Engaged capital carved in grayish, coarse sandstone (arkose). The bell-shaped drum is decorated with a pattern of vine rinceau that encircles palmette leaves in a roughly symmetrical arrangement on each face of the capital. These ornamental plant forms are deeply undercut to highlight the pattern in sharp relief. A pair of volutes decorated with vertical striations springs from the vine rinceau in the upper portion of each face of the capital. A rosette enclosed in a circle appears at the top edge of the center of each face of the capital, above the point where the branches of the volutes diverge.
This capital, carved on three sides, would have been attached directly to a wall on its uncarved fourth side and would have surmounted a similarly engaged column. While the original context of the capital is unknown, its relatively small size indicates that it might have framed a window as part of an embrasure. In such a role the capital would have served a structural function in which it would have supported a projecting molding or rib as well as an equally important expressive function in which the capital would have articulated the mass of the wall and the transition between different architectural elements. The decorative vocabulary of the capital, which derives ultimately from the classical Corinthian order, has close parallels in the church of St.-Sernin in Toulouse and the cloister of the abbey of Moissac in the Languedoc region of southwestern France. The capital also bears a more general resemblance to sculptures found throughout southern France and northern Spain, testifying to the broad diffusion of such forms through trade and pilgrimage.
Buddha, sheltered by the Naga king Mucalinda: a scene from the life of historical Buddha. When the Buddha-to-be sat down under a Bo tree in Bodh Gaya to meditate for a period of 49 days, a great storm arose, but his concentration was unbroken. To keep him safe from the flood and the driving rain, the Naga (serpent) king Mucalinda coiled his body to life him above the waters, and spread his cobra hood to provide shelter. Images of Buddha sheltered by Mucalinda are common in peninsular Southeast Asia, where snakes were tradiionally revered as fertility symbols.
Shakyamuni Buddha, sheltered by the Naga king Mucalinda: a scene from the life of historical Buddha. When the Buddha-to-be sat down under a Bo tree in Bodh Gaya to meditate for a period of 49 days, a great storm arose, but his concentration was unbroken. To keep him safe from the flood and the driving rain, the Naga (serpent) king Mucalinda coiled his body to life him above the waters, and spread his cobra hood to provide shelter. Images of Buddha sheltered by Mucalinda are common in peninsular Southeast Asia, where snakes were tradiionally revered as fertility symbols.
Shiva stands in an unbending pose and the sculpture is broken just below the knees. He is two-armed and his right hand is raised with his palm outward. His left arm is broken away. He wears a short lower garment with incised lines delineating folds and he is ithyphallic, his upraised penis extending up from behind his belt. He wears simple jewelry, a belt, armlets, a bracelet on the one wrist still extant and a simple beaded necklace. There is an auspicious diamond pattern in the middle of his chest. He has a fleshy face with a full mouth and large eyes, a third eye is incised on his forehead. His hair is done in an elaborate coiffure piled high.
The great Hindu god Shiva encompasses many aspects or personalities, as he has absorbed the conflicting identities of various deities over time. Here he is shown in his role as the divine ascetic, or yogin, unclad but for an animal skin about his loins, and matted hair piled high on his head. His erect phallus simultaneously indicates potency and self-control; it is through arduous practices of self-discipline that he has gained extraordinary powers. At the abstract level, the phallus represents procreative energy that is never exhausted; it is neither erotic nor pornographic to the Hindu viewer. This image, carved from the buff-colored sandstone typical of central India, has an especially graceful stance and sweet facial expression.
This intricate stele has a large Varaha in the center. He is in the archer’s stance, with his right leg extended and his left leg bent resting on a lotus held up by a male and female snake figures. They have human bodies from the waist up and knotted snake bodies below. Varaha has a human body with the head of a boar, his head thrown back supporting the figure of the earth goddess who holds on to his snout. A lotus leaf acts as an umbrella over his head. Three of his four arms are intact with his right one at his hip holding a broken lotus, only the stem survives, and the two left hands holding a conch at his chest and a discus at his knee. The broken arm held the club and the top of it is still visible next to the pavilion on the left over his shoulder. Besides the two snake figures, three figures stand on the base to either side, the other one female, while the others are male. The inner two hold the conch and discus and can be considered shankhapurausha and cakrapurusha, the personifications of the two weapons. The figure in the center on the left ahs his hand raised over his head and the one on the right holds an arrow. They stand against pilaster forms, each surmounted by a pillared pavilion. To the sides of the pillars, vyalis (a composite animal) decorate the columns, a conventional throne motif and above them on the outside some devotee figures, the one on the right is broken. Against the pillar a broken animal figure is to the right and a seated devotee is seen on the left. The two pavilion forms house gods. The one to the left houses a small four-armed image of Brahma (three of his heads show, the central one with a beard) holding his usual attributes, a ladle for ritual and probably a pot, etc.. That on the right houses a four-armed figure of Shiva holding a trident and other attributes. The top of the stele is broken, but there is a devotee to the left and a row of seven figures all with hand up in a reassuring gesture and the other holding a pot. Could there have been two more and represent the nine planets? They do not appear very different one from the other.
Stories of the incarnations of Vishnu are very common and various groups of different numbers of incarnations are found. The most standard one is of ten, the Dasavatara. Varaha, the boar incarnation is number three in the series. The first five are non-human or at least full-sized human, the fifth being a dwarf. The Cosmic Boar was necessary to save the Earth goddess who had been captured by a demon and dragged to the bottom of the ocean. Varaha dived into the sea and saved the goddess. This is a myth that is sometimes associated with other India-Aryan flood stories as is the first incarnation, Matysa, the fish.