Vishnu is adorned with a towering crown known in iconographical texts as the
'Kiritamukuta.' This is literally and metaphorically the highest of all
crowns. The shape is that of a rather conical cylinder, similar to a mitre,
ending in a knot or point. When worn by a deity, this signifies that he has
a rank among the highest of all gods.
The facial expression is benevolent and the eyes gentle - befitting
attributes for Vishnu, since he is believed to be the preserver of the cosmic order. The sharp nose
grants a handsome demeanour to the face. The lips are lightly compressed, with the lower one
being slightly thicker than the upper.
Sumptuously bejewelled, Vishnu has four arms that carry the wheel, the conch
shell, and the club. The extended right hand has a lotus inscribed on the
palm, and displays the Abhaya mudra - the gesture which grants the boon of
fearlessness. Thus does Vishnu describe himself in an ancient text: "The
world rests as the lotus in the palm of my hand, the cosmos revolves around
my finger like a discus. I blow the music of life through my conch and wield
my mace to protect all creatures."
The skill of the sculptor is evident in the deft treatment of the folds of
the short dhoti which clings to his thighs and ends well above the knees.
Ornamented waistbands hold this lower drape together and a number of
elaborately decorated tassels can be seen falling between Vishnu's legs. The
upper part of his anatomy is bare save for the rich array of jewels.
Vishnu is straight as a post, for he is the firm center, and the axis of the
universe; he is the sturdy pillar that joins the earth to the heavens.
Indeed to his devotees, a formal, hieratic representation of Vishnu - their
refuge and protector - standing like a mighty pillar, is a deeply comforting
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