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Vishnu and attendants

c. 1026 C.E.

Dallas Museum of Art

Dallas Museum of Art

By the medieval period, the two leading deities of Hinduism were Vishnu, the Preserver of the older Hindu trinity, and Shiva, the Destroyer. In keeping with his role as a bringer of blessings and prosperity to his followers, Vishnu was usually shown as a calm, upright figure surrounded by his heavenly court. This is a classic relief of the god, who appears handsome, vital, and beneficent. As in earlier Buddhist sculptures he is richly jeweled, as a king would be. In his four hands he holds the traditional attributes of mace, conch shell, sun wheel (chakra), and jewels. The deep carving of the sandstone relief would have given the sculpture a strong play of light and shadow in its original setting as an architectural decoration. The attendant figures and animals form the setting of Vishnu’s divine kingdom.

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