Description As protector of the universe, restoring order whenever the world falls out of balance, Vishnu is ready at a moment’s notice to descend from heaven to earth. In this stele, made for a subsidiary shrine on the wall of a temple, Vishnu sits on his divine mount, Garuda, who is part bird and part man. Vishnu carries a club and discus, weapons he uses to protect cosmic order; a conch shell, whose sound frightens enemies and drives away ignorance; and a small lotus, a symbol of purity and renewal. Near the base, two goddesses associated with Vishnu stand to either side: Lakshmi, goddess of wealth (holding a flywhisk), and Sarasvati, goddess of learning and the arts (holding the vina, a stringed instrument). Above Vishnu, a protective "kirtimukha" face looks outward, safeguarding the temple to which this sculpture once belonged. On the base, kneeling devotees look toward Vishnu, folding their hands in veneration. Mounds of grain offerings are piled behind them; their inclusion in the stele's imagery suggests some of the devotional practices current in northeastern India during the 11th century.
- Vishnu: Hinduism's Blue-Skinned Savior. Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville; Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn. 2011.
Provenance John and Berthe Ford, Baltimore; given to Walters Art Museum, 2002.
Credit Gift of John and Berthe Ford, 2002
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