Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Arhat/Sthavira (Buddhist Elder) - (Attendant) Dharmata

གནས་བརྟན། 罗汉
(item no. 348)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1800 - 1899
Lineages Uncertain
Size 57.15x39.37cm (22.50x15.50in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# F1997.27.1
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Person

Appearance: Arhat

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

Dharmata, the upasaka (Tibetan: ge nyen dhar ma ta) of Central Asian or Chinese origin - the layman attendant to the 16 Great Arhats.

Tibetan: Ge nyen dhar ma ta

Light in complexion with a small moustache and the hair in tresses bundled on the head, he walks forward with a stoop and the eyes cast downward onto the form of the Buddha Amitabha floating on a seat of white clouds in front. The right hand holds upraised a flywhisk with a red handle fastened with a white yak tail suspended from the tip. The left hand grasps the strap of the red travel case carried on the back. Adorned with gold earrings and bracelets he wears a green jacket, white pants and decorative boots. An orange robe with gold trim is wrapped over the left shoulder and a pink skirt about the waist. Carried in the case on the back is a load of books on the top shelf - covered with a yellow cloth. The two lower shelves are filled with black begging bowls and a single gold khakkhara staff pointing out from the back. Attached at the top of the case is a circular yellow canopy decorated with hanging gold tassels. Walking in front with the head turned to the side, dark stripes and colourful eyes, is a fierce tiger -- having emanated from the right knee of the attendant.

At the bottom center and upwards along the left side are green shrubs laden with colourful round fruit in clusters of three. At the top right from the side of a mountain landscape a white twisted tree trunk supports a canopy of green foliage sheltering a solitary bird. At the top left, clouds drift upward from a blue lake.

"To the noble upasaka Dharmata, with the hair in a topknot and a load of books, gazing upward at Amitabha in the sky; homage to the One holding a flywhisk and vase." (Sakya liturgical verse).

Dharmatala, considered by some to be an emanation of Avalokiteshvara, belongs to a thematic set of paintings known as 'Shakyamuni Buddha and the 16 Great Arhats.' The full group comprises 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. As a late addition, Dharmatala was attached to the group of Arhats during the time of the Chinese Tang Emperor (9th - 10th century).

Jeff Watt 9-99

Related Items
Thematic Sets
Arhat/Sthavira: Main Page & Arhat/Sthavira Appearance (Elder)
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery 2
Painting Set: Arhats: Single Main Figure
Arhat: Dharmata (Attendant) Main Page
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Arhat/Sthavira