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The Eighteen Arhats (7)

The Arhat Astride an Elephant
(Qíxiàng Luóhàn 骑象罗汉)

When Jiālǐ-jiā 迦力迦 was born, people marveled at his eyebrows, for the hairs that made them up were extremely long, much longer than any other eyebrows people had ever seen. And as he grew older, the hairs of his eyebrows grew longer yet and hung down before him. And if he cut them off, they grew right back again.

photo by DKJ

Jiālǐ-jiā was an elephant tamer. Although elephants are large and powerful animals, Jiālǐ-jiā was gentle and patient with them, and his elephants always loved him and wanted to obey his commands.

Because of his unusual friendship with the elephants, Jiālǐ-jiā is called "The Arhat Astride an Elephant," but because of his extraordinary eyebrows, it should be easy to recognize him among statues of arhats even though he is not seated on an elephant, except that Arhat Number 15, Āshì-duō 阿氏多, also has very long eyebrows, and even bears the title “the Arhat with the Long Eyebrows” (Chángméi Luóhàn 长眉罗汉).

This potential confusion is yet another indication of the importance of elephants in the world.

Indian Names: Karika or Kalika or Kala
Jiā lǐ jiā 迦力迦
Chinese Name:
Qí xiàng Luóhàn 骑象罗汉, the Arhat Astride an Elephant

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