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Vishnu Trivikmas Four Steles Essay

This piece entitled Vishnu Trivikrama is an Indian work that is dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu in one of his many forms. The work in question is an example of a stele, which is a relief carved slab of stone that appears in many cultures as either a relic of worship or of royalty. In this case the stele is a part of a shrine to the deity Vishnu, the preserver, in his form as the Trivikarma, Lord of the three worlds, who is the central god in the Hindu polyphony. Like many powerful beings, Vishnu is depicted with the aid of symbols in order to physically portray his awe-inspiring powers.

In this stele he is a royal figure, dorned with elaborate jewelry and standing firmly front-faced. He is unbending as a king. In his four hands are the four relics that make this Vishnu a Trivikrama, the Gada, a club-like mace, and the Padma, which means lotus. In his lower left hand resides the chakra, which appears as a wheel like discus, and in his upper right hand, a Sankha which is a conch. A forest garland called a Vanamala finds itself draping down Vishnu’s front, adding to his kingly apparel.

Beside Vishnu there are two attendant figures, Lakshmi and Saravati, who due to hierarchical scale are smaller than the important Vishnu by half his length. They are in a thrice-bent position atop their own smaller lotus pedestals. Lakshmi carries a flywhisk, and Saravati; the goddess of arts and music carries a stringed instrument called a Vina. Above the trio float a pair of celestial knowledge bearers called Vidyaharas, emerging through the clouds. The composition of the piece is made up by the repetition of three points.

This could be attributed to the mythology of the Trivikrama being “he who with three strides covered the earth and ether (the barrier by which we communicate with the gods) and heaven. ” The third step, “The highest step” is heaven and is unreachable to mortal an. This concept of three is represented through the three main figures that are the main focus of the composition. More importantly the motif of three is represented in the three distinct points of the stone slab. While it is not triangular, what would normally be the smoothed out top of a tablet stele has been pinched to an abrupt point at the top.

The two vertexes at the base could be representative of the earth and the ether, two elements that are attainable to humans and mortals. The highest point, much like Trivikrama’s highest step, is unattainable to mortal men and is represented by the top point, hich directs the eye upwards toward the heavens. Ever since the Gupta period, although this one is attributed to the Pala period, the Trivikrama has been a popular subject in Hindu sculptural art as it was a way to show devotion to the powerful god.

This particular form of sculpture art is called a Stele, and would be used as a grave marker, for commemoration or dedication, or devotion to a religion or deity. A possible use for this particular stele would be as part of a shrine to the Trivikrama. The main purpose of Hindu ritual is to bring balance and good welfare to the family, and as such, society is centered at the home. At the heart of every home is the shrine, which is a place of devotion toward a god.

The worship that goes on in the shrine is the foundation of all family actions and the size of the shrine is immaterial, but this stele, which is just shy of four feet tall, would be a suitable size to fit inside a home. Another possible purpose would be a grave marker. As Vishnu is one of the most powerful of the gods, especially in the guise of the Trivikrama, it would make sense for a worshiper to place a token of the god on their grave as a sign of goodwill and faith for their journey to heaven. It could provide protection to the dead.

Stele’s can be found in many places around the world, as they are a versatile art form that can have many uses. Many can be found in different parts of Asia, an example being china. During the Tang dynasty Buddhism really began to settle into popularity with the Chinese people. The specific sect that was the most widely spread was Pure Land and was in favor of the incarnation Buddha Amitahba. In their quest for salvation and enlightenment the pious and devoted would commission statues of bodhisattvas to be made as a tribute to the western paradise that awaited them.

This particular relief stele was found in a temple in the Chinese rovince of Henan. Featured are a pair of bodhisattvas, Guanyin and Dashizhi, who are the most associated with the Buddha Amitahba. They appear regal in their position and at the same time are welcoming. On the reverse side, there is a representation of the classic Buddha and attendants, where the Amitahba is seated and surrounded by disciples. They are seated atop a lotus flower, which is symbolic of the rebirth into the western paradise.

The boarders and edges of the relief are covered with small figures of the seated Amitahba Buddha. This could be in representation of the omnipresence and all-knowing qualities of the enlightened Buddha. It also would have been a constant reminder of the western paradise with the mystic effect a ceremonial candle would have on the carvings. Although four centuries separate these two steles, they have much in common. The figures of both are carved in a relief style, meaning that the stone slab was carved into to reveal the images so that they were sunken into the stone rather than protruding.

The Hindu stele is made of Phylite, which has small granular structure and the Buddhist stele is made of black limestone, which is course in its texture. Even with the different materials, the two figures are similar in purpose, being used for evotion toward a religious practice. What is different is how they are used for that practice. The Hindu religion is more passive in its prayer. There are no distinctions between the sacred and the secular so that all time becomes sacred. This is reflected in the centrality of family and that the shrine is but a hearth the family surrounds itself around.

Buddhism is more active in it’s worship. A tablet such as this one would be used as an aid to meditation to achieve enlightenment. While the Hindu stele would most likely have been found in a home or marking a grave, the Buddhist stele would more likely act as a marker of a holy site. Just as the Stupa is used to indicate a where the holiest of places are, a tablet such as this could do the same thing, directing patrons to the locations where they could complete pilgrimage on their road to enlightenment.

The Trivikrama would be commissioned for an individual family, while the Buddha would be for all who practice. This is very much a reflection of the nature of the two ideologies themselves, with Hinduism being a family oriented religion that is passed down through the generations and Buddhism being more of a state of mind than a religion, which is adopted by people all over the world coming from all different backgrounds.

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