Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Shakyamuni Buddha - with Sixteen Elders (Arhats)

ཤཱཀྱ་ཐུབ་པ། 释迦牟尼佛
(item no. 850)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1300 - 1399
Lineages Uncertain
Size 43.18x41.28cm (17x16.25in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# P1999.13.9
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 and the attendant Dharmata.

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

Golden in colour, with a large round face he gazes forward, the black hair of the head is piled in a topknot (Sanskrit: ushnisha) crowned with a small gold ornament at the peak. A red dot (Skt.: urna) adorns the forehead and the earlobes are long and pierced. The right arm is extended with the hand in the earth witness mudra (gesture). The left hand placed in the lap in the mudra of meditation supports a black begging bowl. Wearing orange and red patchwork robes, the right arm is bare and the left covered in the fashion of a Buddhist monk. With the two legs crossed in vajra posture, right over left, on a moon disc and multi-coloured lotus seat above a snow lion and peacock supported throne he is surrounded by swirling rays of variously coloured light. The backrest of the throne is decorated with two blue utpalas, two pink makaras (mythical sea creatures) and a yellow garuda bird with wings unfurled perched at the top.

Standing at the left is Shariputra, yellow in colour, holding a mendicant staff in the right hand and a begging bowl to the heart with the left. At the right is Maudgalyayana, white in colour, holding the same objects. Both wear orange coloured robes and stand on moon disc and lotus seats.

Along the top are 8 of the 16 Arhats holding various objects and wearing long robes with full sleeves. Below the lotus seat of Maudgalyayana is the attendant Dharmata, standing, holding a flywhisk in the right hand and with the left holding the strap supporting a load of books carried on the back. The Buddha Amitabha sits in the sky in front and a fierce tiger roams in front. Below Shariputra on the left sits an arhat figure and along the bottom are the remaining 7 arhats also holding various objects and dressed in long robes. At the bottom left a monk in meditation posture sits before an elaborate array of offerings arranged in two rows - likely the sponsor of the painting.

The full group of arhats painted as a set 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.

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

Jeff Watt 8-99

Secondary Images
Related Items
Thematic Sets
Subject: Foundational Buddhism Main Page (Hinayana)
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery 8
Shakyamuni Buddha with 16 Arhats
Subject: Torana, Shakyamuni Buddha (Early Animal Depictions)
Subject: Ringing Staff (Khakkhara)
Shakyamuni Buddha & the Sixteen Elders (Single Composition)
Shakyamuni Buddha: Various Iconographic Subjects
Shakyamuni Buddha: Early Paintings
Arhat: Dharmata (Early Art)