Ritual Water Vessel for Worshiping Vishnu
Ritual Water Vessel with Vishnu on His Bird-Man, Vahana Garuda
For worship of the god Vishnu

Artist/maker unknown, Indian

Possibly made in West Bengal, Bengal Region, India, Asia
Probably made in Odisha, India, Asia

Medieval Period

c. 11th century

Conch shell with carved decoration

6 3/4 x 4 x 3 1/2 inches (17.1 x 10.2 x 8.9 cm)

Curatorial Department:
South Asian Art

* Gallery 231, Asian Art, second floor

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Purchased with the Stella Kramrisch Fund for Indian and Himalayan Art, 2012

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The god Vishnu uses a conch shell as a war trumpet and it is one of his identifying attributes. Within the rondel on this shell Vishnu is represented in his martial role as protector of the universe. He flies through the sky on his mount, the bird-man Garuda, holding his weapons—the shell-trumpet, the mace, and the discus. Pierced conch shells are blown as trumpets to beckon the god during worship. This one, however, lacks a mouth opening on its spiral end and was probably used to hold and pour sacred water during religious ceremonies. The remarkably naturalistic depiction of playful animals suggests an early date for the carving.

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