Sunday, August 10, 2014


Three tales from Hindu Mythology

' Anantashayane Vishnu - Lord Vishnu resting on Ananta the Snake'  :

Painting exhibited in a Calcutta Gallery during February,2008 . 
Apologies to the painter from Andhra whose name I forgot to record.

From North to South , East to West ,  Lord Vishnu sleeping  - Yogonidra - on turbulent sea - pralaya jaladhi - on coiled snake Ananta , his hood providing shade to His head ,Devi Lakshmi  at His feet and Lord Brahma rising from his navel : this imagery has been the inspiration of sculptors and painters through centuries.

Above , we find a 21st century interpretation where white lotus blooms in the ocean ! And, Lord Brahma is not offering His obeisance to Lord Vishnu !! Colourful and decorative the imagery is - quite a traditional interpretation.

 Lord Vishnu rests with His head on His left hand,
holds none of His usual  attributes. 
Lord Brahma does not rise from His navel either.
Acknowledgement - Sourced from  Internet.

 The most famous  of the reliefs of this imagery is  the one from  Vishnu temple of Deogarh , UP.  According to Wikipedia, this temple is the 1st one built in India with a 'shikhar' . It was built between 4th and 7th centuries........ I have seen this imagery in many other  temples too - both on wall-reliefs as well as wall-paintings. A beautiful example is from   Radheshyam temple of Bishnupur , 1000 years younger than the Vishnu temple of Deogarh.

Stucco-on-stone work - among the few @ Bishnupur.

'Samudra Manthan - Churning of the Ocean of Milk'

 A collaboration  between gods and (so-called) demons ...... brought out from ocean's depth treasures  most which was usurped by the gods.  The world got Lakshmi - goddess of wealth , powerful horse and elephant , Parijaat - the beautiful flowering tree among others .... and elixir of immortality ! Lord Vishnu - incognito -  fooled the demons and let gods have the elixir .

Snake Vasuki , which was used as the chord for churning , spewed out poison when exhausted . Lord Siva saved the world by drinking this poison which turned His throat blue.Siva was subsequently revered as Neel-kantha - the god with blue throat.

This mythological tale has been cited in our great epics and Puranas. Also, featured in Temple art and Patas .  I have come across  wall-reliefs of Samudra Manthan in temples  built during both Badami Chalukya as well as Hoysala regimes.

Wall relief in a temple of Pattadakal complex.

 A lot of details has been squeezed into this small-sized wall-relief  found in a temple of Pattadakal complex. The gods and demons  - four in each of the groups -  engaged in churning, Vasuki and mountain Mandar as well as the finds. The painting of Wikipedia is the best to view the details of the finds which is being copied here : 

Painting in Wikipedia page - Lots of details regarding  what emerged !

Wall-relief  , Kedareshwar temple, Halebid. 
Here also we find four representatives from ods and demons.

'Setu-bandhan from Ramayana - bridge across to Lanka'

Rama and Lakshana got a bridge constructed by banara-sena  - army of monkeys - to cross over to  Lanka with this army . The effort was not easy. God of ocean did not co-operate with banara-sena in the beginning. The bulk of stones deposited on the bed of the ocean was washed away.Then, Lord Rama picked up his bow and arrows and threatened the god of ocean with dire consequences.God of ocean then wilted and allowed construction work go uninterrupted.

 Wall-relief from Kedareshwar temple, Halebid.

In this context, I shall mention that in depictions of 'Ananata-sayana Vishnu', the ocean has  often not been given enough importance ! A notable exception is this one wall-relief of the Somnathpura temple :

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