Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Indian Adept (siddha) - Kanha (of the East)

རྒྱ་གར་གྱི་གྲུབ་ཆེན། 印度大成就者
(item no. 90822)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1500 - 1599
Lineages Sakya and Buddhist
Size 36.83cm (14.50in) high
Material Metal
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Person

Interpretation / Description

Kanha of the East, 7th/8th century (Tibetan: nag po pa shar chog pa): principal student of Virupa and lineage teacher of the Margapala teachings preserved in the Sakya School.

Kanha, Black One, an Indian yogi of the 7th/8th century was responsible along with other Indian teachers, earlier and later, for the propagation of Tantric Buddhism to the Himalayas and Tibet. Originally a practitioner of the Shaiva religion of Hinduism, he was converted by the famous teacher Virupa of the equally famous Nalanda University, destroyed the year that Oxford University of England was founded in 1096.

Exhibiting the appearance of an accomplished ascetic (Sanskrit: mahasiddha) with long hair in twisted locks piled atop the head, large looped earlobes, crossed necklaces and bangles, he gazes upwards with the right hand raised in a symbolic gesture. Relaxed and confident, seated in a leisurely attitude resting against the left arm in support, a meditation band facilitating a variety of yogic postures holds the right knee in place. The name Kanha, translated into Tibetan, is inscribed clearly along the front of the rounded cushion seat.

This subject belongs to a larger set of sculpture numbering more than twenty portraying all of the teachers in a particular teaching lineage, the Margapala - Path Together with the Result - extending from India to Tibet down to the 15th century when this sculpture was created. There are many Indian teachers known as the 'Black One' and all of them have been confused and conflated by Western scholars of the past.

The basis for this identification as Kanha of the Margapala lineage is made on the specific characteristics of his appearance, the Tibetan inscription, and knowing of three other sculpture the same size and style, and identified to the same Margapala lineage - specifically the yogi Virupa, Damarupa and Drogmi Lotsawa - belonging to a private collection, the Ackland Art Museum at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and the Essen Collection, Museum of Culture, Basil. The whereabouts of the remaining figures from the set are currently unknown.

Jeff Watt 2-2004 [revised 3-2006]

Tibetan Printed Script (Uchen)
English Transliteration: Homage to the Black One!
Wylie Transliteration: nag po pa la na mo.

Secondary Images
Related Items
Publication: Selection of Works - Sculpture (RMA)

Thematic Sets
Subject: Inscriptions Main Page
Collection of RMA: Best of Collection (Sculpture)
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Subjects
Indian Adept: Kanha Masterworks
Sculpture: Tsang Province Atelier, Tibet
Sculpture: Tsang Province Atelier (Teachers)
Sculpture: Metal
Collection of Halpert (Sculpture)
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Sculpture (Gallery 1)
Sculpture Set: Lamdre Lineage (Large)
Sculpture: Indian Adepts (mahasiddha)
Indian Adept: Sculpture
Collection of RMA: Selected Sculpture
Sculpture: Figurative Subjects, Cushion Base
Exhibition: Awaken (Rubin Museum)
Indian Adept: Kanha of the East Page