Lord Vishnu with Lakshmi

Lord Vishnu with Lakshmi

Item Code: XL85
Brass Sculpture
8.5 inch X 9 inch X 5.5 inch
5.87 kg
In significant deviation from the established tradition of Vaishnava iconography, mainly in the modeling of the head of the serpent Shesha, sitting order of Lakshmi and Lord Vishnu, their style of seating, overall bearing of their faces, Lord Vishnu’s in particular …, this resplendent brass-cast represents Lord Vishnu seated along Lakshmi on the body of serpent Shesha in a posture closely resembling ‘lalitasana’, a form of sitting in classical iconography revealing rare aesthetic beauty. In Indian theology and thought, Vishnu, who with Brahma and Shiva constitutes the Great Trinity – the three aspected manifestation of the Formless God, represents sustenance and is responsible for maintaining cosmic order. An absolutely new form, in the statue the head of serpent Shesha canopying over the figures of Lord Vishnu and Lakshmi is multi-hooded and two-tiered consisting of seventeen hoods, the inner ring having nine, and outer, eight. Usually the Shesha’s head is conceived with five hoods, and sometimes, with seven. In early sculptures, such as the sixth century image in the famous Gupta temple at Deogarh, Lalitpur district in Uttar Pradesh, it is usually seven hooded. Their arrangement in two courses is also unusual.

Almost a universal position in Indian iconography, conventions and norms, the place of the female spouse is on the left of the male. In scriptures ‘vama’, one who is on the left, is the other name for the wife. In all sculptures, or images, representing the divine couple, Lakshmi is invariably represented on Vishnu’s left. Contrarily, this brass-statue has been cast with Lakshmi as seated on his right. In accordance to the Rig-Veda that by various epithets : ‘Urugay’, one who walked with long strides, ‘Khsipra’, one who moved fast, and many more that it used for Vishnu, and as how the subsequent texts and Vaishnava tradition perceived Vishnu, especially in the role of world’s Commander, his images that emerged in visual tradition represented him mostly in standing posture, and sometimes, reclining, seated only very rarely.

Standing or seated, his images with Lakshmi are formal postures revealing majesty and readiness to act appropriate for the World Commander. This ‘lalitasana’ posture revealing carefree ease, aesthetic beauty and romantic poise is foreign to Vishnu’s form. The four-armed form has been conceived as holding his most usual attributes : disc, conch, lotus and mace; however, the overall bearing revealing emotional fervour is quite unlike Vishnu’s primordial form. The artist seems to have taken from Krishna’s iconography, one of Lord Vishnu’s incarnations, this style of rounded face and emotionally charged dreamy eyes – the more often adopted face-form for romantic icons, and a crown, though rich and gorgeous, not Vishnu-like towering and revealing his majesty, with a crest on the right looking like a peacock-feather. Though she is carrying in her right hand a lotus, a prominent aspect of the image and the essence of Lakshmi’s iconography, the representation has reflections of Radha’s face.

With one of his arms resting partially on his mace and partially on the bolster that also supports his back, Lord Vishnu is seated in semi-reclining posture on the cushion-like laid body of the great serpent Shesha. On his right is seated Lakshmi, a quite straightened normal two-armed figure. Lakshmi is holding in her right hand a lotus, while the left has been conceived as lying on her left thigh in full ease. Elegantly bejeweled using a wide range of ornaments : a rich crown, ornaments for ears, neck, breast, arms, wrists, waist and feet, and costumed in the traditional sari the image of Lakshmi reveals rare grace. A balanced anatomy, the figure of Lakshmi has been conceived with a round face, thoughtful eyes and a smile on lips. Lord Vishnu is putting on a crown not as tall as these are in his other images, besides other ornaments a garland of fresh Parijat flowers and a large ‘antariya’. He has on his forehead a prominent Vaishnava ‘tilaka’ mark. The statue has under the figure of serpent Shesha some tides like looking arabesques forms symbolising perhaps Kshirasagara, the mythical ocean of milk and the seat of Vishnu where he reclines on the body of serpent Shesha, or the vegetation symbolic of cosmos that Lord Vishnu pervades.

This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of ancient Indian literature. Dr Daljeet is the chief curator of the Visual Arts Gallery at the National Museum of India, New Delhi. They have both collaborated on numerous books on Indian art and culture.

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