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).
Arhat NagasenaTibet, 18th century, Pigments on cloth
Arhat AjitaTibet or China, 17th century , Wood with pigments
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.
Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye (1813-1899)Eastern Tibet, early 20th century, Pigments on cloth
Rongzom Chokyi Zangpo (1012-1088)Eastern Tibet, 18th century, Pigments on cloth
Tsongkapa (1357-1419)Tibet, 16th century, Silver, copper, and enamel with semiprecious stones and pigments
The Fifth Dalai Lama Ngawang Lobzang Gyatso (1617–1682) with Previous IncarnationsCentral Tibet, 18th century, Pigments on cloth
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.