Himalayan Art Resources

Block Prints: Arhat Set 2 (Tibet House, India)

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Arhat (Tibetan: ne tan): a Sanskrit term for Buddhist saints representing the earliest followers of the Buddha, always found in a group of sixteen, they are painted on cloth, wall murals, and fashioned of metal, stone, clay, or wood. An early iconographic source for the individual descriptions of the arhats is the verse text Praise to the Sixteen Arhats attributed to the Kashmiri teacher Shakyashri Bhadra of the 12th/13th century.

Shakyamuni Buddha is the central figure, the first painting or sculpture, for all sets of the Sixteen Great Arhats. The full group of arhats always has twenty-five figures: the [1] Buddha Shakyamuni, together with the two foremost disciples - [2] Shariputra and [3] Maudgalyayana, the [19] Sixteen Arhats, the attendant [20] Dharmata, the patron [21] Hvashang and the Four Guardians of the Directions; [22] Vaishravana, [23] Virupaksha, [24] Dhritarashtra and [25] Virudhaka. In all, an extensive set of paintings would comprise twenty-three individual paintings. The two foremost disciples are almost always portrayed in the same painted composition with Shakyamuni. In sculpture sets the total number of pieces is twenty-five.