Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Direction Guardian (Buddhist Deity) - Dhritarashtra (East)

རྒྱལ་ཆེན་རིགས་བཞི། 四大天王
(item no. 91)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1500 - 1599
Lineages Uncertain
Size 62.23x45.72cm (24.50x18in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# P1995.1.2
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: King

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

Dhritarashtra and Virudhaka (Tibetan: phag kye bo dang yul khor srung) the Guardian Kings of the Eastern and Southern Directions.

At the left side Dhritarashtra, green in colour, is slightly wrathful in appearance with an open red mouth and bared fangs. The two hands hold a lute, the right strumming with the fingers and the left holding the neck upraised to the side. Adorned with an elaborate crown and large gold earrings he is attired is long flowing garments of various colour, white pants and decorative boots. Standing atop a rocky outcropping he is surrounded by clouds and a dark blue nimbus about the head. He is the leader of the Gandharvas, the celestial musicians and lives on the eastern side of mount Sumeru - the center of a small Buddhist world system.

At the right side, dark blue with a wrathful visage is Virudhaka, the lower teeth biting down on the upper lip, holding the hilt of a long sword in the right hand and the blade pointed downwards held with the left. Adorned with a gold crown topped with a red streamer he wears elaborate garments rich with colour and design, white pants and boots. A dark green areola encircles the head and variously coloured cloud surround the body. He is the leader of the Kumbhandas, a race of fierce beings living in the lower heavenly realms, and resides on the south side of mount Sumeru.

Along the top are three seated buddhas each red in colour with the two hands placed in the mudra (gesture) of meditation supporting a black begging bowl, seated on lotus blossoms surrounded by spheres of radiant light.

These two Kings belong to the set of Four Guardian Kings of the Directions: Vaishravana the leader, Virupaksha, Dhritarashtra and Virudhaka. Traditionally painted in association with the Buddha and 16 Arhats the full group would 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.

Jeff Watt 8-99

Related Items
Thematic Sets
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery 6
Buddhist Protector: Four Guardian Kings Main Page
Buddhist Worldly Protector: Dhritarashtra, Guardian of the East
Collection: Christie's, New York (Painting. September 15, 2015)