Vaishnava Iconology in Nepal [Photo gallery]
These plates originate from the book "Vaishnava Iconology in Nepal" by Pratapaditya Pal which represents a study of both Vaishnava religion and art in Nepal in a historical perspective. The primary source consists of images or icons portraying Vaishnava themes, but both epigraphical and literary materials have been used to reconstruct the history of the religion as well as to interpret the icons discussed.
It is generally held that Shaivism and Buddhism are the two major religions systems prevailing in Nepal. In the course of our study of Nepali culture enough evidence was found to believe that Vaishnavism too enjoys considerable popularity in the country. It was also felt that Vishnuism in Nepal not only has a distinctive character but also preserves traditions and concepts that are no longer familiar in India ; hence the justification of the present work.
Vaishnava tradition in Nepal associates the creation of the valley of the Bagmati with Vishnu. The Vaishnavas believe that the gorge at Chauvar in the south of the valley, through which the river Bagmati rushes out and which according to the Buddhists was cleft by the sword of Manjusri, was created by Vishnu’s discus. According to a medieval inscription, the country of Nepal is situated in Vasuki-kshetra (Vasuki being closely associated with Vishnu) in the Himavatkhanda of Bharatavarsa. Curiously also the names of the two principal rivers of the valley, Bagmati (Vagmati) and Vishnumati are associated with Vaishnavism.
Archaeologically, the history of the religion goes back to the fifth century. The two earliest dated icons, portraying Vaishnava themes—and, indeed, these remain the earliest known dated sculptures in the country—are the Vishnu Vikranta reliefs consecrated by king Manadeva in honour of his mother. Both images are inscribed with identical inscriptions, which state that king Manadeva established in a temple an image of Vishnu Vikranta, who is admired by the Suras and the Munis and who is the lord of all the worlds, for the incessant increase of the piety of his mother. Both the inscriptions are dated in 389 corresponding to A.D. 467.
Gallery: 110 images
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