Now the ‘tripunda’ mark is more meaningful. The third eye emerged on the forehead has swung it into the space where a wheel of fire with no length or breadth but only the motion, rotating to measure out everything, over-rides all three cosmic zones that the ‘tripunda’ mark symbolises. A humanised face but awful eyes more like those of a fierce lion – seen sometimes in the iconography of Vishnu’s Narsimha incarnation, and the identically fierce third eye, make his form as Rudra more accomplished. Not merely as the Ultimate Destroyer even in Shaivite myths Shiva had such Raudra – wrathful, form on some other occasions too. When his consort Sati, insulted by her own father Daksha Prajapati, immolated herself in the fire of her father’s Yajna, Shiva’s Raudra-rupa – wrathful form, emerged and he commanded his Gana Virabhadra to destroy the Yajna and those holding it or participating in it.
Parvati, who symbolises ‘Prakriti’ – the formal nature, has been represented as one partly reflecting Shiva’s mood and partly fearing his wrath and destructive hands. That mood of Shiva reflects in the red which constitutes her head and in her third eye, and her apprehension, in dead yellow with which her face has been conceived, and in the form of her normal eye where fear lurks. As Parvati is Shiva’s other half, she has like him an abstracted manifestation – a partially abstract and partially manifest form. It is different with Vishnu. When the cosmos has been destroyed, Vishnu also perishes though to re-emerge. After millions of years of the divine act of destruction followed by the Great Deluge Vishnu re-appears as a child floating on the surface of abyssal waters not knowing who he is, where he is, and what for he is. This state of Vishnu’s ignorance, or rather non-being, that texts and other sources represent in his child-form, the artist of this rare piece has visualised as ‘conch’ – one of the Vishnu’s essential attributes, and hence his identity, representing Vishnu but neither his physical form nor his knowing mind.
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.