Legendary and historical humans, including teachers and accomplished masters, are a popular subject of Himalayan art.
Arhats are said to be the historical Buddha’s original disciples. Traditionally portrayed as a group of sixteen Buddhist monks, they became exemplars of monastic life and upholders of the Buddha’s teaching (dharma).
Portraits of great historical religious teachers (lamas) often present the distinctive physical features of their subjects to convey something of the character of the individual portrayed. Such images also tend to display visual parallels with the arhat and mahasiddha genres.
Mahasiddhas are great accomplished masters who embody Tantric Buddhist practices, which offer many unconventional paths to awakening. Usually of ordinary occupations, such as wandering monk, weaver, or farmer, they are often depicted in yogic positions and engaged in a wide range of unconventional behaviors.