Monthly Archives: January 2017

Garuda in art : vehicle of Lord Vishnu


           Garuda is a humanoid-bird in Hindu and Buddhist mythology. Garuda is the vahana or vehicle/mount of Lord Vishnu. Garuda is often depicted as having a strong golden body of a  man with a white face, red wings, and an eagle’s beak and with a crown on his head. This ancient deity was said to be massive, large enough to block out the sun.  Garuda is the enemy of the nagas(serpents). He is an important deity and the Garudopanishad and Garuda-purana are dedicated to him. He is also called Chirada, Gaganeshvara, Kamayusha, Kashyapi, Khageshvara, Nagantaka, Sitanana, Sudhahara, Suparna, Tarkshya, Vainateya, Vishnuratha among others. He is referred to as Syena ,or eagle in the Vedas. He is believed to have brought nectar from heaven to earth.

   On  Garuda’s left wrist is the serpent Adisesha and on his right he wears the serpent Gulika; the serpent Vasuki forms his sacred thread. Takshaka, the cobra forms his belt and the serpent karkotaka is his necklace. Padma and Mahapadma are his ear rings.The snake Shankachuda adorns his divine hair. He  wives are  Rudraa and Sukirthi.

     Garuda plays an important role when  Krishna and Satyabhama ride on his back to kill Narakasura, a demon.  Lord Vishnu rides on Garuda to save his elephant-deveotee,Gajendra. It is believed that Garuda’s wings chant the vedas while flying.

        Garuda was born out of an egg laid by Vinata, one of the wives of Kashyapa; as per the Vishnu-purana the egg was laid by Diti and not Vinata.

     Garuda helped Lord Rama in his battle against Ravana. When Lord Rama, Lakshmana and the monkey battalion could not withstand the snake arrows or nagastras of Indrajit, Garuda supplied Garudastras or eagle-arrows. Garuda is considered the king of birds. His sons are Sampati and Jatayu as mentioned in the Ramayana. As per the Mahabaharata Garuda had six sons Sumukha, Suvarna, Subala, Sunaama, Sunethra and Suvarchas from whom descended the race of birds. In Buddhism the Garudas are enormous predatory, intelligent birds with social organisation.

     Garuda is an important deity across South Asia and is worshipped in many countries. Garuda is in the national emblem of Indonesia.

File:Garuda and naga, Tra Kieu, Quang Nam, 10th century, sandstone - Museum of Vietnamese History - Ho Chi Minh City - DSC06129.JPG

Garuda and naga,sandstone sculpture, 10th century,Tra Kieu, Quang Nam, Museum of Vietnamese History ,Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

By Daderot (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Image result for garuda

Vishnu on Garuda, bronze,12th century, Cambodia.

By Hiart (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

File:Garuda Vishnu Laxmi.jpg

Garuda,painting, Bundi,1730,Rajasthan,LACMA,USA.

By Unknown artist from Bundi, Rajasthan, India [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Depicted below is  Garuda,returning with the pot of  amrita, which he had stolen from the Gods in order to free his mother from Kadru, mother of serpents.

Image result for garuda

Garuda,painting, 1825,South India.

By Unknown (production) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

File:Garuda by Ida Made Tlaga 19th c.jpg

Garuda,painting, 1880,Bali,Indonesia.

By Ida Made Tlaga in Sanur, Bali [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

COLLECTIE TROPENMUSEUM Wajangfiguur voorstellende Sangruda TMnr 15-954-40.jpg

Garuda depiction,1900,Bali, Indonesia.

By Tropenmuseum, part of the National Museum of World Cultures, CC BY-SA 3.0,




References :

  • Epics, myths and legends of India/Thomas, P, Bombay : D.B. Taraporevala and Sons.


Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

© author


Vidyadharas in art : joyous spirits


Vidyadhara ,sculpture,North India.

By Nomu420 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

  Vidyadharas are a group of supernatural beings in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. They are semi Gods. They attend on Lord Shiva. They are spirits of the air and are believed to fly. They have magical powers and can decrease their size. They live in the  Himalayas along with the Kinnaras, another group of semi-divine beings.

    They also live on Mount Krauncha, on Chitrakoota where Lord Rama saw vidyadhara women playing, in the hills of Malabar and in the Khandava forest. They are also present in Kubera’s court, along with their leader Chakradharman and in Lord Indra’s palace under Viprachitti. Another  leader of the Vidyadharas is described to the wise Jambavan.  The Agni Puranas describe them as flying in the sky wearing garlands. The Bhagavata-purana the king of the Vidyadharas as Chitraketu. The Kathasaritsagara by Somadeva, Brihatkathamanjari and Brihatkathasloka-samgraha has some stories on Vidyadharas. Jaina texts regard  Vidyadharas as advanced human beings or Aakashagochari.  Jainas describe the vanara and rakshasa clans as Vidyadharas. 

Flying Vidyadhara, sculpture, 11th century.

By Walters Art Museum: Home page  Info about artwork, Public Domain,

References :


Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

© author

Chandra in art : moon-god depictions

The Moon-God is Chandra or Soma in Hindu mythology.  He is believed to have emerged during the samudramanthana or churning of the ocean of milk. One legend says he is the son of Surya another mentions him as the son of Atri. As per the Vishnu Purana the moon is said to receive nectar or amrita from the Sun and distribute to the Gods,human beings, animals and plants.Chandra is the lord of plants and vegetation.

      Chandra has been depicted in sculpture and paintings. He is a copper-coloured deity with a red banner and rides in a chariot at night cross the sky, drawn by an antelope or ten white horses.  He is a beautiful God, two-armed and having in his hands a club and a lotus. The royal lineage of the Chandravamshis derives its name from the moon. He is the father of Budha, Planet Mercury. Budha is born form his union with Tara, wife of Brihaspati or Planet Jupiter. This angers Brihaspati who wages war, but the devas (Gods) interfere and Tara returns to Brihspati. As per another legend Chandra is married to to 27 daughters of Daksha . He favours only Rohini and so his other wives complain to Daksha who curses Chandra which account for the waxing and waning of the moon. The nakshatras are named after his wives in Hindu astrology.

Image result for chandra moon god wiki commons

Chandra, sculpture,13th century, Konark,British Museum,U.K.

By Redtigerxyz (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (, via Wikimedia Commons

Image result for chandra

Mandala of Chandra, distemper on cloth, 14th-early 15th century, Nepal.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

File:Chandra, The Moon God; Folio from a Book of Dreams LACMA M.83.219.2 (2 of 3).jpg

Chandra,painting, early 18th century, Udaipur, Rajasthan.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Chandra,illustration,19th century.

By E. A. Rodrigues – The complete Hindoo Pantheon, comprising the principal deities worshipped by the Natives of British India throughout Hindoostan, Public Domain,


References :

  • Epics, myths and legends of India/Thomas, P, Bombay : D.B. Taraporevala and Sons.



Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

© author


Sheshasayi in art : images of Lord Vishnu

  Lord Vishnu is known as Sheshasayi or Anantasayana when he is recumbent on the the king of nagas (serpents), Anantashesha. He is also called anantasayana in this recumbent posture.

      Lord Vishnu is part of the Hindu trinity of gods along with Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva. He is a lovable deity, considerate towards his devotees. He is depicted with his wife Goddess Lakshmi at his feet, recumbent on the coils of serpent Shesha. He is dark, blue skinned. A lotus stem shoots up from his navel on which Brahma is seated. His vahana or vehicle  is Garuda, the man-bird. Lord Vishnu has a thousand names,  sahasranama. His abode is Vaikuntha with lotus filled pools. His devotees are called Vaishnavas. He is worshipped in his different avatars; Matsya,Kurma,Varaha,Narasimha,Vamana,Parasurama,Rama,Krishna and Buddha as believed in Hinduism. It is believed that he will be reborn as Kalki, his last avatar according to the Vishnu Purana,.when the world will probably be destroyed and rebuilt.

  Lord Vishnu  is seen in different contexts and moods when he is reclining on Anantasesha.He is called yogasayana when he is meditative and the sages Bhrigu and Markandeya are with him. Brahma is seen emerging from his navel. He is Bhogasayana when he has four arms and is bejewelled. His consorts Sridevi and Bhudevi are seen along with sages Bhrigu and Markandeya. He is Virasayana when he is holding a sankha or conch, a chakra or discus in two of his four hands. The demons Madu and Kaitabha are depicted at his feet.In Abhicharikasayana, he is depicted in a weak and emaciated form with no attendants. The Padmanabhaswamy temple at Thiruvananthapuram is an important shrine dedicated to Lord Vishnu in Kerala. Lord Vishnu as Ranganatha is also a recumbent Vishnu but does not depict Brahma rising on a lotus from his navel.

        The recumbent Lord Vishnu has been depicted both in sculpture and painting as seen in the magnificent images from different centuries.

File:Narain 2.JPG

Sheshasayi, rock-cut sculpture,5th century,Udayagiri, Madhya Pradesh.

By Zippymarmalade (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (, via Wikimedia Commons

Image result for sheshasayi

Sheshasayi, Mahishasuramardini Cave,7th cenutury, Mahabalipuram,Tamil Nadu.

By Jenith (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 ( or GFDL (, via Wikimedia Commons
File:Ku Phra Kona-021.jpg

Sheshasayi,Ku Phra Kona temple,11th century,Roi Et,Thailand

By Ddalbiez (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Image result for sheshasayi

Sheshasayi,sculpture,13th century,South India, LACMA,USA.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons,LACMA,USA.

Image result for sheshasayi

Sheshasayi,painting, Kashmir, 1800.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Sheshasayi,painting,18th century, India.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

File:Sheshsayi Vishnu and Lakshmi enjoying festivity, National Museum, New Delhi.jpg

Sheshsayi enjoying festivities,painting, Chamba,1810, National Museum, New Delhi.

By Yann (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Image result for sheshasayi

Sheshasayi,painting, late 18th century,Mehrangarh Museum Trust,

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons,attributed to the Durga Master.

Image result for sheshasayi


M. V. Dhurandhar [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Image result for sheshasayi

Sheshasayi,sculpture, 5th century,Dasavatara Temple, Deogarh,Uttar Pradesh.

By Bob King [CC BY 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

References :

  • Epics, myths and legends of India/Thomas, P, Bombay : D.B. Taraporevala and Sons.

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

© author

Yaksha-yakshi depictions : benevolent spirits

             Yaksha and Yakshi are nature spirits. They are usually benevolent mythical beings; and attendees of Kubera, the Lord of Yakshas and Yakshis.They have been depicted in sculpture,paintings and illustrations in India and few countries of Asia. They find place in Hindu, Buddhist and Jain mythology.

   In Hinduism Yakshas have a dual personality.They could be benevolent and friendly or could be offensive like a rakshasa or demon. Yakshas are believed to be protectors of forests and villages. Yakshas are depicted as strong warriors or as stout,short figures with a big belly. In contrast Yakshis are projected as very beautiful with gentle faces, full hips, rounded breasts and slender waists.The thirty six yakshis who grant desires mentioned in the Uddamareshwara tantra are Vichitra, Hamsi,Shankhini,Kapalini ,Mahendri,Vishala among others.

    In Buddhist lore, Yakshas are the attendants of Vaisravana. They are the twelve generals who guard Bhaisajyaguru, the Medicine Buddha. They are a main part of the folklore of Thailand and are guardian deities in their temples-gates, the dwarapalas. The yakshis became salabhanjikas holding on to a  ashoka tree-branch or a flowering tree depicted majorly at the gates of many Buddhist monuments and Hindu temples. They were associated with fertility and prosperity.

      In Jainsim the Yakshas  and Yakshis are guardian duties around the jinas. Over time they have come to be woshipped too. There are twenty four yakshas in Jainism. Gomukha,Trimukha,Mahayaksha,Yakshanayaka,Tamburu,Kusuma,Dharanendra,Matanga,Vijaya, Ajita,Gomedh among others. The twenty four yakshis include Chakreswari,Ambika,Manasi, Jaya among others.

Yaksha Vyala, sculpture,1st century B.C,Government Museum, Mathura.

Biswarup Ganguly [GFDL ( or CC BY 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Image result for yakshi

Yakshi,plaque,terracotta, 3-2nd century B.C, Bengal.

By Hiart (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

File:Yaksha Carrying Human Figure and Mudgar - 2nd Century BCE - Government Museum - Mathura 2013-02-24 6090.JPG

Yaksha depiction carrying human being,2nd century B.C,Government Museum, Mathura.

Biswarup Ganguly [GFDL ( or CC BY 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

File:Yakshi - Railing Pillar - 2nd Century CE - Sand Stone - Mathura - Indian Museum - Kolkata 2012-11-16 1962.JPG

Yakshi,sandstone,2nd century,Mathura, Indian Museum, Kolkata.

Biswarup Ganguly [GFDL (, CC BY 3.0 (, GFDL ( or CC BY 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Maharaja Chhatrasal Museum Dhubela Exhibit Item (5).JPG

Yaksha Gomedh with Ambika,sculpture,11th century,Maharaja Chhatrasal Museum, Dhubela, Madhya Pradesh.

By Sagar Das, Rosehub – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Image result for yaksha -yakshi

Yaksha Gomukha with his consort,sandstone,Gurjara Pratiharas, 8th century, North India.

By Davide Mauro (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

File:Nswag, india, madhya pradesh, stele con yaksha-yakshini e jinas, XI sec..JPG

Yaksha-yakshi,sculpture,11th century, Madhya Pradesh.

I, Sailko [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC BY 2.5 (, via Wikimedia Commons




Yaksha,,Angkor Wat,12th century,Cambodia.

By Tsui (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons


File:Yaksha General Anila - Google Art Project.jpg

Yaksha Anila, painting on cloth, 15th century,Tibet.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Kalpasutra manuscript,15th century,pigment on paper, second image depicts birth of Mahavira watched over by goat headed Yaksha,Naigamesha.

Walters Art Museum [Public domain, CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (, via Wikimedia Commons

Image result for thai yaksha

Yaksha Thotsakan,Thai Ramakien depiction,mural,18th century,Wat Phra Kaew,Bangkok,Thailand.

By Heinrich Damm (User:Hdamm, Hdamm at (Own work (Own photo)) [CC BY 2.0 (, GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons




References :



Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

© author

Samudramanthana in art : churning of the ocean

     Samudranathana or churning of the ocean of milk is a major event in Indian mythology.The story is narrated in the Mahabharata, Bhagavata Purana and Vishnu Purana.  The story is about the origin of amrita, the drink of immortality. Samudramanthana is also called sagaramanthana and ksheerasagaramanthna.

       Sage Durvasa received a garland from a meeting with kings on earth.He decided to give the garland to Indra, the king of Gods who accepted it, but the moment the sage left he gave it to an elephant who started playing with it. Sage Durvasa came back to tell Indra something and saw the scene; he immediately cursed all the Gods that they will lose their strength and thus they became feeble. Meanwhile Bali, the king of asuras declared war on the Gods. They were very weak and could not withstand them, and defeat was certain.The Gods approached Lord Brahma, Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu for a solution. Lord Vishnu meditated and only a dose of amrita, the cream of the milk ocean could restore their strength.

       It was not an easy task to churn the milk-ocean. Mount Mandara had to be used as a churning stick which the devas could not accomplish on their own. They needed help from the asuras. Hence an agreement was made between the devas and asuras that they too could drink amrita, after reassurance from Lord Vishnu that the asuras would not get stronger than the Gods. The process was started and Mount Mandara was uprooted by both combined. Many powerful herbs were dropped into the ocean to flavour the nectar or amrita. The Gods then got Vasuki, the serpent who lived in the nether world to churn the ocean as a rope. The Gods had to take the tail end and the asuras took the head end. The asuras became weak by the hot breath of Vasuki. The churning went on and the mountain began to sink into the bottom of the ocean. Lord Vishnu took the avatar or form of a large tortoise or kurma, dived into the ocean and supported the mountain Mandara.

As the churning progressed fourteen gems,the moon, the parijata tree, the elephant Airavata, the cow Kamadhenu, Varuni, the goddess of wine, the apsaras, the seven headed white horse Uchchaisvaras, the Goddess Lakshmi, a conch, a mace , a jewel called Kaustubha ,Kalpavriksha,halahala a poison which Lord Shiva consumed, sharanga ,a bow, Nidra or sloth, Jyestha or Goddess of misfortune and finally Dhanwantari , god of ayurveda, emerged  who held the pot of amrita.  A scuffle followed for the pot and Lord Vishnu appeared in the form of Mohini, a beautiful woman to distract the asuras. They forgot all about the pot and decided to allow Mohini to decide as to who will have the nectar first. The Gods got to drink first but Mohini disappeared with the pot once they had finished ! A fierce battle ensued and the devas or Gods won. As the Gods were drinking the amrita one asura had disguised himself as a deva and had drunk some of the nectar sitting next to Surya, the sun God and Chandra, the moon God. But they detected him and told Lord Vishnu who immediately cut him into two parts. The two parts remained animate because of the effect of amrita and Lord Brahma converted them to two planets in the heavens;Rahu and Ketu. Many versions of this myth exist but they all relate to the churning of the ocean for the pot of amrita.

       It is also believed that some drops of the amrita fell on four places when the devas had snatched the pot of amrita from the asuras ; Haridwar, Prayag, Nasik and Ujjain. Various depictions of this story have been made in India and countries of Asia over the centuries.

Image result for samudramanthan

Samudramanthana,Angkor Wat,12th century,Cambodia.

By Michael Gunther (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

File:Barattage de l'ocean de lait.jpg

Samudramanthana, Prasat Phnom Da, sandstone, first half of the 12th century,  Musée Guimet, Paris

By Ddalbiez (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

An interesting depiction of Samudramanthana; Razmnama is an abridged translation of the Mahabharata written in Persian at the behest of the Mughal Emperor Akbar and dates to around 1598–99. The original book is no longer available as the pages from the original Razmnama are scattered around the world

File:Churning of the ocean - Manthan.jpg

Samudramanthana, Razmnama folio, 16th century.

By Fattu (16th century) (attr. to) (Razmnama) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Depicted below is another   painting on paper of the Samudramanthana episode from  an album showing  Vishnu as Kurma supporting Mount Mandara with him and seated in padmasana on top.

File:Vishnu as Kūrma supporting Mount Mandara with him also seated in padmasana on top..jpg

Samudramanthana, Mughal painting, 17th century, British Museum, U.K.

By Mughal style [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Below is a page depicting Samudramanthana from a dispersed Dasavatara set and/or Bhagavata Purana (Story of Lord Vishnu) from Himachal Pradesh.


Samudramnathana,painting, 18th century,Himachal Pradesh.

By unknown, India, Himachal Pradesh, Basohli or Chamba [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Below is a watercolour painting on paper of Samudramanthana, this event took place during the second incarnation of Visnu as Kurma, the tortoise. The painting shows Visnu seated on the top of Mount Mandara, here represented as a pole. He holds a discus, sword, conch and lotus in his four hands and has a golden nimbus around his head. The pole rests on the back of Kurma who swims on the surface of the ocean. Around the pole is wrapped the snake Vasuki. On one side the snake is pulled by the gods and on the other it is pulled by the Danava’s. On the shore of the ocean are the objects which have emerged during the churning, which include Laksmi, Varuni, the conch, the elephant mount of Brahma, Airavata, Kamadhenu,the wish fulfilling cow and the vessel holding amrita which bestows immortality on the drinker. A crescent moon is shown in the top left corner of the painting.

File:Samudramanthana, the Churning of the Ocean..jpg

Samudramanthana, watercolour painting, 19th century.

By Company School [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Image result for samudramanthan

Samudramanthana, 19th century,Swaminarayan temple, Bhuj.

By AroundTheGlobe (Swaminarayan Sampraday [1]) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

File:Kurma avatar.jpg

Samudramanthana,Bas relief,1850, Neelkanth temple,Uttarakhand

By Maisey, Frederick Charles (1825-1892) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Illustration to a ‘Vishnu Avatara’ series,19th century.

By Unknown (production) –, Public Domain,


            Below is a detailed painting on paper depicting  the Samudramanthana episode. At the centre of the composition is mount Mandara, identified by an inscription in English. As usual in South Indian painting, at the top of the mountain a temple’s golden kalasha is visible. Just above it, Vishnu is emerging half bust from a cloud, carrying the amrita vessel in his hands. The densely forested Mandara, inhabited by gandharvas playing musical instruments, rests on the Kurma, duly identified by an inscription: ‘Kurm raja‘. Coiled around the mountain is the serpent Vasuki, identified as ‘Vasuka’, whose tail end is held by the dikpalas, here identified as ‘Asuras‘ and the head by the asuras, here labelled ‘Suras‘. Both dikpalas and asuras stand in the ocean’s water filled with fish. The dikpalas are headed by Indra easily recognizable by the vajra in his hand and by the thousand eyes on his body. He is followed by the two-headed Agni, the bushy-moustached Yama, and by Nirriti, Varuna, Vayu, Kubera, Ishana, Surya and Candra. On the opposite side are nine asuras, enveloped by the dark fumes spewed out by Vasuki. In the foreground are the many precious objects which emerged from the depths of the sea: the horse Uchchaihshravas, here depicted with only one instead of the usual seven heads, the white elephant Airavata, the fire, the tulsi plant, a chariot, the goddess Lakshmi seated on a lotus , identified by an inscription: ‘Lakshmee, goddess of abundance’, the parijata tree, Surabhi, Soma, a portly man seated on a throne carrying a book, identified by an inscription as ‘Daruma god of water’, possibly Varuna, five precious stones, yet another tree, possibly the kalpavriksha, the apsaras, one of whom, Tilottama is immediately carried away by the asura brothers Sunda and Upasunda, and finally a goddess with a broom, possibly Jyeshtha or Alakshmi, sister of Lakshmi and goddess of misfortune. It should be noted that the list of the objects retrieved from the ocean varies according to the texts. The variety presented here is especially large, as it includes the throne, the fire, the tulsi, the chariot, and last but not least Alakshmi. It is also unusual to find the story of Tilottama, Sunda and Upasunda hinted at in this context. Yet another remarkable feature is the presence of Varuna (?). It is generally Varuni the goddess of wine who appears in the renderings of this incident, and another strange omission is that of Dhanvantari, the physician of the gods, who appears with the amrita vessel in his hands. As noted above, in this painting it is Vishnu who carries the amrita to the devas. In the left upper corner of the painting Vishnu as Mohini, identified by an inscription ‘Narayana’, is doling out the amrita to the assembled gods seated opposite the asuras. While she is busy, she is distracted by the asuras clamouring for their share. In that moment, Rahu seated among the devas, and anxious to get his share of amrita, is discovered and decapitated by Vishnu’s chakra. The story continues in the upper right corner: the gods and the asuras are engaged in a fight, and immediately to the left, Śhiva swallows the halahala poison, shown as a blue line on his throat, under the watchful gaze of the gods and Parvati.

File:Sagar mathan.jpg

Samudramanthana, detailed painting, 1820s, South India,British Museum, U.K.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Image result for samudramanthan

Samudramanthana, painting, 1910.

By M A Joshi and company [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons




References :

  • Epics, myths and legends of India/Thomas, P, Bombay : D.B. Taraporevala and Sons.



Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

© author


Kamadhenu in art : bovine goddess

           Kamadhenu or Surabhi is the divine, wish fulfilling bovine goddess, mother of all cows in Hindu mythology. She is wish-fulfilling and can grant desires. She is depicted as a white cow containing various deities within her body. As per the Mahabharata she emerged from the churning of the ocean or samudramanthana in order to acquire amrita for the saptarishis, or seven sages. She was ordered by Brahma to give milk for yagnas. Kamadhenu is also said to belong to sage Vashista;provides milk to her sage-masters and warriors if needed. In another part of the epic the Anushasana parva says that Surabhi was born from the belch of Daksha after he drank amrita. Surabhi or Kamadhenu gave birth to many golden cows, the kapila cows who were called the mothers of the world. The Udyoga parva says Brahma drank too much amrita and some of it was split out from which Kamadhenu emerged. The Ramayana calls Surabhi or Kamadhenu as the daughter of sage Kashyapa and his wife Krodhavarsha, the daughter of Daksha. But as per the Puranas, Kamadhenu is the daughter of Daksha and the wife of Kashyapa.The Harivamsa, an appendix of the Mahabharata, calls Kamadhenu, the mother of amrita,,Brahmins, cows and Rudras.  As per the Devi Bhagavata Purana Krishna created Kamadhenu when Radha and Krishna were thirsting for milk. A calf Manoratha was created from its left side; the milk pot from which they were drinking fell and spilled which became the Ksheersagara, the cosmic milk ocean.

Kamadhenu  is believed to reside in Goloka, the world of cows and the netherworld, Patala. Nandini, Shabala are said to be her daughters or other names of Kamadhenu.

      Kamadhenu is the sacred cow and a form of the Devi and a source of prosperity. Many Gods are believed to reside in the body of Kamadhenu and she is often depicted as such; the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are on her forehead,her four legs are the Vedas, shoulders the fire God Agnin and wind God, Vayu, eyes are Surya and Chandra, the sun and moon God, her legs are the Himalayas. In another reresentation she has the body of a white cow, a woman’s head with a crown, an eagle’s wings and a peacock’s tail.

          She is also shown accompanying Dattatreya and represents the pancha bhuta or five elements.

File:Kamadhenu, the Wish-Granting Cow, South India possibly Karnataka, 15th to 17th century - Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art - DSC09156.JPG

Kamadhenu,  possibly Karnataka, 15th to 17th century, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art,Kansas City, Missouri,USA.

By Daderot (Daderot) [CC0 or CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

File:Kamadhenu Uchchaisravas.jpg

Kamadhenu with Uchchaisravas,the horse and the parijata tree, painting, 18th century,Philadelphia Museum, USA.

By unknown author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

       A beautiful depiction of Kamadhenu in art is shown below; a painting of a rishi(sage), the parijata tree and Kamadhenu.The sage sits in an architectural frame, seated on a tiger-skin and with yogabandha. In his right hand he holds a rosary. To his right are his water-pot and staff while to his left is a lotah with bilva leaves. In the centre of the page is the parijata tree, with many different types of leaves and flowers. To the left, is the wish-fulfilling Kamadhenu or Surabhi. It has a female human crowned head, the body of a cow (with anklets),  wings and a peacock’s tail.

Image result for kamadhenu images

Kamadhenu with a rishi and the parijata tree,painting, 1820.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Image result for kamadhenu images

Kamadhenu, painting, 19th century, probably Nathadwara,Rajasthan

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


File:Cow as a mother.jpg

Kamadhenu, Illustration,Mahabharata, probably early 20th century.

By Ramanarayanadatta astri ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons



References :

  • Epics, myths and legends of India/Thomas, P, Bombay : D.B. Taraporevala and Sons.


Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

© author


Surya in art : the God of light

         Surya is the Sun God or God of light. There are many myths about heavenly bodies. The worship of the Sun in very ancient.The Sun is worshipped in many cultures. The Rigveda has hymns dedicated to the Sun proclaiming it as the only God.The Puranas refer to sun as Aditya, son of sage Kashyapa and Aditi. Different names of Surya in ancient Indian literature include Aditya, Arka, Bhanu, Savitr, Pushan, Ravi, Martanda, Mitra and Vivasvan. Savitr refers to one that rises and sets, Aditya means one with splendour, Mitra refers to the Sun as friend of all mankind.  Pushan refers to Sun as illuminator that helped the devas defeat the asuras who use darknessThe term Arka is found more commonly in temple names of north India and in the eastern parts of India. The 13th century Konarak Temple in Odisha comprises of Kona and arka ; ie. Arka in the corner. 

     The Suryavamsha or solar dynasty of kings take its name from the God of light, the Sun. The Swastika, a Hindu symbol is believed to be solar in origin. It means to be and be well.  It indicates that though life is a bewildering maze,  the path of light runs through it.The mystic sound of Aum or Om can also  be linked to the Sun. It not only represents the solar fire but also the Trinity of Gods in Hinduism. The syllable is written inside a circle which represents the orb of the Sun.

         In art depictions Surya is shown as a dark-red man with three eyes and four arms, holding lotuses,riding a chariot drawn by seven horses, each depicting a day of the week. The seven horses are also named after the seven meters of Sanskrit prosody, Gayatri, Brihati, Ushnih, Jagati, Trishtubha, Anushtubha and Pankti. His charioteer is Arun, the dawn, brother of Garuda and has no legs. The Gayatri mantra is dedicated to the Sun.

     Hindu texts attribute different characteristics to Surya. The Brihatsamhita describes Surya having two hands, wearing a crown. The Vishnudharmottara  describes Surya with four hands, two with lotuses, a staff and a pen and palm leaf in the others. Two goddesses of dawn, Usha and Pratyusha flank him, shooting arrows, challenging darkness. The iconography of Surya varied over time; it has shown Greek , Persian influences.

           Surya is part of the navagraha or nine planets in the Hindu zodiac system. Hindu astrology is based on the Sun similar to the Greek system.   In yoga, the Surya namaskar is a salutation to the Sun, comprising of twelve different postures or asanas.

Image result for surya images in art God

Surya and the navagraha;nine planets,  Gupta period (4th to 6th century), Allahabad. 

By Joseph David Beglar [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

File:The Sun God Surya LACMA M.79.189.9 (1 of 2).jpg

Surya, copper alloy sculpture,late 8th century,Central Java, Indonesia,LACMA,USA.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Image result for surya images in art God

Surya, Pala period, 11th century .

By Gryffindor (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The most famous Surya temple in India  is the Konarak temple in Odisha. The temple architecture is built as a grand chariot with twelve wheels pulled by seven horses. Other sun temples include the one at Modhera, Gujarat, Arasavalli, Andhra Pradesh, Kanakaditya temple,Maharashtra,Galtaji’s temple, Jaipur,Kattarmal Surya mandir, Almora,Uttarakhand.

      The sun temple known as Jayaditya was constructed at Bharukaccha district (earlier known as Bharuch) in Gujarat by a Gurjar King, Jayabhatta II, the Gurjars being ardent sun-worshippers. Another temple Jaggaswami Surya temple at Bhinmal (now in Rajasthan)was also made in the medieval period.

Image result for surya images in art God

Surya deul, a sun temple in the shape of a chariot, 13th century,Konarak, Odisha.

CC BY-SA 3.0,

       Depicted below is the Surya Majapahit or The Sun of Majapahit ,the emblem commonly found in temples and ruins from Majapahit era (1293 – 1500s). Some scholars suggest that this sun disc was the royal emblem of Majapahit, probably  the coat of arms of Majapahit empire. The sun disk is stylised with carved rays of light; surrounded by eight Lokapala or dikpala gods, the eight Hindu gods that guarded eight cardinal points of the universe.

Surya Majapahit.png

Surya Majapahit, late 13th – 16th century,National Museum of Indonesia, Jakarta.

By Gunkarta Gunawan Kartapranata – अपना काम, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Image result for surya images in art God

Surya,painting on a paper,1800.


Surya the sun deity driving in his chariot. Gouache drawing. Wellcome V0045217.jpg

Surya in his chariot. Gouache drawing, Wellcome images,U.K.

By, CC BY 4.0,

By unknown Poona artist [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Image result for surya images in art God

Surya,schist, Karnataka, 12th century,LACMA,USA.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

          Surya is celebrated as a deity in Buddhist works of art and religious significance, such as the ancient works attributed to Emperor Ashoka. Surya is depicted in the Mahabodhi temple in Bodhgaya, Bihar. In some Buddhist artwork, his chariot is depicted as being drawn by four horses. The doors of Buddhist monasteries of Nepal show him, along with Chandra, the moon god, symbolically with Surya depicted as a red circle with rays. Shown below is a Surya mandala painting from Tibet,most probably from the 14th century.

File:Mandala of the Sun God Surya.jpg

Surya mandala,painting on cloth,14th century, Nepal.

Kitaharasa [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Painting below depicts Surya receiving worship from the multitudes;  Surya on his chariot surrounded by attendants with smaller figures at left in obeisance.


Surya, Tanjore painting,19th Century. 

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


File:Eight-Fold Screen Painting of the Sun, Moon and Peach Trees 01.jpg

Eight-fold screen painting of the Sun, moon and peach trees,19th century, South Korea.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Image result for sun painting images free

The Sun,painting, 1911.

Edvard Munch [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Runner of Sky - God Surya.jpg

Surya,illustration, 1925.

By Ramanarayanadatta astri –, Public Domain,

Boats under the fading sun at Key West,photograph,21st century, Florida,USA.



References :

  • Epics, myths and legends of India/Thomas, P, Bombay : D.B. Taraporevala and Sons.

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

© author


Vayu in art : God of the wind

      Vayu is the God of the wind. He has been depicted in art with splendour and grace. He is the father of Bhima, who played a major role in the epic Mahabharata. He is also known as Vata, Pavana and Prana. Because of the connection of air with the process of breathing he is also called the Deity of Life or Mukhya Vayu or Mukhya Prana.

     Pavan is a common Hindu name. Pavana played an important role in Anjana‘s begetting Hanuman as her child so Hanuman is also called Pavanaputra or Vayuputra or son of Vayu. He is also believed to have born in Kaliyuga as Madhavacharya  near Udipi in Karnataka in 1238 A.D. He propounded the philosophy of Dwaita vedanta. The Upanishads laud Vayu through different statements and illustrations of his greatness. 

    In the Buddhism of the Far East, Vayu is one of the twelve Devas, as guardian deities, who are found in or around Buddhist shrines.

         Shown below is a painting of the astadikpala Vayu. He is depicted with a crown and is four-armed and riding on his antelope vahana. In his upper two hands he carries a pennant and club . His lower two hands are held in abhayamudra  and varadamudra . He is accompanied by two attendants , one  with a club  and another with a parasol held high above him .

Vayu Deva.jpg

Vayu with attendants, painting, 1820,South India, British Museum, U.K.

By Unknown –, Public Domain,


File:Vayu, the god of wind Statue at Gokarneshwor Mahadev Temple Premises, Gokarna, Kathmandu.jpg

Vayu, sculpture,Gokarneshwor Mahadev Temple, 16th century,Kathmandu, Nepal.

By Suraj Belbase (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Depicted below is Vayu, god of the wind and guardian of the north-west, riding on an antelope, his vahana. He is clad in royal garments, has a green complexion, and is two-armed. Over his right shoulder he carries a disc-pointed staff , and with his left hand he holds the reins.

File:Vayu, the god of the wind and guardian of the north-west, riding on a deer..jpg

Vayu,painting, early 19th century,South India.

By Unknown (production) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons



Vayu, 19th cenyury , Tempera on mica, Tanjore, Chennai Museum, Tamil Nadu.

By Anonymous painting [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons



References :


Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

© author


Agni in art : God of fire

      Agni is the God of fire. He is an important vedic deity in Hinduism. He is revered as dwelling in evry house. He is considered a mediator between Godas and humans, so he is present at every important 0ccasion. He is mentioned as a son of Brahma. He is also said to be the child of Dyaus and Prithvi. He is also thought to be the son of Sage Kashyap and Aditi. Many hymns have  been dedicated to him. Fire is an important part of Hindu ceremonies like weddings; the saptapadi and part of Diwali as the diya or lamp. Agni is part of all pujas as aarti.

Image result for vayu

Rangoli with lamps, Diwali, 21st century,Hyderabad.

By JimReeves on Flickr –, CC BY 2.0,

    Agni is found in south-east corners of Hindu temples. Agni as fire has been one of the five inert impermanent constituents Dhatus, along with space Akasa, water Ap, air, Vayu and earth,Prithvi. Agni is thought to exist on earth as fire, in atmosphere as lightning and in the sky as sun. This presence connects him as the messenger between Gods and humans in  Vedic thought.  Agni in his three forms, namely fire, lightning and the sun is symbolised by giving his icon three heads or three legs. He  is shown wearing a garland of fruits or flowers, symbolic of the offerings made into the fire.

     Agni is depicted as red skinned, riding a ram with a halo of flames emerging form his crown. he is sometimes shown bearded. He has a rosary in one hand and  an axe, torch, fan in others. Agni is also called saptajihva; one having seven tongues, one who consumes sacrifical butter rapidly. He emits seven rays of light from his body;the number seven also represents the colours of the rainbow in his form as the sun.

     The term Agni is part of Buddhist texts but not like that of  vedic God but in a metaphorical sense of inner heat; and appears as Agni-kumara in the theory of rebirth in Jainism. Agni is one of the fifty one Buddhist deities found in Tibetan Buddhism mandala for the Medicine Buddha.

     Goddess Swaha is Agni’s wife. Her name is pronounced with offerings such as butter and seeds poured into the fire during ceremonies.  Swaha is the daughter  of Daksha. She loves Agni  and marries him by impersonating the wives of the sapatarishis whom Agni is besotted to. She is one of the many divine mothers of Kartikeya or Skanda.

File:Karttikeya and Agni - Circa 1st Century CE - Katra Keshav Dev - ACCN 40-2883 - Government Museum - Mathura 2013-02-23 5717.JPG

Kartikeya and Agni, 1st Century, Government Museum, Mathura, Uttar Pradesh.

Biswarup Ganguly [GFDL ( or CC BY 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

File:Madhya pradesh, agni, dio del fuoco, x sec.JPG

Agni, sandstone sculpture, 10th century,Madhya Pradesh,Musée Guimet,Paris.

I, Sailko [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Image result for agni images

Agni, wood carving, Wellcome images, U.K.

See page for author [CC BY 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

File:9th century Agni god sculpture LACMA collection.jpg

Agni,copper alloy sculpture,9th century, West Bengal, LACMA, USA.

By LACMA permission reads, “The Los Angeles County Museum of Public Art has released some 20,000 PD images of their collection” [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
Picture: Agni 18th century miniature.jpg

Agni , miniature painting, 18th century.

By Unknown – – accessible 9. January 2013 as: , containing the picture at:, Public Domain,

File:Agni and consort.jpg

Agni with his consort Swaha, miniature painting,1800, British Museum, U.K.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Image result for agni images

Agni,1830,painting,Tamil Nadu, British Museum, U.K.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Image result for agni images

Agni, engraving by Charles Etienne Pierre, 19th century.

By Bardel, Louis Thomas (1804-p.1841) (after) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Below is shown an interesting depiction , a gouache painting on paper. Agni is on his ram mount and accompanied by two attendants. Agni is depicted with seven arms, two heads and three legs. He has seven fiery tongues with which he licks sacrificial butter. The attributes held in his hands included an axe and prayer beads.
File:Agni Poona painting.jpg

Agni with two attendants, painting, early 19th century.

By unknown Poona artist [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Agni as medicine Buddha,15th-century, Tibetan Buddhist art.

By Unknown – 5AF8TlDRx8MKDQ at Google Cultural Institute maximum zoom level, Public Domain,

References :

  • Epics, myths and legends of India/Thomas, P, Bombay : D.B. Taraporevala and Sons.

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

© author