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Cosmic Vishnu (Trivikrama) with Spouses, 11th century

India: West Bengal or Bangladesh, 1000-1099
Chlorite
57 x 28 in. (144.8 x 71.1 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation, from the Estate of Jennifer Jones Simon
M.2010.1.54.S
© Norton Simon Art Foundation

On view

The subject of this impressive stele is the Vamana (dwarf) incarnation of Vishnu, in which the defender god takes on the cosmic form of Trivikrama (He of the Three Strides). The beginning narrative is illustrated by a small vignette near Vishnu’s right foot, where the king Bali is seated on a throne. Bali, who aspires to take over the heavens, is visited by Vishnu, who is disguised as a dwarf holding a parasol, begging for alms. The dwarf asks the king to give him a plot of land that he can cover in three steps. When the king grants his wish, Vishnu transforms into Trivikrama, represented by the central figure of the stele, and in two strides he covers the earth and the heavens. His third stride lands on Bali’s head and sends him into the nether regions, restoring order to the universe.


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