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A symbolic vision of Lakshmi-Narayana temple, Vishnu and Lakshmi are the principal deities enshrining the axis of this wood-panel – correspondingly the sanctum of the temple. With his right leg straightened downwards and left laid over the coils of the great serpent Shesh in semi-yogasana posture Lord Vishnu is seated in ‘lalitasana’. A well composed figure of Lakshmi with a lotus in her right hand is seated on Vishnu’s left thigh, while Vishnu is holding her close to his bosom with his lower left hand. In his upper left and right hands Lord Vishnu is carrying a goad and a disc and the lower right hand is in the gesture of imparting ‘abhaya’. Besides coiling for making a rounded podium for its Lord to seat the great serpent Shesh has expanded its five-forked hood to create for him a well secured backdrop, a halo behind and a canopy over his head. The figure of Lakshmi, as compared to Vishnu’s, is somewhat smaller in size, as if used only symbolically, not so much to represent her, for emphasizing Lord Vishnu’s form as Narayana.
The wood-panel represents on its right and left ends two identical images of Lord Vishnu standing in ‘tri-bhanga’ posture. While Lord Vishnu’s central figure is without a halo, these figures on the extreme ends, or rather two other flanking the central figure, one as Krishna, his incarnation, and other, his proto form with Lakshmi in an amorous disposition, have elaborate gorgeous halos. Both figures carry in their upper hands disc and goad, though their lower hands have a diversified pattern, The figure on the extreme right carries mace in the right hand while the figure on the extreme left carries it in the left, that is, the mace, the instrument of protection assuring ‘abhaya’, defines the extreme lines or the borders on two sides symbolising Vishnu’s role as the protector in entirety. The figure on the extreme right displays the gesture of ‘abhaya’ by its left hand while that on the left, by its right.
The central deity – Lakshmi-Narayana, is flanked by two other forms of Vishnu, Krishna, one of his incarnations on the right, and his proto form with Lakshmi in amorous posture, something unusual for Vishnu’s iconography, on his left. Vishnu’s figure on the left is in ‘tri-bhanga’ posture, though not revealing his readiness to charge at a tormenter. It expresses on the contrary an amorous disposition. Only the upper and lower right hands of the figure of Lord Vishnu are visible, those on the left being hidden behind Lakshmi’s figure. In the upper right hand, he is carrying the disc, while with the lower, he is making love to Lakshmi. Lord Krishna, on the right is in his usual ‘tri-bhanga’ posture, the essence of his being, for he had incarnated to constantly operate, which the ‘tri-bhanga’ posture symbolises. Protection of the earth from the atrocities of Kansa was the primary objective of his incarnation. His figure has hence behind it also the figure of cow, symbolic of the earth. Besides, he has been represented as playing on his flute, a worldly attribute but the subtlest instrument of redemption from the worldly bonds. The panel has representations of a wide range of devotees, chowri-bearers and attendants.
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.