Himalayan Art Resources

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

གནས་བརྟན། 罗汉
(item no. 168)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1600 - 1699
Lineages Uncertain
Size 96.52x59.69cm (38x23.50in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Shelley & Donald Rubin
Catalogue # acc.# P1994.10.15
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Person

Appearance: Arhat

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

Ajita the Elder (Tibetan: ne ten, ma pham pa, Sanskrit: Sthavira Ajita): the 2nd arhat from the set of 16 great arhats.

Involved in conversation, with the head turned to the right, the face sporting a full beard, a flywhisk pointed downward is held in the right hand. The left held at the heart performs the mudra of explication. The right shoulder is bare in the tradition of Buddhist monks and the left is covered with an elaborate patchwork robe made of blue and gold brocade strips. Seated atop an ornate throne decorated with red and yellow brocades and an ornate backrest, crowned with a dark green areola amidst wafting red clouds, he sits on the slopes of the Rishi Mountain. In front on a footrest similar in appearance to the throne is a single shoe. Placed before that is an elaborate table with the base in the shape of a tortoise, with a blue lotus blossom above, supporting a makara (a mythical sea creature) holding the stem of another pink lotus flower with the pistil and stamens serving as the table top - holding a vase and incense burner.

At the left a standing figure in the garb and appearance of a layman wearing an upper shirt of thatched leaves offers upraised with both hands a black begging bowl topped with rising pink vapors. A basket of medicinal herbs and flowers rests on the ground behind. At the right a standing attendant figure is lavishly attired in brocade robes of various colours.

"On the Rishi Mountain in Crystal Forest is the noble elder Ajita, surrounded by 100 arhats; homage to the One with the two hands placed in meditation." (Sakya liturgical verse).

The Elder Ajita is most commonly portrayed with the hands placed in the mudra of meditation, 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 Ajita. 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 Ajita.

Wylie Transliteration of Inscription: 'phags pa ma pham pa.

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