A new dimension added to the iconographic perception of the temple images of Lakshmi and Narayana – usually the large size marble icons enshrining a sanctum and carved invariably in standing posture and independent, this marble statue represents the joint images of Lord Vishnu and Lakshmi as seated on the coils of the great serpent Shesh – truly the divine couple’s Lakshmi-Narayana manifestation. The great serpent has coiled under him like a basket seat, elevated to a proportionate height, a velvet cushion-like soft, resplendent as crafted of gold and embedded with precious jewels and abounding in more splendour than that of any of the monarchs in the three worlds. Serpent Shesh is since initial days a regular feature of Vishnu’s iconography, though more often his image with the great serpent is known as Shesh-shayi, that is, reclining on the serpent’s coiled figure. In all such icons the great serpent has been represented as unfurling its hood over Lord Vishnu’s head, and Lakshmi as massaging his feet. In Lakshmi-Narayana iconography, as here, the Shesh’s hood canopies both. Shesh has in the statue three coils symbolic of three cosmic regions and Vishnu and Lakshmi seated on them, as pervading them with their benign presence.
Ingeniously carved and delicately painted in subdued saffron and bright gold, the figure of Lord Vishnu has been rendered with the same feminine grace and tenderness as that of his consort Lakshmi – the same round face as her, alike eyes – as large as stretched across the entire face and amorously charged, alike soft features – arched eye-brows, sensuously carved lips and well-fed cheeks, identical modeling and, except the number of arms, Vishnu being four-armed, and Lakshmi, normal two-armed, identical anatomy. The wears, and even ornaments, of the two figures have been identically patterned. Delightfully strange this manifestation of Vishnu is so unlike the image of the world commander that Lord Vishnu essentially is. It does not portray him in readiness to rush to a crisis that his creation is made to face – his most usual form. Instead, this statue appears to blend into it the elements of Mohini, the feminine form he once esorted to for beguiling ‘asuras’ – demons, in the course of ocean churning. The masculine robustness of his form, as he should have had as the Commander of the cosmos, is completely missing in this statue.
The statue has been structured using a flat rectangular plaque as its base. The great serpent Shesh affords on its coils the seat for the divine couple. Both, Lord Vishnu and Lakshmi, are seated in ‘lalitasana’, though for visual effect that symmetrical balancing affords the figure of Lord Vishnu has been carved with his left leg suspending down to the base-plaque while the right is folded back in semi-yogasana posture. Contrarily, Lakshmi has her right leg suspending down while the left is folded back. As carved parallel and close Lord Vishnu’s left leg, and Lakshmi’s right, could have been monotonous the sculptor has tilted them angularly creating rhythmic effect. Among reported images of Lord Vishnu, isolated or with Lakshmi, his seated statues are rare. ‘Yoga-murti’ is his only classical form that represents him as seated; however, the sculptor has preferred a sitting posture for his images of the divine couple, perhaps, believing that this form better manifested their constant presence and benevolence and is thus more appropriate a form for a votive image. Hence, not only a rarer piece of art the statue is rare also in its divinity.
The four-armed image of Lord Vishnu carries in its upper right hand his usual disc, and in upper left, conch. Other two attributes, mace and lotus, the other usual elements of his iconography, have been symbolically represented. Though he has his mace close to him on his right, yet instead of holding it he has held his hand in ‘abhay’, that is, protection is thus dually assured, by the presence of his unfailing weapon as also symbolically by his grant of ‘abhay’. Similarly, instead of lotus – his other usual attribute, with his normal left hand he is supporting Lakshmi holding her with her waist. Besides that lotus is the essential element in Lakshmi’s iconography and this image of her carries in its left hand a lotus symbolically Lakshmi stands for lotus. Thus, while holding Lakshmi by his left hand Lord Vishnu is also holding lotus. His towering crown, halo around his face, and ‘vaijayanti’ – the garland of celestial Parijata flowers, are other characteristic attributes of his iconography.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet.