The great Narasimha, half the form of a lion (‘simha’) and half a man (‘nara’), is a wrathful avatara (incarnation) of Lord Vishnu. Here He is seated on a throne made up of the coils of Sheshanaga, which raises its multitudinous hoods above the crown on His leonine head. He is dressed in a peeta (amber) silk dhoti, the colour traditionally associated with Vaishnvaism.
The beautiful Lakshmi, His wife, is seated on Narasimha’s lap. They both raise the right (anterior) hand in blessing: He is chaturbhujadhari (four-armed), while She is dvibhujadhari (two-armed). It is the Devi who is responsible for the serenity on His face, for without Her He is untamable. In fact, it is this divine untamable quality that put an end to King Hiranyakashipu. The gentle son of the violent King Hiranyakashipu, Prahlada, stands with joined palms to the right of His Lord’s throne.
This traditional Tanjore painting features solid gold embellishment on the Lakshmi’s saree, Prahlada’s dhoti, Narasimha’s crown, Sheshanaga’s many hoods, and the temple entrance structure on all four edges of the canvas.
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