The imagery of the Infant Jesus as the Good Shepherd is the most complex in Indo-Portuguese Christianity, one that has led to a large number of interpretations and controversies. It is associated both with Catholic values and arising from the Counter-Reformation and with traditional Hindu values, giving rise, in some details, to a confusion between the gracious image of the Christ Child and that of the Buddha.
The power of its symbolism rests not only on the interpretation given to the Infant – a young shepherd boy in sheepskin around whom sheep gambol and jump over his shoulder, but also, and more strongly, in the treatment of the stony pedestal that makes this an exemplary piece of Indo-Portuguese hybridism.
The base, conceived as a terraced hillock, retains some of its original colouring. Jutting out from the upper level is a face from whose mouth the water of life gushes into a basin from which birds of paradise drink. Sheep graze among the scenes depicted here, while the bottom part forms a grotto that shelters a Holy Penitent Saint Mary of Egypt – recognizable by her particular attributes: the cross, bread of fasting and prayer book. This place is often occupied by another penitent, Mary Magdalene, depicted with her jar of perfumed ointments.
The foliage of a symbolic tree of life would have originally surrounded this scene, but has been lost.