This Kachni-style work from the Mithila region in Bihar, India, shows the Hindu god Vishnu reclining on the cosmic ocean of ultimate reality, which exists outside time and space. The multi-headed serpent Ananta serves as his bed, while the four-armed god’s dutiful wife, Lakshmi, massages his foot. The lotus blossom that sprouts from Vishnu’s navel supports Brahma, a creator god who will fashion the universe, thus beginning the cycle of a new age.
Religious scenes such as this one would have traditionally appeared as murals in and on village homes. Bachni Devi here makes creative use of the rectangular format of the paper support, filling much of the sheet with the body of the coiling Ananta, whose name means “the endless one.” The fish in the borders are an appropriate accompaniment to this oceanic scene. Depicted as if swimming continuously around the central panel, they underscore the cyclic nature of creation.
figures; fish; flowers; Hinduism; patterns; water; narrative
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