Himalayan Art Resources

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

གནས་བརྟན། 罗汉
(item no. 31)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1600 - 1699
Lineages Kadam, Gelug and Buddhist
Size 60.96x39.37cm (24x15.50in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment, Fine Gold Line on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# P1994.11.2
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Person

Appearance: Arhat

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

Bakula and Rahula, the Elders (Tibetan: ne ten, ba ku la tang dra chen dzin. Sanskrit: Sthavira Bakula and Rahula): the 9th and 10th arhats from the set of the Sixteen Great Arhats.

At the middle right is Arhat Bakula, gentle in appearance with a smiling face, fair complexion and grey receding hair. Wearing loose fitting ornate red robes, he holds in the two hands a brown mongoose - expelling jewels from the mouth. In front an ornately clad attendant holds aloft a golden bowl to collect the precious jewels of various colour. At the right are two monk attendants. The first holds a peacock fan and strokes the head of a seated tiger and the second holds a full bowl of precious jewels. Seated on an orange mat, Bakula is framed with a backrest of dark blue brocade and a pink aureola.

"On the Northern [continent] of Kuru is the noble elder Bakula, surrounded by 900 arhats; homage to the One holding a mongoose with the two hands." (Sakya liturgical text).

At the lower left is arhat Rahula, the son of Shakyamuni buddha. With the head slightly tilted and gazing forward, his dark close cropped hair is crowned with a small topknot. The two hands are placed in front holding respectfully, with a white scarf, a tiara of gold and jewels - a gift from the gods of the Heaven of the Thirty-three. Richly attired in garments of red and green, he wears brocade shoes, seated in a relaxed manner against a decorative blue and red backrest, with a green aureola. Behind at the left, an attendant holds upraised a parasol. In front a regal figure stands with the hands folded. At the right side a monk in red and orange robes kneels beside a bowl of precious jewels.

"On the Island of Priyangku is the noble elder Rahula, surrounded by 1,100 arhats; homage to the One holding a jewelled tiara." (Sakya liturgical text).

At the top center is a buddha, golden in colour, the hands held upraised with the palms facing out. Surrounded by six bodhisattvas of various colour he is seated before a celestial palace in a pleasure garden encircled by a walled enclosure. At the left is Dromton Gyalwai Jungne (1005-1064) the principal disciple of Lord Atisha - founder of the Kadampa School. Crowned with long dark hair, the hands are folded in prayer holding a white lotus blossom; wearing the garb of a layman. At the right is a lay lama of the Kadampa tradition, advanced in age, wearing the garments of a layman. He holds a vajra in the right hand and a bell turned up at the hip in the left. The background is filled with green hills, waterfalls and lush green foliage against a dark blue sky. A solitary hermit monk meditates in a mountain cave.

The Sixteen Great Arhats are generally painted as a set. 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. (The names of the figures are inscribed in gold lettering beneath each).

Jeff Watt 5-99

Front of Painting
Wylie Transliteration of Inscription: ''grom ston, dgra dbyar [?], chos [?], ba'' ku la, dgra can ''dzin.

Secondary Images
Related Items
Publication: Tibetan Paintings

Thematic Sets
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery 6
Painting Set: Arhats: Two Main Figure Format
Arhat/Sthavira: Bakula Main Page
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Arhat/Sthavira
Painting Set: Arhat Set XXVII