Pacific Asia Museum

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Hindu Deities in Stone


The figure of the Hindu deity Vishnu is seen here, resting on the shoulders of Garuda, his vāhana or vehicle. Vishnu wears extensive jewelry, including a necklace, armlets, bracelets, earrings and hair ornaments. His four hands carry attributes that aid in his identification: his raised left hand carries the conch shell, while the upper right holds the chakra, a wheel-like weapon. The lower left features a lotus bud and something more difficult to see is the mace which his lower right hand holds alongside his right leg. Garuda, a deity who has features of both a bird and a man, is shown here with a beak and wings, but also human arms and legs. Despite the worn condition of the stone, through exposure to the elements and/or soil, details are still visible which communicate the initial power of the object. Vishnu’s feet are delicately supported by Garuda’s hands, as if he could spring into action at any moment. Both figures’ expressions convey a solemnity befitting their heroic roles. The features and attributes indicate that the work is from the central Java area of Indonesia, which has a rich history of Hindu and Buddhist art, in contrast to its current predominance of Islam in the country.

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