Himalayan Art Resources

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

གནས་བརྟན། 罗汉
(item no. 579)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1500 - 1599
Lineages Uncertain
Size 70.48x57.15cm (27.75x22.50in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment, Fine Gold Line on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# F1997.45.3
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Person

Appearance: Arhat

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

Kanaka Bharadvaja and Kanakavatsa, the Elders (Tibetan: ne ten, bha ra dhva ja ser chen cog dang ser be'u): the 8th and 7th arhats from the set of 16 great arhats, principal students of the buddha Shakyamuni.

Seated at the left side is Kanaka Bharadhvaja with a yellow cloth head covering, he has a thin black moustache, goatee and long eyebrows. The two hands are folded in the lap in the mudra of meditation. An orange robe imprinted with gold designs is worn across the shoulders and loosely wrapped about the body. A red lower robe is tied at the waist with a green sash. The legs are folded together seated on a yellow and blue meditation mat and the head is framed with a bright red areola.

(At the bottom left), in a wealthy household in Shravasti, Kanaka Bharadhvaja was born with a gold coin in his hands - pictured as a child kneeling over a heap of coins. Always generous, wearing a blue jacket and dispensing gold coins like stream, giving all his wealth away, he received ordination directly from the Buddha (painted with gold) and meditated in solitude. (At the top left), he teaches to a group of arhats while living on the western continent.

"On the wealthy [continent] of Apara-Godaniya is the noble elder Kanaka Bharadhvaja, surrounded by 700 arhats; homage to the One with the two hands placed in meditation." (Sakya liturgical text).

At the right side is Kanakavatsa with dark hair, moustache and goatee. He holds upraised in the two hands a string of jewels - a gift of the nagas. Wearing an orange robe with gold designs atop a dark shirt and lower garment of red, he sits in a relaxed posture with the left knee raised. Seated atop a yellow and blue mat, the head adorned with a red areola.

(At the top right), a wealthy house in the town of Magadha is the birthplace of Kanakavatsa and coincidentally an elephant calf with the ability of producing gold. (At the lower and bottom right), growing up together as inseparable childhood companions, King Ajatashatru greatly coveted the elephant. Although giving the elephant to the king it would not stay and always returned to Kanakavatsa. Seeing the misery of possessing such wealth he approached the Buddha and became a monk. (At the center), seated in a beautiful temple three nagas, with the lower torso that of a snake, present the Arhat with a jewelled lasso. (At the top center), seated on a mountain slope in Kashmir he teaches to a gathering of arhats.

"In the excellent land of Kashmir is the noble elder Kanakavatsa, surrounded by 500 arhats; homage to the One with the hands holding a jewel lasso." (Sakya liturgical text).

12 Small red plaques written with gold inscriptions placed alongside the various images relate the life stories of the two arhats. The full group of arhats would traditionally comprise 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 6-98

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