South India, late Chola Period (900-13th Century)
Overall - h:55.20 cm (h:21 11/16 inches)
Gift of Dr. Norman Zaworski
According to Hindu legend, the god Brahma granted King Hiranyakashipu a remarkable boon stipulating that the king could not be killed by man or beast, indoors or outdoors, on earth or in the heavens, by day or night, or with any known weapon. His power was so threatening to the gods that they appealed to Vishnu for help. Vishnu devised an ingenious solution to circumvent the conditions of Brahma's boon: he came to earth as half-man and half-beast, occupied the threshold of the palace, raised the king into the air at the precise moment of dusk, and tore him apart with lion's claws.
Seated with a yoga band around his knees to aid his meditative posture, this powerful image depicts Vishnu as Narasimha (man-lion avatar). He would have held the typical discus and conch shell in his two rear hands.