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Ajita (अजित, อชิตะ)

Sanskrit-Thai. Name of one of the Eighteen Arahats, who in art is depicted riding or in companion of a deer. According to legend, Ajita belonged to a high caste brahmin family and was once a powerful government official, highly trusted by the king. Someday, he decided to become a Buddhist monk and, not wanting to hear any entreaties from the king, he left to enter a monastery deep in the mountains. One day, he appeared in front of the palace, riding a deer. The palace guards who recognized him quickly reported their findings to the king, who rushed out to welcome Ajita back, offering him his former position. However, Ajita turned down the offer and instead convinced the king to join him to become a monk. The name Ajita means ‘invincible’ or ‘undefeated’ and some claim he is the same person as the future Maitreya Buddha. Besides this, Ajita is often switched with Pindola, an arahat who is shown with long eyebrows. Therefore, if Pindola is shown on the deer, then Ajita is depicted with long eyebrows, and vice versa. In Chinese he is known as the luohan Qi Lu (骑鹿, or in traditional Chinese: 騎鹿), literally ‘To Mount a Deer’. In English he is referred to as the Deer-Sitting Lohan or the Arhat Riding a Deer, and in Thai he is also known by the name Asatoh (อะสะโต). In Vietnam, where he is known as Truong Mi La Han (Trường Mi La Hán), he is usually also depicted with long eyebrows and holding his staff, yet while seated on a lion (fig.) rather than on a deer, which in Vietnam is reserved for Tọa Loc La Han (Tọa Lộc La Hán - fig.), i.e. Pindola (fig.) or Pindola Bharadvaja (fig.). Sometimes transcribed Achita, Acita, Asita or Ashita.