Posted by Art Of Legend India [dot] Com On 1:38 AM
The Arhats are historical personages. They were disciples of Buddha to whom Buddha Sakyamuni. entrusted the work of promulgating and protecting the sacred Doctrine. According to Indian tradition the Arhats are sixteen in number but in Tibet two more companions are added to this group and are popularly known as the 'Eighteen Arhats'. They are subject to no more rebirths and are generally depicted with monastic garments and bare-headed with various attributes.
Arhat Pindola Bharadvaja is seated on leaves spread over a rock. His right hand holds the manuscript and his left hand is with an alms-bowl which according to Tibetan tradition has the power of fulfilling the wishes. Around him there are blossoming trees, high-peaked mountains, temples, stupas, etc. At the top Buddha is represented in bhusparsa and vyakhyanamudra at two corners. Below there are figures of lions with yellow manes and tails and a devotee in Chinese dress, carrying water-jug and holding a fan. The thanka betrays Kham art traditions with strong Chinese influence.
Arhat Bharadvaja wearing monk's dress is seated on throne in dhyana-mudra. Just before his throne a monk is seated holding a water-pot along with jewels in a bowl and other auspicious jewels scattered on the ground.
His life-scenes are depicted in the thanka. Around him is unfolded a few remarkable episodes of his life such as celebration of his birth, his charity to beggars etc. The lower part of the thanka depicts the meeting of Bh5radvaja with Ananda, the disciple of Buddha who introduced him to Buddha in a grove, his ordination and his -meditation along with a devotee. The most important feature of this thanka is the lively landscape, the blue sky, the snow-covered highly peaked mountain with horse-riders and animals, the green vegetation; the rivers, the grove, the hut, the rocks and falls which show a combination of Indian, Chinese and Tibetan artistic idioms.
The thanka probably hails from Eastern Tibet.
Tsong-kha-pa, born in 1357 A.D. was a follower of Atisa and a great re-former of Tibet.. He was the founder of the Ge-lug-pa or Yellow cap sect and is regarded as an incarnation of Manjusri. He is represented seated on lotus, holding stems of lotuses with flaming sword and book on either side. He wears yellow pointed cap with long ear lappets and his left hand is in vitarkamudra. This thanka represents the pictorial biography of Tsong-kha-pa. Around the central figure his life-scenes are depicted. Different episodes of the life of Tsong-kha-pa are' illustrated sometimes in a house,. sometimes in a meadow, sometimes in a grove and sometimes in a cave. In one side he is represented studying, teaching, consecrating stupa, giving lessons to disciples, making stupas etc. At the bottom Tsong-kha-pa is represented receiving lessons from his guru while at the side are depicted vision of Manjusri, his meeting with Guru Laki Dorje and vision of Tsong-kha-pa representing teaching of Buddha to his disciples.
A teacher (guru) of the Ka-dam-pa school, Jetsun Yeshey Gyaltshan is portrayed on the throne holding alms-bowl in the left hand and displaying vitarkamudra in the right hand. A khakkara or alarm-staff is placed on his right side. Before the throne a low table is placed bearing a number of ritual objects like holy water-vessel, mirror, bell, vajra, skull-cup, etc. At the top, in the centre, crowned Buddha is seated in bhusparsa mudra flanked by Sariputta and Maudgalayana, his two disciples. Besides there are also figures of Atisa and Drome who invited Atisa in Tibet. The other deities at the top row are Avalokitesvara, 8yama Tara and Tsong-kha-pa, the great reformer and founder of the Ge-lug-pa sect. Just above his head is a small figure of Amitayus holding ambrosia vase. Around him there are the figures of Indian monks, Sravaka (K. Nyentho Gepo), Brahmin Srimapati (Bramsi gewari-Teshan), Dharmakirti (Palden choddrag), the great saint and mahasiddha Mila Repa, two other mahasiddhas and the gurus of the Ka-dam-pa School. On his right and left sides there are the figures of White Naha (Gan kar, Kong-po-karpo) holding khadga and pasa trampling an elephant and Yama with Yami riding a buffalo.
Lobzang Gyatsho, the fifth Dalai Lama (1617-1682) is here seated on throne holding lotus and book in the right and left hands respectively. The fifth Dalai Lama was the author of many books and his biography throws an important light on the religious and secular life of Tibet: In the upper part of the thanka, at the right and left corners there are the representations of two deities, Padmapani Avalokitesvara (Chen-ri-zig) exhibiting lotus and the varadamudra in two hands and Avalokitesvara in vitarkamudra. The lower part of the thanka portrays the two kings of Tibet, Nva-tri-Tsempo, the first king of Tibet and Song-tsen-Gampo, the renowned king who introduced Buddhism in Tibet. The central figure and other accessory figures bear Tibetan inscription at the bottom which serve as labels for their identification. In Tibet, the Dalai Lama is the supreme head in all spiritual and temporal matters. He is also regarded as the incarnation of Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara.
This thanka represents the refuge tree of the Ge-lug-pa school, representing the paths of Buddhism. and its propagation in Tibet. The central figure is Buddha Sakyamuni in blumisparsamudra and around him in all directions are grouped the Bodhisattvas, saints, propagators and protective deities of the Mahayana Buddhism. Buddha with an image of Adi Buddha Vajradhara in yab-yum at heart is flanked by Bodhisattva Maitreya and Manjusri on either side. On top of the thanka, in the middle, is portrayed the figure of Vajradhara and his Sakti in yab-yum, mahasiddhas, Bodhisattva Manjusri, Atisa, Tsong-kha-pa and the lineage of the Ge-lug-pa school. To the right and left of Buddha are grouped the Indian and Tibetan saints of the Vajrayana Buddhism.
Below the throne there are in successive rows, the teachers of the Ge-lug-pa school, Yi-dams or tutelary deities, confession Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and Taras, deified Lamas with bowl and khakkara, arhats, dakinis and Dharmapalas. The Lokapalas or four guardian kings of the four directions, east, south, west and north, namely, Dhritarastra (east), Virudhaka (south), Virupaksa (west) and Vaisravana (north) are portrayed at the foot of the throne. In front of the throne there is a symbol of dharmacakra and Brahma and Vishnu, the two deities, are represented offering wheel and conch-shell. Besides, three of the five great kings, protectors of monasteries and astrologers are also shown at the bottom of the thanka.
This is a fortune-telling thanka and as a sort of game, 'the game of Rebirth', it is played with dice. Unlike other thankas this thanka is interesting for its subject-matter, which neither depicts a deity nor a monk but a sort of religious game a popular game of the Tibetan people. Though the subject is different the ultimate goal of the game as depicted in this painting, like other thankas is the same, i.e. nirvana or final liberation. Salam Nam Shag actually describes the path (marga) and the successive stages (bhumi) of spiritual progress for attaining nirvana. The game was invented by sakyapandita, the great Sanskrit scholar and guru of the Sakya sect in the early 13th century A.D. The thanka shows seven horizontal and seven vertical rows representing seven squares in each row. These squares which symbolically represent the 'board' of the game and cosmic geography illustrate the paths to enlightenment and final liberation.
At the top are shown the figures of Amitayus in Sukhavati heaven, Vajradhara in yab-yum in vajrahumkaramudra and Vajrayogini. In this thanka, devaloka, daityaloka, manusyaloka, nagaloka, pasuloka and naraka have been illustrated with representations of deities, arhats, sravakas, asuras, nagas, beasts and the sufferings in hell. The game is started from the human realm and with the cast of a dice one proceeds upward or down-ward either to devaloka or to the lower states of rebirth or naraka. The winner in the game of rebirth reaches the realm of Buddhahood and nirvana.