Embroidery from India and Pakistan, £10.99
Height: 1.270 m
Asia OA 1872.7-1.41
Room 33: Asia
Sandstone stele with a figure of Vishnu
From central India, 10th century AD
Most of the figures surrounding the central icon can be identified as Vishnu's ten incarnations (avatara). The first three: Matsya (the fish), Kurma (the tortoise) and Varaha (the boar) feature in the myth of the great deluge and creation; Narasimha (man-lion), Vamana (dwarf), Parashurama (Rama with the battle axe) and Rama (the mythical king and protagonist of the epic Ramayana) all display characteristics of conquest and the vanquishing of evil forces; Rama is further developed to embody righteousness, and is held as a paragon of responsible, virtuous conduct; Krishna is another mythical figure with a widespread following, whose cult is of great antiquity; Buddha is regarded by Hindus as the ninth avatara, and the tenth, Kalki, in the nature of a prophecy, is in the form of a horse and is yet to arrive.