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7. Lakshmi-Narayana enthroned
dated Samvat 1845 (1788 C.E.)
Opaque watercolor heightened with gold on paper
8 ¼ x 8 ⅛ in. (21 x 20.7 cm.)
Lakshmi-Narayana enthroned

Hearst & Hearst, Boston, early 1980s.
Private Boston collection.

Vishnu the Preserver appears here in his Chaturbhuja (four-armed) form, enthroned beside his consort Lakshmi. The god’s identity is revealed by his blue-toned skin and vibrant yellow dhoti as well as the objects he carries in each of his four hands: a discus (chakra), mace (gada), conch (shankha), and lotus. Both deities are illustrated in an opulent manner–garbed in vibrant colors and lavish pearl, emerald, and gold accessories–which follows the typical convention for depicting Vishnu as a king and Lakshmi as the goddess of wealth and prosperity.

Perhaps most notable, however, is the placement of the divine couple within a yantra—a rare practice in Indian miniature painting. Yantras are tantric diagrams used in homes and temples to aid in meditation and can be of several types. The present painting displays a pujayantra, which is invoked in the worship of specific deities. Vishnu and Lakshmi are encircled within a border surrounded by eight lotus petals pointing in the cardinal and intermediate directions. Yantras often include lotus petals—a symbol of purity, transcendence, and fertility—in various numbers, but with eight being one of the most common. The lotus is then enclosed in a square with four gates–sacred doorways also pointing in the four cardinal directions—a standard convention in the representation of yantras.

The painting’s verso is inscribed with a nagari couplet, the first line of which states that it is said that whoever chants Raghubir’s name (an incarnation of Vishnu also known as Lord Ram) shall be absolved of their sins, remain happy, and not fear death. The second line expresses that Lakshmi-Narayana (Vishnu with Lakshmi) resides in the heart.

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