Vishnu-one of the Hinduism’s most important and powerful deities-is the great preserver, vanquishing those who seek to destroy the balance of the universe. For his followers he is also creator and the destroyer, the cause of all existence. His many traits are embodied in his impressive physical form, the weapons he carries, the Goddesses who are his consorts, and the eagle Garuda, on whom he flies down from heaven. In Hindu legend, Vishnu descends to earth in many manifestations, known as avatars, to fight powerful demons and to save his devotees. The avatars range in form from Varaha the boar to Parashurama the Brahmin warrior, and in character from Narasimha the ferocious half man half lion, to Krishna the charismatic prince-cowherd.
The legends of Vishnu have inspired some of the greatest art, literature, and ritual traditions in India. This catalogue examines the many faces of Vishnu and the ways that the God has been represented, from antiquity to the present.
Essays by noted historians of South Asian art delve deeply into the regional and sectarian traditions of Vishnu Worship in India. Illustrations and discussions of almost 200 works of art, in a wide range of media and borrowed from collections across the North Atlantic, reveal the rich diversity of India’s art and religious culture.