A thangka from an arhat set: Pindola Bharadvaja Eastern Tibet, Palpung style, 18th century

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Lot 28
A thangka from an arhat set: Pindola Bharadvaja
Eastern Tibet, Palpung style, 18th century

Sold for US$ 100,000 inc. premium
A thangka from an arhat set: Pindola Bharadvaja
Eastern Tibet, Palpung style, 18th century
Distemper on cloth; with Tibetan inscriptions identifying the subject in gold recto, in ink verso.
Image: 33 1/4 x 24 5/8 in. (84.5 x 62.6 cm); With silks: 60 x 31 1/2 in. (152.4 x 80 cm)

Footnotes

  • 西藏東部 八蚌風格 十八世紀 羅漢唐卡組畫之一: 賓頭盧頗羅墮

    This exquisite thangka is the twelfth of a known Sixteen-Arhat set. Twelve are published on Himalayan Art Resources: www.himalayanart.org/search/set.cfm?setID=3005. Each is photographed with its silk mounting, confirming the present lot survives with its original orange and silver brocade.

    The painting's style and composition are derived from the refined 'Encampment style' developed by Situ Panchen at Palpung monastery. The composition, with its controlled brushstrokes, grassy knolls, gold-outlined blue and green rock formations, and light tonal gradients, is similar to an Avadanakalpalata set held at Palpung monastery, commissioned by Situ Panchen in 1737 (see Jackson, Patron and Painter, New York, 2009, pp. 12 & 124, fig 6.11).

    Identified by the alms bowl and book in his hands, Arhat Pindola Bharadvaja sits on a Chinese-style throne near the center of the painting. The surrounding landscape illustrates important moments in his life. Starting from the bottom right corner and moving clockwise: Pindola Bharadvaja, in his mother's arms, grew up in palatial settings. The son of a regent of Rajagriha, he had a privileged birth, but grew dissatisfied with his lot after being exposed to Shakyamuni's teachings. Seen leaving the palace, he renounced his noble life and became an initiate of Shakyamuni.

    Holding an alms bowl and staff near a village in the bottom left corner, Bharadvaja achieved arhat consciousness through perfecting the twelve forms of asceticism – particularly that overcoming gluttony and living solely off of one's daily alms round. The name 'Pindola', in fact, translates into Tibetan as 'seeker of alms'.

    Shakyamuni gave Pindola Bharadvaja the epithet, 'greatest of the lion roarers' because he excelled at discourse, championing Shakyamuni's teachings to disciples and laity. Above the bottom left corner, we see the arhat teaching to the population of Kaushambi. From the right comes King Charka of Badsa with an entourage of three attendants and the elephant of ignorance in their wake. The king had heard of the sage and wanted to pay him a visit on his way to a hunt. When Pindola Bharadvaja neglected to rise from his seat to greet the king, the king left feeling insulted. He plotted to return later that day and, if he were not afforded due courtesies, planned to chop off Bharadvaja's head.

    But the arhat heard about King Charka's plans. In the scene near the top left corner, as the king approached, Bharadvaja arose from meditation and took six steps to welcome him. As he did, an earthquake struck, terrifying the king, now confronted with the limits of his own power.

    Seen near the top center, the king prostrated himself at the latter's feet, confessed his evil intentions, and begged for forgiveness. Pindola Bharadvaja responded explaining, "I can endure your evil intention. It is your mind that you must teach to be forbearing."

    Finally, near the top right corner, a nimbate Pindola Bharadvaja is seen residing among his thousand dgra-bcom-pa (arhats) on the Eastern [continent] of Purva-Videha, where, like the other sixteen arhats, he protects Buddhism and awaits to assist the Future Buddha Maitreya. For more information on Pindola Bharadvaja, see Loden Sherab Dagyab, Tibetan Religious Art (2 vols), Wiesbaden, 1977, pp. 102-5.

    Referenced:
    HAR - himalayanart.org/items/31511

    Provenance:
    Collection of Lobsang P. Lhalungpa (1926-2008)
    Acquired either in Tibet before 1947 or India before 1971


    Lobsang P. Lhalungpa was born in Lhasa, Tibet. From 1940 to 1952, he was a monk-official in the service of the Tibetan government. Brought up in an intensely religious home – the son of a one-time State Oracle of Tibet – Lhalungpa took Buddhist teachings from several adepts including a female reincarnate. Having been a star pupil, he was sent to India by the Government of Tibet in 1947 to oversee the Tibetan language & Buddhist instruction of the many young Tibetans from nobility sent to study at North Point, a well-established Jesuit school in Darjeeling. In 1956, the External Services of All India Radio recruited him to establish the first Tibetan-language program from New Delhi, which he managed until 1971.

    In 1959, Lhalungpha announced His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama's exile from Tibet, which inspired the exodus of Tibetan refugees to India. He then threw himself into relief work. He was one of a three-person team to develop the first modern Tibetan language primers for the newly established schools for Tibetan refugees. Greatly influenced by Mahatma Gandhi, he authored one of the first books on the Life of Gandhi in Tibetan.

    Lhalungpha dedicated his life to the promotion and preservation of Tibet's rich spiritual and cultural traditions. In 1948, with George Roerich, he co-authored one of the first books on Tibetan grammar. Later, he went on to translate The Life of Milarepa, and was requested by His Holiness the Sixteenth Karmapa to translate Mahamudra: The Moonlight. He also authored Tibet: The Sacred Realm and many articles for Buddhist journals, and contributed to the landmark Tibetan Art publication, Tibet: Tradition and Change. In his later years, he lived in New Mexico – where he was nominated a Santa Fe Living Treasure before his death in 2008.

    Lhalungpa collected his thangkas as part of his lifelong Buddhist practice. A few came from his home in Lhasa before 1947. The rest were acquired in India between 1956 and 1971, often as gifts, as part of his ongoing work to preserve Tibetan culture.
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A thangka from an arhat set: Pindola Bharadvaja Eastern Tibet, Palpung style, 18th century
A thangka from an arhat set: Pindola Bharadvaja Eastern Tibet, Palpung style, 18th century
A thangka from an arhat set: Pindola Bharadvaja Eastern Tibet, Palpung style, 18th century
A thangka from an arhat set: Pindola Bharadvaja Eastern Tibet, Palpung style, 18th century
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