This exquisitely remarkable and stunning creation from the region of Swamimalai truly awes the viewer, whether for its artistic presence or religious sentiment. This skillful work of art truly encapsulates how a god’s image, or its ‘murti,’ rivets the devotee to the ground, making him lose his material bondings and wholeheartedly devote his life to the service of this benevolent and majestic deity. This is the grand Perumal bronze statue, which is but the South Indian manifestation of the powerful Hindu god, Vishnu.
Presented in the most painstakingly fine detailing, the central image is that of the great preserver in the triad of the powerful ‘Trimurti.’ Vishnu’s body, immaculately created, stands in the ‘abhyanga’ posture, deep in thought. His standing presence has four hands, which carry his iconic attributes – the ‘Sudarshana chakra’ or war discus, the conch ‘Panchajanya,’ his mace ‘Kaumodaki,’ and the ‘Padma’ lotus flower. Breathtakingly presented, every little detail signifies the fearsome as well as the benevolent aspect of the Vaishnavite lord. His overall presence radiates with decorative jewelry– Vishnu wears a small ‘dhoti’ that is held together with several flowing tassels and sashes that extend to his feet, and his upper body is decked with multiple neckpieces extending till his navel. A multi-tiered ‘mukuta’ is placed on his head, and his whole body is placed on a double lotus pedestal. The lotus, whether held by Vishnu or under his feet, represents spiritual liberation and the purity of thought.
Two small figures flank Vishnu, poised in the ‘Anjali mudra’ performing a ‘namaskaram’ – these are the divinities Garuda and Hanuman. Garuda is Vishnu’s faithful mount or ‘vahana,’ while Hanuman is said to be an incarnation of Shiva, accompanying Vishnu (Hanuman is also the faithful devotee of Rama, who were the seventh avatar of Vishnu).
The three figures stand tall on an elaborate double-tiered plinth, and the large figure of Vishnu is graced under the auspicious presence of an ornate ‘prabhamandala’ that is shaped like an arch over the deity. The circular halo is supported by two carved pillars on which the ‘sthapati’ has depicted rampant lions; similarly, the ‘prabhamandala’ is seen to emanate from two fishes – attesting to the creative insight of the artisan in incorporating powerful Vaishnavite symbols and icons associated with Vishnu’s life. The whole spiral is decorated in several layers and is capped with the fierce motif of a ‘kirtimukha.’
Such minute attention to detail truly embodies our magnificent craftwork and skill that is on display here. The delicate execution of each element, made possible only by the ‘madhuchistavidhana’ bronze casting, resolutely cements the glory of ancient Hindu art and craftwork, and makes this large sculpture not only a religious centerpiece, but an iconic and historical work of art.
Perumal- Vishnu with Garuda and Hanuman Ji Panchaloha Bronze: