Stele with a standing figure of Vishnu

From Bengal, eastern India
Pala dynasty, 12th century AD

The Hindu preserver

Vishnu is one of the most popular gods of the Hindu pantheon. His portayal here is standard: a royal figure standing tall, crowned and bejewelled, in keeping with his role as king and preserver of order within the universe. He carries a gada (mace) and chakra (disc) in his hands. The other two hands, which would have held a lotus and conch, are broken. On his forehead he wears a vertical mark or tilak, commonly worn by followers of Vishnu. In keeping with his iconography as the divine king, he is heavily bejewelled, wears a sacred thread that runs over his left shoulder and a long garland that comes down to his knees.

He stands flanked by two attendants, who may be his consorts Bhu and Shri, on a double lotus. The stele has a triangular top unlike earlier examples which were usually in the shape of a gently lobed arch. On either side of his crown are celestial garland bearers and musicians, the Vidyadharas and Kinnaras. A kirtimukha, or auspicious face of glory is carved on the top centre of the arch.

The sculpture is typical of workmanship of the Pala dynasty of twelfth-century Bengal. The heart-shaped face with stylized arched eyebrows, long eyes that are slightly upturned at the ends, the broad nose, and the pursed smile are all characteristic.

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More information

Bibliography

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

Dimensions

Height: 162.560 cm

Museum number

Asia OA 1872.7-1.32

RRI814

Bridge Collection

Location

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