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The masculine robustness of his form, as he should have had as the Commander of the cosmos, is completely missing in this statue. Instead of reclining on the coils of the Great Serpent Shesh, one of the two most usual forms in Vaishnava iconography, he has been represented in this statue as seated in ‘lalitasana’, the right leg suspending down to the pedestal, and left, as lying horizontally along the uppermost coil of the Great Serpent as in yogasana, a posture revealing great aesthetic beauty, and more characteristic of a female divinity, or a male god like Lord Ganesh, lovable and endowed with child-like innocence. Instead of fully stretching across from one end to other, his usual form in the iconography of Shesh-sayi Vishnu, even the Serpent Shesh has coiled up forming a highly elevated seat suited to a sitting position revealing grace and beauty. Except a few ‘Yoga-murti’ images, as one enshrining the Badarinatha temple in Himalayan hill region, Vishnu’s seated icons, votive or aesthetic, are very rare. Among his reported sculptures even his ‘Yoga-murti’ images are hardly a few. Obviously, this wood sculpture, both for the rarity of its form as well as for its unique sculptural merit, ranks as a class by itself.
The four-armed image of Lord Vishnu, carrying in three of them his usual attributes, a stylised ‘padma’ – lotus, ‘shankh’ – conch, ‘gada’ – mace, and the fourth held in ‘abhaya’, the gesture granting freedom from fear, has been represented as seated on the coils of the Great Serpent Shesh. The palm of his fourth hand, displaying gesture of ‘abhaya’, contains an imprint of the auspicious motif ‘padma’ – lotus, a more characteristic feature of his iconography and a form repeated variedly in his iconography, in the shape of his eyes – usually defined as ‘lotus-eyes’, on the sole of his feet and palm among others. His towering crown, halo around his face, and ‘vaijayanti’ – the garland of celestial Parijata flowers, transformed here with a laced ornament, are other characteristic attributes of his iconography.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.