Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Arhat/Sthavira (Buddhist Elder) - 16 Elders: Ajita

གནས་བརྟན། 罗汉
(item no. 49)
Origin Location Eastern Tibet
Date Range 1700 - 1799
Lineages Drukpa (Kagyu)
Size 53.98x38.74cm (21.25x15.25in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# P1994.9.4
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Person

Appearance: Arhat

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

Ajita, the Elder (Tibetan: ne ten, ma pham, Sanskrit: Sthavira Ajita): the 2nd arhat from the set of 16 great arhats. This composition would have belonged to a complete set of twenty-three paintings focused on Shakyamuni Buddha, the two principal disciples, Sixteen Arhats/Elders, two attendants and Four Guardian Kings.

Handsome in appearance, the result of an accumulation of virtue, he gazes forward in a mood of tranquility. The two hands are well placed in the lap performing the mudra (gesture) of meditation. Wearing the orange and red robes of a monk; the upper in the style of prolonged meditation covers the head and shoulders. On a cushioned mat, he sits at the entrance of a retreat cave beneath the sharp jagged peaks of Rishi Mountain, the home to numerous nesting birds. Hanging at the right is a bag of supplies and below is a cooking pot. Kneeling in front two monks offer precious jewels as a family of rhinoceros stand at the side.

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

At the top center is a Tibetan teacher (lama) wearing monastic robes and a red cap of the Drugpa Kagyu School. The right hand is held to the heart in the gesture (mudra) of blessing and the left supports a begging bowl in the lap. At the right is the meditational deity Vajrayogini - Varahi, red, with one face and two hands holding upraised a curved knife and skullcup to the heart - standing in a dancing posture. At the bottom left is a wrathful worldly protector in the appearance of a daemon, dark in colour, with one face and two hands holding a bow and arrow aimed at a running figure; riding a dark blue horse.

The Sixteen Great Arhats are generally painted as a set. Typically 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.

Jeff Watt 5-99

Related Items
Thematic Sets
Arhat/Sthavira: Main Page & Arhat/Sthavira Appearance (Elder)
Arhat/Sthavira - 16 Elders: Ajita (Masterworks)
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery 6
Painting Set: Arhats: Single Main Figure
Arhat/Sthavira: Ajita Main Page
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Arhat/Sthavira
Collection of RMA: Best of Collection 2
Tradition: Drugpa Kagyu Main Page
Subject: Caves (Deities & Figures)
Painting Tradition: Lhatog, Khampa Gar