This sculpture demonstrates the figurative imagery that adorned Hindu temples in central India and Rajasthan from the tenth to the twelfth centuries. The principal figures, with their graceful swaying poses, cylindrical limbs, rounded faces and elongated eyes, are the god Vishnu, in his manifestation as Narayana (universal abode), and his voluptuous consort Lakshmi, whom he holds in a loving embrace. Narayana and Lakshmi exemplify Hindu models of masculine and feminine beauty – Narayana has broad shoulders, a slim waist and slightly rounded belly, and Lakshmi is shown with a narrow waist, and full hips and bosom.
Vishnu the Preserver maintains cosmic order while Lakshmi is associated with beauty, abundance, water and fertility. Both figures are adorned with necklaces and bejewelled girdles. A personification of royalty, Vishnu is identifiable by a tall crown and garland. He holds two of his conventional attributes – the discus, which symbolises the destruction of ignorance, and the conch, which represents the origin of existence. The figures are positioned within an ornately carved arch, surrounded by smaller representations of the great gods in the Hindu trinity: Brahma, to Vishnu’s right; Shiva, to Lakshmi’s left; and Vishnu, seated in meditation as the supreme yogi, above.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008