Friday, April 24, 2009

Vamana Avatara

Vamana Avatara
This sculpture depicts the theme of Vamanavatara or the Dwarf incarnation of Vishnu, a famous Brahmanical deity and the sustainer of the universe. The image has been identified on the basis of the physical features of the sculpture.
The suppression of evil and promotion of good have always been not only the purpose of the incarnations in Hindu religion, but also a part of the core of Indian philosophy. The concept and purpose of many incarnations have very lucidly been expressed in the Gita, "Whenever piety declines and sin prevails, I then take unto myself a form. To succour the pious to suppress evil-doers and to establish righteousness, I incarnate myself from age to age."
Though there are different number of lists pertaining to the incarnations of Vishnu, ten is the most commonly accepted number of the incarnations. The ten incarnations are named as Fish (Matsya), the Tortoise (Kurma), the Boar (Varaha), the Man-lion (Narasimha), the Dwarf (Vamana), (Parashu) Rama, (Dasharathi) Rama, (Bala) Rama, Buddha and Kalki. The Gita-Govinda, a famous work of Jaydeva (circa 1170 A.D.) also mentions the ten incarnations.
In this incarnation, Vishnu was born as a dwarf (Vamana) to chastise the demon Bali, the great grandson of Hiranyakashipu, who had become troublesome. It is also said that there was a contest between gods and asuras for a place of sacrifice, in which the asuras agreed to concede as much land as was equal to the size of the dwarf. Vishnu, the dwarf, was made to lie down; but he grew so large as to encompass the whole earth and sky which therefore, passed to the gods. Vishnu as Vaman then pushed down Bali with two of his feet to the nether regions with the remaining one.
The Dwarf Incarnation of Vishnu has been represented in different mediums and in many postures. The present one is very interesting, scarcely found either in sculpture or in painting. He is pot-bellied, standing on a pedestal and brandishing both of his hands as a winner, because he has defeated the demon Bali. The story of the Dwarf Incarnation is found in the majority of the Puranas.

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