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The Hindu deity Vishnu in the form of a boar, approx. 1000

The Hindu deity Vishnu in the form of a boar, approx. 1000

The Hindu deity Vishnu in the form of a boar, approx. 1000. India; probably Northern Rajasthan state. The Avery Brundage Collection, B62S15+.


When the world is beset with difficulties, Vishnu assumes various forms to overcome them and reestablish order. Once, the earth, personified as a woman, was trapped at the bottom of the sea. Vishnu took the form of a boar to dive beneath the waters, free her, and carry her to the surface.

Here Vishnu is shown with a boar's head and four-armed human body. The Earth (whose head is broken) is seated at the elbow of Vishnu's upper-left arm. Vishnu carries in three of his hands his standard symbolic implements: a club, a conch shell, and a war discus. These last two are personified by tiny figures at the lower corners who hold an additional war discus and conch. The waters through which Vishnu has dived are symbolized by four half-human-half-serpents who twine near him, and by lotus leaves, flowers, and stems behind him.

This sculpture is made of fine-grained schist, a stone that can be carved in much smaller, sharper detail than sandstone, which was the material commonly used in this period for sculptures on the exteriors of temples. In western India, where this work was made, sculptures of fine-grained, carefully worked stone were often intended for the inside of a shrine rather than its exterior.

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