The Great Serpent has extended its multi-hooded head over the divine couple like an umbrella, a characteristic feature of Vaishnava iconography, an early example of which is seen in the fifth-sixth century Dashavatara temple at Deogarh, in Lalitpur district, Uttar Pradesh, a known Gupta temple site. Like the outcrop of a marble rock Shesh provides Lord Vishnu and his consort not merely with a canopy-like projection or platform-like elevation but also a back-rest or back-wall. The Great Serpent has its seat over the waves of Kshirasagara, the mythical ocean of milk, the Vishnu’s abode. Identically to the colour of milk the body colour of the Great Serpent has also changed as milk-like white.
The blue-bodied Vishnu is wearing his usual pitambara – yellow lower garment, and customary jewellery including the white garland of Parijata flowers and the known Vaishnava ear-ornaments. Typical of Kangra style his face has been conceived with sharp features and fish-eyes. He has on his forehead a Vaishnava ‘tilaka’ and sandal-paste marks on arms, breast and neck. He is carrying in his hands his usual attributes : conch and lotus in right hands, and disc and mace, in the left. Lakshmi, a coy maiden in an attitude to cover her face, is engaged in collecting the end of her ‘odhani’ – upper wear. She is seated on his left. Far from the stately grandeur as is usually created around her Lakshmi she has been painted as a simple village damsel in average, though graceful costume and minimum jewellery – some bangles, a necklace and a pendent on forehead in parting of hair. Her sharp features, fish-eyes, fine long fingers and slim body endow her figure with divine beauty.
In Indian thought Lord Vishnu is one of the Great Trinity - Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva who represent Creation, Sustenance and Dissolution, the only manifest form of God. The 'Puranic' literature weaves around Lord Vishnu great magnificence, spiritual aura and the cult of incarnation. The number of his incarnations varies from ten to over a thousand or even more. However, the cult of his ten incarnations is universally acknowledged. The Rig-Veda acclaims him as the god who spanned the cosmos in three strides. Devi Bhagavata acclaims Vishnu to be the earliest to emerge after the Great Deluge and recommence creation. Vishnu fought a thousand battles against 'asuras', and killed demons like Hayagriva, Madhu and Kaitabha, Andhaka, Vritrasura, Nemi, Sumali, Malyavan and many others. Vishnu creates and sustains and his consort Lakshmi or Shri brings riches, fertility and benefaction and helps sustain Vishnu’ creation.
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.