Enthroned Vishnu

Period: Pandyan period (early 4th–13th century)

Date: second half of the 8th–early 9th century

Culture: India

Medium: Granulite

Dimensions: H. 9 ft. 9 in. (296.8 cm)

Classification: Sculpture

Credit Line: Purchase, The Charles Engelhard Foundation Gift, in memory of Charles Engelhard, 1984

Accession Number: 1984.296


This colossal sculpture-the largest in the Museum's South Asian collection-gives a sense of the great scale of some Indian monuments. Vishnu sits on a lion throne in the relaxed posture of . His role in Hinduism is to preserve the world. He is periodically called upon to descend to earth to combat some great evil and consequently holds martial implements. In his raised left hand, he originally held a (conch battle trumpet). His lower left hand rests on his thigh. His upper right hand would have held a (war discus), and his lower right hand would have been raised in (the gesture that allays fear). Framing the god's head and high crown is a part of an oval halo with stylized flames around the edge.

Dating from the second half of the eighth to the early ninth century, this seated Vishnu is a rare example of the art of the Pandya dynasty, which was centered in Madurai, in southernmost India. The two sculptures in this gallery illustrate the quality and sculptural power of Pandyan art at its apogee.