Vishnu Accompanied by Lakshmi and Sarasvati


On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 238

Vishnu stands in perfect symmetry (samapada), the protector of cosmic order. In an iconographic convention unique to medieval Bengal, he is accompanied by the goddesses Lakshmi, holding a fly-whisk (camara) and lotus (padma), and Sarasvati, playing a vina, rather than by his wives Sri Devi and Bhu Devi. He is also closely associated with Priti, the earth goddess, who often appears between his feet. The goddesses in turn are flanked by two miniature figures, the male personifications of Vishnu’s weapons, the conch (sankha) and the discus (cakra). Vishnu himself is four armed and displays his principal attributes, the discus, conch, club (gada), and lotus (padma), and he wears both a sacred cord (upavita) and a long garland (vanamala), which hangs to his knees. The richly elaborated backplate features mythical animals and celestial celebrants presided over by a protective kirtimukha face.

Vishnu Accompanied by Lakshmi and Sarasvati, Black phyllite, Bangladesh

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