Somanathapura Keshava Temple: Ashtabhuja (8-armed) Vishnu

Ashtabhuja (8-armed) Vishnu carved on the outer wall of the Somanathapura Keshava Temple in Karnataka, India

Ashtabhuja (8-armed) Vishnu carved on the outer wall of the south garbhagriha

Ashtabhuja (8-armed) Vishnu
The image shows a sculptural relief of Vishnu carved on the outer wall of the south garbhagriha (inner sanctum) of the Somanathapura Keshava Temple in Karnataka, India. While Vishnu’s standard iconography depicts four arms, this relief shows him with eight-arms (two of them are missing). Besides his signature objects, shanka (conch), and padma (lotus), he is holding a beautifully carved dhanush (bow) and a bāna (arrow) with his left and right hands respectively.

Although he is not holding anything with the other two hands, he is making specific gestures with them. These hand gestures are known as mudras. A mudra has a name and meaning in Hinduism and Buddhism.

As you can see from the image, the palm of one of Vishnu’s right hands is held upright and facing outwards. This gesture is known as Abhaya Mudra and represents fearlessness and reassurance. The palm of one of his left-hands is facing upwards with the fingers slightly pointing downwards. This gesture is known as Vara Mudra (a.k.a Varada Mudra) and represents charity and compassion.

The two missing hands at the bottom likely carried his other two signature objects, chakra (a disc-like weapon), and gadā (mace). As with the other Vishnu sculptures, he is standing on a padma peeta (lotus pedestal) accompanied by two small female figures located at the bottom.

Check the other Ashtabhuja Vishnu sculptures:
Ashtabhuja Vishnu in Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Ashtabhuja Vishnu in Cave – 3 of Rock-cut cave temples of Badami in Karnataka, India

Related Pages
Somanathapura Keshava Temple – A Masterpiece of Hoysala Temple Art
Belur Chennakeshava Temple – Bracket Figures
Belur Chennakeshava Temple – Navaranga
Belur Chennakeshava Temple – Garbhagriha Outer Wall
Badami, Badami Cave – 1, Badami Cave – 2, Badami Cave – 3, Badami Cave – 4

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