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Somanathapura Keshava Temple: Lakshminarayana


Lakshminarayana – A form of Vishnu
Mounted on the outer wall surrounding the north garbhagriha of the Somanathapura Keshava Temple in Karnataka, India, is Lakshminarayana, a form of Vishnu presented with his consort Lakshmi. Note that Lakshminarayana is a combination of two names, Lakshmi and Narayana. Narayana is another name of Vishnu, and it means one who dwells on the water. In Sanskrit, Nara means water and Ayana means dwelling. According to Hindu mythology, Vishnu lives on the cosmic ocean.

This is one of the most beautiful sculptures in the temple. As you can see from the image, Vishnu (as Narayana) is sitting leisurely on his throne with his consort Lakshmi on his lap. Both are wearing elegant dresses and beautiful jewelry on their bodies.

As you can see, three of Vishnu’s four arms are missing, and the remaining one holds a gadaa (mace). Lakshmi is holding a kalasha (pot) with her left hand and lotus (top part is broken) with her right hand. Her right leg is gently resting on a lotus cushion, and her other leg is resting on Vishnu’s lap with the half-padmasana pose. Lakshmi’s vehicle, an elephant, is standing next to the lotus cushion. Vishnu’s vehicle, Garuda, is kneeling with the folded hands (namaste gesture) at the left end. Notice that his head is missing.

Engraved into the base of this sculpture is an inscription, written in the Halegannada (Old Kannada) script, which reads as Mallithamma. It is the signature of Ruvari Mallithamma, the most prolific carver of sculptures in the Somanathapura Keshava Temple and many other Hoysala temples. His attention to detail is striking. For instance, the top part of the lotus cushion is carved with a slight bend to indicate that Lakshmi is resting her leg on it.

Related Images
Vishnu’s incarnation Narasimha slaying Hiranyakashipu carved on the outer wall of the Belur Chennakeshava Temple
Narasimhavatara standing inside Cave – 3 of rock-cut caves of Badami
Narasimhavatara, the fourth avatar of Vishnu installed in a devakoshta of the Durga Temple in Aihole, Karnataka.
Dashavatara (Ten Incarnations of Vishnu) painted on the ceiling of Hampi Virupaksha Temple

Related Pages
Hoysala Temples:
Somanathapura Keshava Temple
Belur Chennakeshava Temple – Bracket Figures
Belur Chennakeshava Temple – Navaranga
Belur Chennakeshava Temple – Garbhagriha Outer Wall
Kappe Chennigaraya Shrine
Badami Chalukya Temples:
Badami, Cave – 1, Cave – 2, Cave – 3, Cave – 4
Durga Temple at Aihole
Vijayanagara Temples:
Hampi Virupaksha Temple Murals
Angkor Wat Temples:
Angkor Wat Temple, Angkor Wat Bas-Reliefs, Banteay Srei Temple in Cambodia

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