Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Arhat/Sthavira (Buddhist Elder) - (multiple figures)

གནས་བརྟན། 罗汉
(item no. 225)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1600 - 1699
Lineages Uncertain
Size 50.80x40.64cm (20x16in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# P1996.4.1
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Person

Appearance: Arhat

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

Ajita and Kanakavatsa, the Elders (Tibetan: ne ten, ma pham dang ser be'u, Sanskrit: Sthavira Ajita ca Kanakavatsa): the 2nd and 7th of the 16 Great Arhats, principal students of the buddha Shakyamuni.

At the top left is arhat Ajita with a handsome face and a short brown beard. A red brocade cloth tied in front about the neck covers the head. The hands are placed in the lap in the mudra of meditation with the palms facing up, right over left. Attired in a long green jacket with broad sleeves, the left shoulder is covered with a red patchwork robe loosely wrapped about the legs. Atop a blue monk's mat he is seated in meditation posture with the head framed by a pink areola of light. Behind, trees twist upward and mountains fill the background. At the side, a standing monk attendant holds a bowl upraised with both hands. At the top center is a seated Buddha with the right hand performing the mudra of generosity and the left in meditation; seated on a lotus flower surrounded by light.

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

At the right side is the arhat Kanakavatsa with an elderly appearance, grey hair and wrinkles. The two hands are held to the sides holding a long jewel lasso - a gift of the nagas. Wearing a blue brocade jacket with open sleeves and red trim, the left shoulder is covered with the orange patchwork robe of a monk. In a relaxed posture with the right leg drawn up and left extended - wearing sandals on the feet, he sits atop a meditation mat. The head is framed by a bright red areola of light. A monk attendant stands at the right holding aloft a black begging bowl.

"In the excellent land of Kashmir is the noble elder Kanakavatsa, surrounded by 500 arhats; homage to the one holding a jewel lasso." (Sakya liturgical verse).

At the bottom left is the Guardian King of the Southern Direction and Lord of the Kumbhanda, Virudhaka, blue in colour, with a slightly fierce expression, bulging eyes and biting down on the lower lip. With the right hand he holds the hilt of a long sword and with the left the scabbard. Attired in flowing scarves, the raiment of a warrior and boots, he stands surrounded by brown billowing smoke. Cowering at the lower right is a kumbhanda being with an ugly face and wearing a tiger skin skirt; holding three jewels in the upraised hands.

At the right is the King of the East and Lord of the Gandharva, Dhritarashtra, white in colour, peaceful in expression. With the right hand he strums a lute like instrument and with the left he supports the neck; attired in similar colourful garments and boots. Standing at the side is a gandharva musician also playing a lute.

The full group of arhats would traditionally comprise 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.

Jeff Watt 8-99

Related Items
Thematic Sets
Arhat/Sthavira: Main Page & Arhat/Sthavira Appearance (Elder)
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery 6
Painting Set: Arhats: Multiple Main Figures
Arhat/Sthavira: Kanakavatsa Main Page
Arhat/Sthavira: Ajita Main Page
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Arhat/Sthavira
Collection: Christie's, New York (Painting. September 15, 2015)