Narasimha (Vishnu’s Man-Lion Avatar)
Artist/maker unknown, Indian
This bronze masterpiece was created under the powerful Chola dynasty, which long controlled the southern half of the Indian subcontinent. It depicts Narasimha—half man, half lion—who is the fourth of the ten avatars (earthly incarnations) of the god Vishnu. Many portable sculptures like this one of Narasimha are made for temples in southern India. At particular times of the year, the god in the temple sanctum manifests in a bronze image of him or herself. Priests adorn the sculpture with fine clothing and ornaments, wash it with various precious liquids, celebrate it, and parade it through town like a living king or queen.