Vishnu Kurmavatara

Vishnu Kurmavatara – 2010, collage, 43cm x 71cm/17in x 28in, © 2020 Dixon Adair


A westerner’s attempt to capture an ancient Hindu story: Vishnu, when incarnated as Kurma the tortoise (Vishnu’s avatar), lifts and saves the world from the inundation brought about by the churning of the sea of milk—a near eternal fight between good and evil over Amrita, an elixir of immortality. 

Alluding to the wheel Chakra, Vishnus’s main attribute, dinner plates circle Vasuki the snake god and three spiraling staircases. Together, these circular elements suggest the Sanskrit OM

Moving top to bottom, an eagle stands for Garuda, Vishnu’s vehicle. He perches high above the fray, overcome by the steam caused by the friction of the churning.  The elephant and conch are stand-ins for Lakshmi, goddess of abundance who rises from the ocean depths.  The tiger belongs to the fierce goddess Durga. Facing each other—center left and right—Janus stands in for Ganesha from whom (legend has it) he is derived. His twin faces are bookends to time.

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