Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Arhat/Sthavira (Buddhist Elder) - 16 Elders: Bakula

གནས་བརྟན། 罗汉
(item no. 164)
Origin Location Eastern Tibet
Date Range 1800 - 1899
Lineages Uncertain
Size 58.42x38.10cm (23x15in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# P1994.27.2
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Person

Appearance: Arhat

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

Bakula the Elder (Sanskrit: Sthavira Bakula): from the set of 16 great arhats.

Advanced in age, typical of the group of arhats, he wears loose monastic robes, some patchwork, of bright and varying colours - orange, green and blue. In the lap he holds with both hands, cradled with the left arm, a brown mongoose copiously ejecting wishing jewels from the mouth. Atop a skin of a wild animal, leaning against an elaborate backrest of rich fabrics, he sits in a relaxed posture on a rocky outcropping before an ornate table and a gold fruit bowl, attended upon by two laymen. At the left foreground beneath a pink flower blossom is a dark blue lotus pond. At the right, two gray elephants wander across a green expanse. At the top left are two Buddhas from the set of 35 Buddhas of Confession (The Sutra of Three Heaps). The uppermost is the Buddha 'Radiant Jewel' (Ratnaprabha) with the two hands in the mudra (gesture) of meditation. Below is the 'King of the Nagas' (Nagaraja) with the hands in the mudra of pacifying nagas. (The names are inscribed in gold lettering beneath each lotus and seat).

Spending most of his life as an ascetic, Bakula only late in age embraced the Buddhist path upon a chance meeting with the Tathagata Shakyamuni. Having received monastic ordination and being renowned for his faith he quickly attained the level of an arhat. He is said to dwell on the northern continent of Kuru where he is accompanied by a retinue of 900 fellow arhats. The special blessing that he bestows is the basic material needs and requisites for anyone seeking to follow the path of Buddha. As a symbol to convey this wish to sustain others he is shown holding a wealth bestowing mongoose.

"To the noble elder, the great Bakula of Northern Kuru, surrounded by a retinue of 900 arhats; to the feet of all those I bow." (Sakya liturgical text).

It is rare for the individual arhats to be painted separately outside of the group as a whole. Typically a set includes the buddha Shakyamuni and 16 arhats, the attendant Dharmatala, the patron Hvashang and the Four Guardians of the Directions: Vaishravana, Virupaksha, Dritirashtra and Virudhaka.

Jeff Watt 2-99

Front of Painting
Wylie Transliteration of Inscription: Rin [chen] 'od 'phro. Klu dbang rgyal po. Ba ku la la na mo.

Related Items
Bibliography: Arhat

Thematic Sets
Arhat/Sthavira: Main Page & Arhat/Sthavira Appearance (Elder)
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery 6
Painting Set: Arhats: Single Main Figure
Arhat/Sthavira: Bakula Main Page
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Arhat/Sthavira