Himalayan Art Resources

Subject: Patchwork Robes

Monastics, Three Visual Types

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Description (below)
--- Buddha
--- Elders (sthavira/arhat)
--- Indian Monastics
--- Himalayan & Tibetan Monastics
- Pattern Style
--- Plain
--- Decorative
- Monastic Appearance
- Confusions: Deities, Battle Monks
- Others...

- Patchwork Robes: Part 1
- Patchwork Robes: Part 2
- Monastics: Three Visual Types

Traditionally patchwork robes were the prescribed garments to be worn by Buddhist monks and nuns as stipulated in the vinaya literature of India. There are differences in the interpretation of the design of the patchwork swaths depending on the geographic and cultural regions of Asia. In the artistic representations of painting and sculpture there can be an even greater number of variations and interpretations.

Images of buddhas can have plain patchwork robes or highly decorative patchwork robes. For buddha forms some regional and cultural sculpture styles do not depict patchwork robes. Examples of this are the Gandharan style buddhas, the famous Sandalwood buddhas and many North Indian buddhas, all having pleated or ripple-like patterns.

The robes of the Sixteen Elders can follow either a Chinese or a Tibetan style. With the Chinese style the robes are often mutli-coloured with alternating patterns of long narrow strips. The Tibetan style is typically more plain in design with orange, red and yellow being the dominant colours with alternating strips of cloth.

Representations of Indian monastics are often more simple in garment pattern design as are Himalayan and Tibetan monastics. Some Tibetan painting styles such as that of Gyantse in the 15th and 16th centuries prefer more decorative patterns such as with a painting of Ngorchen Kunga Zangpo.

Padmasambhava has many different forms with the Eight Manifestations being the most common. Of those eight three are typically attired in patchwork garments. The first is in buddha appearance Shakya Sengge, the second is in monastic appearance, Pema Jungne, and the third is in wrathful appearance, Dorje Drolo. The first two are completely traditional however the wrathful form of Dorje Drolo wearing a patchwork robe is highly unusual.

- Padmasambhava Main Form (King Appearance)
- Shakya Sengge (Buddha Appearance)
- Pema Jungne (Monastic Appearance)
- Dorje Drolo (Wrathful Appearance)

Deities with patchwork robes are not common but also they are not completely unknown as we already have the main form of Padmasambhava, the wrathful deity form, Dorje Drolo and then other deity figures such as Dorje Shugden. Shugden in wrathful in appearance while wearing the patchwork garments belonging to his previous life as a monastic. Many forms of Mahakala have outer retinue figures appearing in monastic attire, or what appear to be battle or warrior monks.

- Dorje Shugden
- Karma Tansrung (Palpung Monastery)
- Manager (Tsurphu Monastery)
- Donkey-faced Monk (Drepung/Sera ? Monastery)
- Dragpa Sengge (Menri Monastery, Bon)
- Others...

Jeff Watt 4-2022

(The images below are only a selection of examples from the links above).