Whereas Shiva is a figure who is at the margins of society, Vishnu's imagery is that of the divine king (witness the crown on this particular image, and the regal posture). This image comes from South India, and was sculpted in the 7th c. during the Pallava Dynasty. It is currently in the National Museum of India in New Delhi.
|This five foot tall image of Vishnu's Boar
Avatar (here shown rescuing
the Earth, who is hanging on his tusk, with the worshipful masses standing
in homage by the sides) was sculpted out from a rock face at Udayagiri in
central India. This image was in the personal temple of King
Chandra Gupta II (ruled 376-415 C.E.), and his choice of the Varaha
Avatar carries enormous symbolic weight.
A recurring motif in the tales of Vishnu's avatars defeating evil and chaos, and reestablishing order and balance in the universe. After defeating the Shaka kingdom, Chandra Gupta II became the overlord ruling over much of north India, and his patron deity surely represents how he saw himself--as a manifestation of Vishnu on earth bringing order to the world through exercising his power and righteous rule.
It's a beautiful sculpture--that conveys all sorts of images of God's power and majesty, and is well worth the trip to see it.
Udayagiri, November 2005
||Here's another image of Vishnu in his Boar Avatar; you can see the small figure representing the earth riding on his forehead. The image is one of the sculptures from the caves at Ellora in central India (if I remember rightly, it is one of the images in the Kailasanatha temple complex there). It was carved in the 8th century.|
|This is an image of Vishnu's fourth Avatar, the
Man-Lion (Narsimha). He is killing the demon Hiranyakashipu, who had
received divine boons that made him virtually invulnerable to being killed
by anyone with any weapon. Vishnu took this composite form, and killed
him by ripping open his body with his claws. The figure to the
left is Hiranyakashipu's son Prahlada, who was one of Vishnu's devotees.
This is a modern sculpture at the Durgiania temple in Amritsar (photo Jan. 2005).
|Here's another image of Narasimha, sculpted
during the Sena Dynasty in Bengal (12th century CE). This lacks the
bright colors of the one just above, but matches it in intensity--this is
clearly a powerful deity.|
This statue is now in the National Museum of India in Delhi, and this photo was taken in September 1990.
||This is Vishnu in his fifth Avatar, in which he first appeared as Vamana, the dwarf, to beg for three paces worth of land from Bali, a "demon" king. After Bali (here seen in the lower left) granted Vamana's boon, Vamana became enormously large, and in three paces spanned the entire universe. This image was carved during the Pratihara Dynasty in the 11th century CE, and comes from Kashipur, Uttar Pradesh. It is currently exhibited in the National Museum of India in New Delhi.|
|Vishnu's seventh avatar was Rama. This picture,
shows the moment in the Ramayana when Sita is about to be abducted.
Rama (the blue one) is about to chase the golden deer to the right, while at
far left lurks the demon-king Ravana, disguised as an ascetic. |
The inscription underneath records a donor's gift.
This comes from the Durgiana temple in Amritsar.
|Vishnu's eighth avatar (at least in some reditions) was as Krishna. This frieze (again from Amritsar's Durgiana temple) shows Krishna subduing the venomous serpent Kaliya, who had poisoned the Yamuna all the way to the sea. In modern times this myth has been given a "green" interpretation; click here for the link.|
Devi: The Goddess
These pages are in progress.
Page maintained by James G. Lochtefeld.
Last modified 12 January 2006