City Hangout – Vishnu’s 16th Century Statue, National Museum
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
What does a god look like when supposed to be sleeping?
One answer is found at the National Museum in Delhi where an ancient sculpture of Vishnu is tucked away in a ground floor corridor. And evidently lying on a bed.
But, not really. A careful examination reveals that he’s actually resting on the back of the serpent god Adisesha.
Carved in the Vijayanagar Empire more than 500 years ago, the crowned figure appears to be resting. But when you move close you find that the god’s eyes are, in fact, wide-open, with a beatific smile lighting up his face. The sort of glow you might spy on the face of a loved one during an afternoon siesta. Some features are deliberately exaggerated. The earlobes are extraordinarily long, while the bare chest is adorned with necklaces.
The series of sculpted folds on Vishnu’s legs suggest he’s draped in a dhoti. The only concession to humankind in the godly representation is the slightly swollen belly that the sculptor (or sculptors) gave to an otherwise perfect figure.
Tragically—and perhaps due to the long passage of years—the sculpture is slightly damaged. The feet are missing, as well as some fingers.
Even so, the god manages to appear whole and unblemished, still ready to impress the world as “Ranganath”—a resting form of Vishnu, reacing out to us from beyond the bottomless abyss of disappeared time.
A date with Vishnu