chinese Tang Emperor (9th - 10th century).

Jeff Watt 6-99

Front of Painting
Wylie Transliteration of Inscription: 'phags pa dha rma dha.

Related Items
Thematic Sets
Painting Set: Arhats: Single Main Figure
Painting Set: Arhat Set I
Arhat: Dharmata (Attendant) Main Page
Collection of Shelley & Donald Rubin
Collection of Shelley & Donald Rubin (Teachers)