By Amy Underdown, London, UK
Although he is one deity in the Hindu holy trinity, Vishnu, like the lead singer in any modern boyband, has far greater following than his counterparts Bramha and Shiva. Whilst this cannot be put down to any musical capability (that we know of!), Vishnu is instead celebrated because of his constructive, rather than destructive, powers. Vishnu represents eternal life and with his by no means easy-sounding role of sustaining the universe as a whole, it is no wonder that Hindu households will often have several Vishnu statues.
This reverence should be reflected in the treatment of said idols. Whilst it is perfectly acceptable to keep statues of Hindu deities in the home, they must be cleaned and positioned correctly in order to show respect. Any Hindu statue, or murti, should be kept in a special place, ideally a worshipping table decorated with incense, flowers and food. Even better, this table is best kept in a separate and most north-easterly room, known as a pooja room. However, it is unlikely that many followers of Vishnu, or any other Hindu deity, happen to have a spare room lying around, so it is generally accepted that you should put your statue in a place of importance and ensure that it never has its back turned on the room. One other thing to remember is that whilst it is great to have any symbol of Vishnu, only idols over the size of the thumb are big enough to be worshipped.
Such worship is said to reap important results, as Lord Vishnu mediates all disputes involving humans, deities, and demons. As the figurehead of universal peace and preserver of the world, his blessings grant happiness, protection from evil energies, and prosperity – so maybe it is no wonder why he is a popular choice of deity to bring into the home! This authority is represented through Vishnu’s four arms, which each symbolize his vast powers. He is also often seen resting on the serpent god, Sheshnaag, who has one thousand heads. Sheshnaag is in turn surrounded by a vast ocean of milk, which represents the purity of man’s consciousness. This purity transcends into Vishnu’s home, which is called Vaikuntha, which is free of sadness and poverty (certainly a lovely-sounding place to reside, so long as all thousand-headed serpents are removed.)
One thing that sets Vishnu even further apart from other Hindu deities is the fact that he is very often not alone. Whilst we now know that Vishnu is a vastly popular deity – even less surprising knowing that he promises happiness and a dispute-free life – it is not just this reason that other idols are often in his presence. One god with whom he is often depicted is his consort Lakshmi. Most often portrayed in brass, Vishnu and Lakshmi are seen as a fitting pair as Vishnu is in charge of good governance of the world, which goes hand in hand with Lakshmi’s role as the goddess of wealth. Just and proper wealth generation and distribution are seen as critical facets of Vishnu’s goal of maintaining peace and happiness for all.
Another depiction of Vishnu is as part of the Harihara or Shankaranarayana. These statues combine both Shiva and Vishnu into a single body. This representation of these two deities is as important as it is aesthetically pleasing. It embodies a coming together of two schools of thought which dedicate themselves towards either Vishnu or Shiva. Whilst certain groups still prioritise one deity over the other, this bringing together shows a unity through art and a recognition of the important powers of both Hindu gods. This can be shown through classic marble or brass, but sometimes colours are added to emphasise both the differences and similarities of the gods. Vishnu is sometimes crafted in the colours of dark rain clouds in order to associate his being with that of water, the most crucial element of life and survival. In these instances, Shiva is often shown in white to represent the colour of ash, the symbol of destruction and transiency of life.
With such great meanings and bountiful depictions, it is easy to forget the personal relationship that one can form with their statue. When treated with respect – which essentially means to keep your statue clean and correctly positioned - a Vishnu idol can bring personal peace and prosperity into the home.
For more beautiful Vishnu statues please visit - Vishnu Sculptures