Himalayan Art Resources

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

གནས་བརྟན། 罗汉
(item no. 166)
Origin Location Central Tibet
Date Range 1600 - 1699
Size 69.85x59.69cm (27.50x23.50in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment, Fine Gold Line on Cotton
Collection Shelley & Donald Rubin
Catalogue # acc.# P1991.1.2
Painting School Khyenri
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Person

Appearance: Arhat

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

Bakula, the Elder (Sanskrit: Sthavira Bakula): the 9th arhat from the set of 16 great arhats, principal students to the buddha Shakyamuni.

Mature in years with long eyebrows and a full dark beard he holds with both hands across the lap an unrolled scroll text in Chinese style. The head is covered with a yellow scarf tied in front and he wears a dark blue jacket with gold floral designs. The left shoulder is covered with an orange and green patchwork robe. Seated in a relaxed posture atop a grassy knoll the head is surrounded by a dark green areola framed with pink billowing clouds. In front atop a footstool of gnarly brown roots are the shoes of the Elder.

At the right side a monk attendant holds in the right hand and supported on the shoulder a large fan ringed with peacock feathers. The left holds a mala of prayer beads. Attired in brocade robes of rich blue, yellow and red colour, he converses with a layman holding a large bundle with both hands. At the left is a rough table made naturally of roots and branches topped with two gold vessels. A large golden bird with a craning neck looks toward the Elder. The background is filled with sharp rising mountains of green and blue, clouds of various colour and partially hidden mountain temples.

"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).

Living as an ascetic, late in age he embraced the Buddhist path after meeting with the Tathagata Shakyamuni. Receiving ordination as a monk and renowned for having a deep faith he quickly attained the level of an arhat. The special blessing that he bestows is the basic material needs and requisites for anyone seeking to follow the path of Buddha. The Elder Bakula is most commonly portrayed holding a mongoose, however there are several different and varying traditions graphically depicting the arhats. A written inscription in gold lettering on the lower front of the painting clearly identifies the subject as the Noble Bakula. The Sixteen Great Arhats are generally painted as a set. Typically the full group would include the buddha Shakyamuni, the 16 arhats, the attendant Dharmatala, the patron Hvashang and the Four Guardians of the Directions: Vaishravana, Virupaksha, Dritarashtra and Virudhaka.

Jeff Watt 8-99

Front of Painting
English Translation of Inscription: The Noble Bakula.

Wylie Transliteration of Inscription: 'phags pa ba ku la.

Related Items
Thematic Sets
Arhat/Sthavira: Bakula Main Page
Painting Set: Arhats: Single Main Figure
Painting Set: Arhat Set I
Collection of Shelley & Donald Rubin
Subject: Elders with Beards