Ashtabhuja (8-armed) Vishnu
The image shows a sculptural relief of Vishnu carved on the outer wall of the south garbhagriha (inner sanctum) of the Somanathapura Keshava Temple in Karnataka, India. Vishnu’s standard iconography depicts him with four arms, but this relief has eight arms (two of them are missing). Besides his signature objects, shanka (conch), and padma (lotus), he is holding a beautifully carved dhanush (bow) and a bāna (arrow) with his left and right hands respectively.
Although he is not holding anything with the other two hands, he is making specific gestures with them. These hand gestures are known as mudras. A mudra has a name and meaning in Hinduism and Buddhism.
As you can see from the image, the palm of one of Vishnu’s right hands is held upright and facing outwards. This gesture is known as Abhaya Mudra and represents fearlessness and reassurance. The palm of one of his left-hands is facing upwards with the fingers slightly pointing downwards. This gesture is known as Vara Mudra (a.k.a Varada Mudra) and represents charity and compassion.
The two missing hands at the bottom likely carried his other two signature objects, chakra (a disc-like weapon), and gadā (mace). As with the other Vishnu sculptures, he is standing on a padma peeta (lotus pedestal) accompanied by two small female figures located at the bottom.
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– Belur Chennakeshava Temple – Garbhagriha Outer Wall
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