Skip to main content

Featured Post

2023 - The Year That Was

Places impact you for a variety of reasons. And the same place impacts different people in different ways. This is especially true when it comes to spiritual experiences, where every single person’s experience is unique. And personally, every spiritual experience is unique, the same person can have different deeply spiritual experiences at different places, at different times. This thought has emerged because of my own experiences over the years, but especially so this year, with different and unique experiences at various places I have visited recently. I began this year with a visit to Baroda (Vadodara) with friends. It was meant to be a relaxed trip, a touristy trip, with our sons. We enjoyed ourselves to the hilt, but the highlight of that trip was a visit to the Lakulisha temple at Pavagadh. It was the iconography of the temple that I connected with, and I spent a few hours simply lost in the details of the figures carved around the temple. There was an indefinable connect with

Vaikuntha Vishnu at Masroor

I am back, after two whole weeks offline! It has been rather difficult to get back to writing, with so many thoughts churning inside my head, but, making a monumental effort, here I am, continuing with the last place I wrote about before I left – the Masroor Rock Cut Temples.

We saw this image at Masroor, and neither the guide, nor friends I asked after I returned, had any clue as to who it was. The figure looks male, but what about the side faces? Those were definitely not human! I had seen something similar in a Vishwaroopa figure of Vishnu, but that one had many more faces. Besides, who were those two at the bottom he had his hands on?

It turns out that I was partly right. This is indeed Vishnu, but known as Vaikuntha Vishnu, or Vaikuntha Chaturmurthi. The three heads we can see are – human, boar (varaha) and lion (narasimha); and the fourth, Kapila or demoniac head isn’t visible. Though there are many explanations of the significance of this icon, the one thing that stands out is the universality of Vishnu, the lord of all creatures – be it human, animal, semi-human, or even demoniac.

What about those two figures on the side? Those, it turns out, are anthropomorphic representations of his weapons – the Gada (mace) and Chakra (disc). On the left is Gada Devi (depicted as a woman), and on the right, Chakrapurusha (male). In his other two hands, he must have once held the lotus and Conch, but they are no longer visible. Also, the tiny indentation between his feet might have once represented Bhu Devi, or goddess earth.

Interestingly, this representation is most often seen in Kashmir, and earliest such icons are from the Gupta period (6th century CE). Masroor, being in Himachal, is close enough to Kashmir, to have been influenced by its traditions and iconography. Vaikuntha Vishnu worship was also prevalent in Central India (the Lakshman temple in Khajuraho for example) during the 10th century. The Masroor temples date back to the 7th and 8th centuries, fitting into this period. It would be interesting to trace the route sculptures and religions iconography travelled across the country, wouldn’t it?

This sculpture is sadly, too weathered and damaged to see and appreciate the details. Click here, and head to the website of the National Museum, Delhi, to see a beautiful representation of Vaikuntha Vishnu from the 9th Century AD. Hover on the image to see details.

You can also see this representation at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (or the Prince of Wales Museum) Mumbai, both, in the sculpture as well as Bronze Gallery.

So, why did I choose to begin my writing with this icon? The reason is a course I have recently joined – the PG Diploma in Indian Aesthetics at Jnanapravaha, Mumbai. The lectures I have attended so far have been remarkably thought provoking, and my Wandering Mind has found many more paths to wander on. The very first lecture I attended opened my eyes to this beautiful concept of Vaikuntha Vishnu, and it seemed only appropriate that I begin my post with it, before moving on to the next site we visited on my #summertrip.


  1. Ah, you too are attending this course - how lucky you are :-)

    1. Yes, Anuradha! I too have joined this... and am really enjoying it! next time you are here, you should attend one of the public lectures they have...

  2. Interesting information. Good luck on your course.

  3. So nice to see another post from you! I hope you continue to enjoy the course you are taking - it is certainly a perfect fit with the work you do for your blog.

    1. Thank you so much, Natalie!! One of the reasons I chose this course was because the content fit in with what I usually write.... though the first few lectures have brought up so many interesting thoughts, I dont know what to write about... plus, I want to revisit and rewrite all that I have written about earlier!!


Post a Comment

Thanks so much for stopping by. Please leave a comment for me so that I will know you have been here....

Popular posts from this blog

Gokarna Part II – The Five Lingams

We continued our Gokarna trip by visiting four other Shiva temples in the vicinity, all connected to the same story of Gokarna. The story of Gokarna mentions the Mahabaleshwara Lingam as the one brought from Kailas by Ravana, and kept at this place on the ground by Ganesha. (See my earlier post- Gokarna – Pilgrimage and Pleasure). However, the story does not end here. It is believed that, in his anger, Ravana flung aside the materials which covered the lingam- the casket, its lid, the string around the lingam, and the cloth covering it. All these items became lingams as soon as they touched the ground. These four lingams, along with the main Mahabaleshwara lingam are collectively called the ‘ Panchalingams’ . These are: Mahabaleshwara – the main lingam Sajjeshwar – the casket carrying the lingam. This temple is about 35 Kms from Karwar, and is a 2 hour drive from Gokarna. Dhareshwar – the string covering the lingam. This temple is on NH17, about 45 Kms south of Gokarna. Gunavanteshw

Rama Temple, Gokarna

To my right , the waves rush to the shore, eager to merge with the sand. To my left, the same waves crash against the rocks, their spray diverting my reverie as I ponder over the beauty of nature, and wonder what first brought people here. Was it this beauty that encouraged them to build a temple here, or was it the fresh, sweet spring water flowing from the hill here that made this place special? No matter what the reason, I am glad my auto driver brought me here. We are at the Rama temple in Gokarna, just a few minutes away from the Mahabaleshwara Temple, yet offering so different a perspective.

Pandharpur Yatra 2023

The first time I visited Pandharpur was back in 2007 . The names Vitthal and Pandharpur, were just names to me. I had heard of them, but that was about it. Seeing the lord standing on the brick, hands on his hips, was memorable, but more memorable was the sight that greeted us as we walked out of the main sanctum of the temple. In the mandap just outside were a group of devotees singing abhangs , and dancing. This was the first time I had heard abhangs , and even almost 15 years later, I can remember the welling of feeling within me, listening to the songs, and how fascinated I was by the sight of the devotees dancing, lost in their love of the Lord. Over the years, as I have read more about Vitthal, and participated in Ashadi Ekadashi programmes at Puttaparthi, that first experience has stayed clear in my mind and heart. Every time I tell my Balvikas students of the saints who sang of Vitthala, it is that experience that I re-live. I visited Pandharpur again, in 2010, but that experie