www.IndianMiniaturePaintings.co.uk - Folio from a Dasvatara series: Matsya Avatara. Late Mughal style at Delhi, circa 1800. Opaque watercolour with gold on wasli. 29.3 x 20.3cm

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Folio from a Dasvatara series: Matsya Avatara. Late Mughal style at Delhi, circa 1800. Opaque watercolour with gold on wasli. 29.3 x 20.3cm

Vishnu as half man half fish.  Seen emerging from fish’s mouth, carrying mace, (unusually flaming) discus and holding a lotus flower. He grabs the hair ofdemon Shankhasura who stole the four Vedas (ancient sacred Hindu texts) and absconded with them to the sea bed - the asura is about to be pulled by his hair from the safety of an enormous conch shell in which he has been hiding with the sacred booty. Four revered holy men dressed in fine clothing and jewellery look on with hands in the mudra (position) of deference; iconography here is unusual with the four Vedas instead of being held by Vishnu instead placed hovering in the landscape.

Ref: 000842

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Above: gilt detail reflecting light

Images and text © Peter Blohm