Though with wood its medium, by the quality of its art : the fineness with which each bead, string, tiniest motif has been carved, the image reveals rare resplendence, great majesty and divine aura, not seen even in the finest of bronzes. It reveals challenging skill in installing a relatively a taller image on a pedestal with little breadth, supported just on the image’s feet and a couple of centimeters wide sash-ends and mace-point. The fineness and beauty of adornment astonishes the eye. Not merely the usual ‘Kundalas’ – ear-ornaments, and their supplementary parts : floral and leaves designs, are more elaborate, even the ornaments adorning breast, shoulders, arms, ankles and feet have been most artistically conceived and created. The well pleated ‘antariya’ – lower garment, frilled with bead-strings, and the sash, unfurling from around the waist, are some of the most delightful aspects of the image.
With finely carved features, sharp nose aligning rhythmically with arching eye-brows and the ‘tilaka’ mark above affording to whole composition the vertical thrust, thoughtful eyes revealing absolute quiescence, a mild smile on lips, a well-defined chin and neck, elegantly poised figure, well proportioned anatomy, long artistic fingers, fluid form and the body’s delightful curves and twists, the wood-piece becomes one of the finest examples of South Indian art of wood carving, or rather, of its centuries long tradition of bronzes, which painted appropriately : like a bronze or copper piece as also to reflect Vishnu’s body colour, this wood statue sometimes looks. In the artist’s zeal for details, emphasis on embellishment, elegance and finish, and in emotional bearing, the statue is unsurpassed.
In Lord Vishnu’s imagery his two forms, one Sheshasayi, that is, reclining on the coils of serpent Shesha in the Kshirasagara – mythical ocean of milk, with his consort Lakshmi in attendance, and the other, as standing portraying his readiness to move to a call, as represents this statue, are almost concretized. As the Rig-Veda perceives him and the root term ‘Vish’ means, Vishnu is one who expands beyond the known and unknown worlds, that is, all known and unknown spaces. His iconography has been accordingly conceived. As such, except a few Yoga-Narayana or ‘yogasana’ images, which are his seated images, he is represented either as fully stretched over the surface of the Kshirasagara, an act by which he is seen pervading the entire cosmos, or as standing representing him as the cosmos’s supreme Commander in readiness to instantly proceed to attend an emergency or a call.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.