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Bronze statues of Vishnu with his consorts Bhu and Shri


Height: 45.000 cm (Vishnu)

Purchased with the assistance of Brooke Sewell Fund

Asia OA 1965.10-17.3-4;Asia OA 1965.12-13.1

Room 33: Asia

    Bronze statues of Vishnu with his consorts Bhu and Shri

    From central Tamil Nadu, southern India
    Chola dynasty, around AD 1000

    Bronze images of Hindu deities used in temple festivals

    The Hindu god Vishnu is depicted as a great king with a tall crown and elaborate jewellery. He is identified by the conch shell and flaming discus that he holds in his two upper hands. Hois lower right hand faces, palm outwards, towards the devotee in a gesture known as abhayamudra ('do not fear'). With Vishnu are his two consorts Bhu, the Earth goddess, and Shri, the goddess of prosperity. Bhu us remembered as the goddess who was saved by Vishnu in his incarnation as a boar, Varaha. She had been captured by a sea demon and her rescue is the main story told of Varaha today. Vishnu is often given two consorts in Tamil Nadu, while elsewhere in India he is usually shown with one, Lakshmi, another name for the goddess of wealth and prosperity.

    These images are made of bronze using the lost-wax process. They were made in central Tamil Nadu during the Chola period. The Chola kings ruled over much of south India between around AD 900 and 1200, a flourishing period for the construction of Hindu temples and the production of sculpture. Both bronze and stone sculptures are placed in Hindu temples of Tamil Nadu as a focus for worship and devotion. Bronze images such as these were made for use in temple festivals, where they are decorated with flowers and carried through the streets past huge crowds of worshippers. The holes in the bases of the figures are for attaching the images to a palanquin (covered litter) carried on the shoulders of a group of male devotees.

    T. R. Blurton, Hindu art (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)


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