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Illustration of an Indian woman holding a flower
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मत्स्य अवतार Matsya Avatar

circa 1790

RCIN 1005115.d

Folio 1

A depiction of the first the avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu, Matsya, who takes the form of a fish. His upper half is the traditional depiction of Vishnu: wearing a shawl and garland, he holds his usual weapons of the gadā (mace), chakra (discus) as well as the shanka (conch shell) and pādma (lotus). He He wears a crown and his haloed head is sheltered by a pearl-fringed parasol, usually signifiers of royal status. To the left floats the body of the demon Shankhasura emerging from a conch whose throat has been slit by Matsya. The two brahmins holding manuscripts represent the vedas (the Sanskrit holy texts which Matsya has rescued from the bottom of the ocean).

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