Himalayan Art Resources

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

གནས་བརྟན། 罗汉
(item no. 69427)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1800 - 1899
Lineages Buddhist
Size 114.30x83.82cm (45x33in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
Catalogue # B62D39
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 Sixteen Great Arhats, along with two of the four Direction Kings, Virupaksha and Vaishravana. (See blockprint image of the same composition).

Tibetan: Ge nyen dhar ma ta

Youthful and fair skinned, he has long dark hair. The right hand holds a fly whisk 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 gesture gesture 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 fly whisk and vase." (Sakya liturgical verse).

At the lower right is the leader of the Four Kings of the Directions, Vaishravana, King of the North. Orange in colour, with large round eyes, mustache 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 aureole 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 left 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 aureola 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 Sixteen Arhats, the attendant Dharmata, the patron Hvashang and the Four Guardians of the Directions; Vaishravana, Virupaksha, Dritarashtra and Virudhaka.

Jeff Watt 6-99 [Updated 5-2009]

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Thematic Sets
Collection of Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
Arhat: Dharmata (Attendant) Main Page
Painting Set: Arhat Set: Asian Art Museum (SF)
Arhat: Dharmata (Blockprint Composition)
Arhat/Sthavira: Block Print Sets (Nartang)