Figure of Vishnu and Lakshmi, or Lakshmi-NarayanaOn display
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Figure of Vishnu and Lakshmi, or Lakshmi-Narayana
Material and technique
greenish-black serpentine, with traces of plaster
Dimensions46 x 29 x 11 cm estimated (height x width x depth)
No. of items
Museum locationFirst floor | Gallery 32 | India from AD 600
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Nārāyaṇa is one of the many forms of Viṣṇu, and Lakṣmī, goddess of wealth, is his consort. Although in a late provincial style, not without folk elements (for example, the treatment of the faces and the god’s hand), this image is in a sense a Vaiṣṇava companion piece to the stone and brass Umā-Maheśvara images [EAOS.70 and EA1965.5], an illustration of the parallelism which can so often be noted between the iconographies of the two great theistic cults. In each image the god is seated in lalitāsana [see EAOS.70 and EAOS.56], with his consort seated on his knee and clasped by his left arm. In each, the vehicle (here Garuḍa, the man-bird) is placed below. The iconography of the metal image is more elaborate; attendant figures here are limited to the donor, the small figure with his hands in añjali.
Viṣṇu wears the cylindrical crown particular to him. He holds the club in his upper hand and the cakra (wheel or discus) in his left. His lower right hand, extended downwards in a gesture simulating varada (“bestowing a boon or gift”), holds an akṣamālā (rosary made of seeds) stretched out over the fingers.
Mr M.A. Dhaky of the American Institute of Indian Studies at Rām Nagar, Varanasi, has kindly supplied a transliteration and English translation of the image’s inscription:
Svasti śrī saṃvat 1552 va(rṣe) Āṣāḍhamāse śakula(=śukla)pakṣe caturdasyām 14 // … -ṣāḍhānakṣatre … //
In the saṃvat year 1552 on the 14th of the bright half of the month of Āṣādha … in the constellation of (Pūrvā/Uttarā)ṣāḍhā … (rest too fragmentary).
In: Harle, J. C., and Andrew Topsfield, Indian Art in the Ashmolean Museum (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 1987)
Glossary of terms
Vishnu is, with Shiva, one of the two most important gods in later Hinduism. He is regarded as sustainer of the universe and maintainer of order. Assuming various forms (avatars), he restores the balance of good and evil in the world.
Harle, J. C., and Andrew Topsfield, Indian Art in the Ashmolean Museum (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 1987), no. 58 on pp. 48-49, pp. 37 & 52, illus. p. 48