Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Shakyamuni Buddha - with Sixteen Elders (Arhats)

ཤཱཀྱ་ཐུབ་པ། 释迦牟尼佛
(item no. 470)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1700 - 1799
Lineages Uncertain
Size 64.77x44.45cm (25.50x17.50in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment, Fine Gold Line on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# F1996.18.3
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Person

Appearance: Buddha

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

Shakyamuni Buddha (Tibetan: sha kya thu pa, sang gye, English: the Enlightened One, Sage of the Shakya Clan) together with the two foremost students Shariputra and Maudgalyayana, the 16 Arhats, Dharmata, Hvashang and the Kings of the Four Directions.

Sanskrit: Buddha Shakyamuni Tibetan: Sang gye sha kya tu pa

Elegant and formal in posture, golden in colour, gazing forward with perfect symmetry, the hair on the head is piled in a topknot (Sanskrit: ushnisha) crowned with a gold ornament. The earlobes are long and pierced from his youth spent as a prince. A white dot (Skt.: urna) adorns the forehead between the eyebrows. The right hand is extended across the knee with the fingertips touching the ground calling the personified goddess of the earth to witness the moment of enlightenment. The left hand placed in the lap in the mudra (gesture) of meditation supports a black begging bowl - a gift from the Kings of the Four Directions. Wearing red and orange coloured patchwork robes constructed from strips of discarded cloth and uniformly dyed with common saffron. The right arm is bare and the left covered in the fashion of Buddhist monks. Seated with the two feet crossed in vajra posture, right over left, atop a moon disc and multi-coloured lotus seat above a snow lion supported throne, he is surrounded by radiant light of blue and orange and an areola of dark blue. Lotus stems and large pink blossoms decorate the outer edge.

Standing at the left side is Shariputra holding a monk's staff in the right hand and a begging bowl in the left, attired in red and orange coloured robes, encircled by radiant light. Standing at the right is Maudgalyayana holding the same objects and dressed in the same attire. Displayed on a small table in front of the throne is a begging bowl, Dharma wheel, conch shell, lute and a gold mirror.

Descending from the top left are the first 8 Arhats: [1] Angaja holds a fly whisk and incense bowl. [2] Ajita has the head covered and the hands in the meditation mudra. [3] Vanavasin with the mudra of explication and holding a fly whisk. [4] Kalika holds a gold earring in each hand. [5] Vajriputra with a fly whisk and hand gesture. [6] Bhadra performs the mudras of explication and meditation. [7] Kanakavatsa holds a jewel lasso in both hands. [8] Kanaka Bharadvaja has both hands in meditation.

The remaining 8 Arhats: [9] Bakula holds a mongoose. [10] Rahula holds a jewelled tiara. [11] Chudapantaka has both hands in meditation. [12] Pindola Bharadvaja holds a book and begging bowl. [13] Pantaka holds a book and performs the mudra of explication. [14] Nagasena holds a vase and staff. [15] Gopaka holds a book. [16] Abheda holds a stupa. Each is attired in red and orange robes and sits on a decorative chair or cushion.

Below the table at the front of the throne, on the left side sits Hvashang, the patron to the arhats sent by the Chinese Emperor to invite the Buddha Shakyamuni to the imperial court. He is round and portly holding in the right hand a wishing jewel and in the left upraised a persimmon fruit. A small child sports in front. At the right side is the layman Dharmata, the chief attendant to the arhats. In the right hand is a water flask streaming with vapours projecting above the form of the Buddha Amitabha. The left hand holds a fly whisk. Strapped across the back is a bundle of religious books. A tiger stands at the side as a faithful companion to the layman and protector of the arhats. Attired in a cloak of rich brocade and various garments, he sits in a Western style with the two legs pendant. Below the two is a pond filled with wishing jewels and precious objects.

At the bottom in a row are the Kings of the Four Directions. Starting from the left is Virudhaka holding a sword, Dhritarashtra a lute, Virupaksha a stupa and a snake lasso, and the leader, Vaishravana, holding a victory banner and a mongoose. With elaborate headdresses and the garb of warriors, they sit in relaxed postures surrounded by smoke and clouds.

The Lord Atisha (982-1054) and the Kashmiri pandita Shakya Shribhadra (1127-1225) popularized the ritual service and offerings to the Buddha Shakyamuni and 16 Arhats.

Jeff Watt 6-99

Related Items
Thematic Sets
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery 2
Shakyamuni Buddha with 16 Arhats
Shakyamuni Buddha & the Sixteen Elders (Single Composition)