Somanathapura Keshava Temple: Vishnu

Vishnu carved on the outer wall of the Somanathapura Keshava Temple in Karnataka, India

Vishnu carved on the outer wall of the Somanathapura Keshava Temple

Vishnu presented with standard iconography
The sculpture shown in the image is mounted on the outer wall surrounding the south garbhagriha of the Somanathapura Keshava Temple in Karnataka, India. It depicts Vishnu with the standard iconography.

Vishnu, one of the Trimurti, is the supreme god who preserves order and maintains harmony in the universe. Vishnu is typically depicted as a man with four arms, each holding one of the following four objects:

  1. Shanka : It is a conch shell named Panchajanya that emerged as a by-product during the Samudra Manthana. It was responsible for the creation of the panchabhootas (five elements), which are: water, fire, earth, and sky. When blown, it produces a giant primeval sound.
  2. Chakra: It is a disc-like weapon with serrated edges named Sudarshana (which means a good view). When fired, it spins and moves with a rapid force to destroy evil and then returns to Vishnu.
  3. Gadaa: It is a mace named Kaumodaki and represents strength
  4. Padma: It is a sacred lotus flower that represents beauty, purity, and evolution

The order in which Vishnu holds his objects vary. With four hands, there are a total of 24 combinations, and sometimes a combination indicates a particular form of Vishnu.

According to Hindu mythology, Vishnu has ten standard avatars. For a list and explanation of these avatars, check the Dashavatara (Ten incarnations of Vishnu) mural painted on the ceiling of the Virupaksha Temple in Hampi.

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.

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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