Sesha Narayana

Raja Ravi Varma and Ravi Varma PressCirca 1920

The Ganesh Shivaswamy Foundation

The Ganesh Shivaswamy Foundation
Bengaluru, India

SESHA NARAYANA: This is a form of Vishnu which is called Adi-Murti. The Vishnu-dharmottara describes Vishnu as lying on a serpent bed. The serpent, Ananta is to have five or seven heads. If Vishnu reclines on the Sesha, he is called Sesha-Sayi and when he is seated on the serpent, he is called Adi-murti. The latter is the form of Vishnu prior to creation.

This print from the Ravi Varma Press derived from a painting by Raja Ravi Varma depicts Vishnu in the form of Adi-murti. He has four arms. The primary hands hold a lotus and mace (gadha) and the other hands hold the conch (shank) and discus (chakra). The consorts are Sri-devi (Lakshmi) and Bhu-devi (Earth).


  • Title: Sesha Narayana
  • Creator: Raja Ravi Varma, Ravi Varma Press
  • Date Created: Circa 1920
  • Physical Dimensions: 50 x 35 cms
  • Provenance: The Hemamalini and Ganesh Shivaswamy collection, Bengaluru
  • Subject Keywords: Raja Ravi Varma, Hinduism, Gigapixel
  • Type: Chromolithograph
  • Rights: The Ganesh Shivaswamy Foundation, Bengaluru
  • Creator's Biography: Raja Ravi Varma (1848-1906) was a prolific Indian artist who is recognized for his resorting to the academic realistic style of painting. His portraits of English and Indian royalty and aristocracy were well received. His paintings on Hindu religious and mythological subjects and paintings from classical and literary sources were highly sought after even during his lifetime. He painted several copies of his works and this demand led to the suggestion to have his paintings printed in the form of oleographs. The Ravi Varma Fine Art Lithographic Press was established in Bombay (now Mumbai) and commenced operations in 1894. Many of Ravi Varma's paintings were printed as chromolithographs at this Press. These chromolithographs would have a tremendous impact on religion, society and aesthetics. They went on to democratize art leading to immortalize Ravi Varma in the minds of the people of the Indian subcontinent.

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