Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Direction Guardian (Buddhist Deity) - Dhritarashtra (East)

རྒྱལ་ཆེན་རིགས་བཞི། 四大天王
(item no. 177)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1500 - 1599
Lineages Uncertain
Size 95.57x60.96cm (37.63x24in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# F1997.11.4
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: King

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

Dhritarashtra (Tibetan: yul khor srung), Guardian of the Eastern Direction and King of the Gandharva - celestial musicians.

In a regal appearance, white in colour, he has a broad square face with grey eyebrows, moustache and a beard. The fingers of the right hand strum the golden strings of a lute (Sanskrit: vina) having a wide green body and dark blue neck held above with the left hand. Adorned with a crown of gold studded with jewels, and earrings, tassels and ribbons, he is richly attired in brocade garments, trousers, and boots of various colour. The head is encircled by an irregular dark green areola edged with licks of red and orange flame. Seated on a maroon coloured mat above a rocky bench, in a relaxed posture, the right foot presses on the stomach of a reclining figure - fair and smiling, with the right hand cupped to the ear enjoying the celestial music. The left foot is held up by a daemon figure, pink of colour, kneeling in an acquiescent posture. The background is filled with swirling smoke, grey and black, and the level foreground is sparse and green.

Dhritarashtra, leader of the Gandharva heavenly musicians, is a worldly guardian worshipped as a protector. He lives on the east side of the lower slopes of mount Meru in the Heaven of the Four Great Kings. Like the other Direction Kings, the leader Vaishravana, Virupaksha and Virudhaka, he swore an oath of protection before the buddha Shakyamuni. The stories and iconography of the Four Guardian Kings arose originally with the early Buddhist sutras and became fully developed with the later Mahayana. They are common to all schools of Tibetan Buddhism. Paintings of the Kings are generally found in association with a larger thematic set featuring the buddha Shakyamuni and the 16 Great Arhats.

Jeff Watt 6-99

Related Items
HAR: Art History Main Page

Thematic Sets
Subject: Protectors That Are Not Wrathful
Buddhist Deity: Dhritarashtra (Masterworks)
Buddhist Worldly Protector: Dhritarashtra (Masterworks)
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery 2
Buddhist Protector: Four Guardian Kings Main Page
Painting Set: Arhat Set I
Buddhist Worldly Protector: Dhritarashtra, Guardian of the East