Standing Vishnu as Keshava

Artist: Dasoja of Balligrama

Period: Hoysala period

Date: first quarter of the 12th century

Culture: India (Karnataka, probably Belur)

Medium: Stone

Dimensions: H. 56 1/2 in. (143.5 cm); W. 28 in. (71.1 cm)

Classification: Sculpture

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1918

Accession Number: 18.41


A Hindu text favored by the Hoysalas cites twenty-four names for Vishnu, beginning with Keshava. Each name is associated with a form, and all of the forms have four arms and hold the same attributes: a shankha (conch battle trumpet), a gada (mace), a chakra (war discus), and a padma (lotus). It is the order in which the attributes are held in the god's four hands that varies and that signifies the various names of the god. Here, Keshava is flanked by two of his consorts, Shridevi and Bhudevi. Surrounding his head are Vishnu's ten avatars (earthly appearances), five in the form of animals (seen at the left) and five of humans (right).

Hoysala sculptures are unusual in that many are signed by the carvers who created them. The inscription on the base of this image records it as the work of Dasoja of Balligrama, an artist known to us from inscribed images at Belur, where he and his son Chavana worked.