Himalayan Art Resources

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

གནས་བརྟན། 罗汉
(item no. 48)
Origin Location Central Tibet
Date Range 1800 - 1899
Lineages Uncertain
Size 59.69x41.91cm (23.50x16.50in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# P1994.9.3
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Person

Appearance: Arhat

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

Dharmata, the upasaka (Tibetan: gen nyen dhar ma ta), the layman attendant to the 16 Great Arhats, along with 2 of the 4 Direction Kings, Vaishravana and Virupaksha. (See blockprint image of the same composition).

Tibetan: Ge nyen dhar ma ta

Youthful and fair skinned, he has long dark hair with a book tied in the topknot. The right hand holds a flywhisk with a tuft of white yak tail hair. The right hand holds to the heart a golden vase filled with water. Adorned with gold earrings and long flowing garments of various colour, he sits in a Western style with the legs forward and the feet together atop a pink and red mat. Loosely tied to the back is a carrying case filled with books and a black begging bowl; extended above is an umbrella-like canopy. On guard at the side is a snarling tiger the constant companion of Dharmata. Seated in the sky in front on a swirl of white cloud is the buddha Amitabha, red, with the two hands placed in the mudra of meditation supporting a black begging bowl.

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

At the lower left is the leader of the Four Kings of the Directions, Vaishravana, King of the North. Orange in colour, with large round eyes, moustache and beard, he holds upraised in the right hand a victory banner and in the left a jewel spitting mongoose held at the waist. Adorned with a gold crown studded with jewels, earrings and the like, he wears a gold armoured vest and various coloured garments, trousers and boots. Seated in a relaxed manner with the right leg extended he is surrounded by dark billowing clouds and an areola of flame, orange in colour. In front, a small yaksha daemon in a knelling posture holds aloft in the two hands a branch of red coral as an offering.

At the right side is Virupaksha, King of the West, red in colour. He holds to the heart a small stupa and in the left entwined about the hand a blue-green snake. Adorned with similar ornaments and attire, he sits upon a leopard skin mat surrounded by dark swirling smoke and an areola of flame. Below, a beautiful naga girl, with the lower torso in the form of a green serpent, offers up with both hands a precious jewel.

Dharmata and the Direction Kings belong 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.

Jeff Watt 6-99

Front of Painting
Wylie Transliteration of Inscription: dge bsnyen dha rma ta'a, rnam thos sras, spyan mig bzang.

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