Afghanistan or northern Pakistan, Hindu Shahi dynasty, ca. 7th to 10th century CE. A carved stone relief depicting "Narasimha" - the half human and half lion fourth avatar that Vishnu becomes in order to kill the asura by the name of "Hiranyakashipu", with a flowing mane, highly decorated in two beaded necklaces of varying lengths, beaded armbands, and bracelets, and wielding a roped weapon - suggesting that this sculpture depicts the moment when the leonine faced, curly maned figure slayed the demon Hiranyakasipu! This image was created after the cult of Narasimha had assumed regal status in India under Vakataka. Custom stand. Size: 6.125" W x 10.25" H (15.6 cm x 26 cm); 11.125" H (28.3 cm) on stand.
According to Hindu mythology, the god Brahma told the demon Hiranyakashipu that he was invincible and could not be killed by either a human or animal, by day or night, and that no weapon could rival his powers. However, his son Prahlada was loyal to Vishnu, despite the fact that his father threatened his life because of this. One day, the demon Naramshimha challenging Prahlada kicked a stone pillar and asked, "If your god is so omnipresent, does he exist in this pillar as well?" At this point, Vishnu emerged from the pillar in the form of the man-lion Naramsimha and fiercely killed the demon!
Interestingly, these sculptures were oftentimes painted, and their polychrome finish would have added great drama and life to such icons when viewed and worshipped by devotees in a softly lit temple sanctuary - creating a palpable divine presence.
Provenance: Ex-Private New Jersey collection
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