CB&W: Hampi

Cee’s black and white challenge for this week is Sculptures, Statues and Carvings. I bring two photos, a bit of history and one of (innumerable) favorite mythological stories.

Both, the sculpture and the carving is from the ruined sprawling town of Hampi, a UNESCO World Heritage site at Karnataka, India. It was one of the richest and largest cities in the world during its prime and part of Vijayanagar, the capital of the Vijayanagar Empire.


The Lakshmi Narasimha statue, built in 1528 A.D. is crafted from a single boulder of granite. The statue, which is 6.7 meters tall, is also referred as Ugra Narasimha (or Narasimha in its terrifying form).

Narasimha, as can be seen from the sculpture is half human (nara) and half lion (simha). He has the face and claws of a lion, and torso and lower body of a human.

The sculpture depicts Narasimha sitting on the coils of Adishesha, the king of all snakes, which rises behind him with its seven hoods. The original sculpture had the figure of his consort, Goddess Lakshmi, sitting on his lap. If you look closely, the broken arm of the Goddess can be seen encircling Narasimha’s waist on the right side. The gigantic statue was vandalized and mutilated in 1565 A.D. during the raid by the Mughals. The limbs of the statue were broken and figure of Lakshmi was separated.  The horizontal band around the knees was added later to give support to the sculpture.


This is another depiction of Narasimha on the wall of a temple at Hampi.There is a fascinating story behind this portrayal – of Narasimha disemboweling a person on his thighs.

But first a quick background.

Lord Vishnu, the Preserver of this world is said to have taken the form of man and descended to earth many a time to destroy evil and restore cosmic order. Rama, Krishna and Buddha are the seventh, eighth and ninth avatars of Vishnu. The tenth and final avatar – Kalki avatar has been foretold to appear at the end of this epoch, riding a white horse, carrying a sword, blazing like a comet. But that is in the future, when the world will end. And begin anew.

Coming to the story of Narasimha, in his third avatar as Varaha (boar), Lord Vishnu killed the demon Hiranayaksha. Wishing to avenge the death of his younger brother, Hiranyakashipu, undertook ages of austere penance to obtain the boon of immortality. But Brahma refused this boon as death is inevitable for whoever is born. Brahma urged Hiranyakashipu to ask for any other boon.

Determined to obtain immortality, Hiranyakashipu tries to trick Brahma into granting him immortality. He laid down certain conditions for his death – he should not die within a house or outside, during the day or during the night, not on the ground nor in the sky. He should not be killed by any weapon, nor by any human or animal, or any entity living or nonliving created by Brahma. He should be invincible to any demigod, demon or any snake. He also demanded sole lordship over all living entities, presiding deities and mystic powers.

Brahma granted him his heart’s desire and vanished.

Thus armed, Hiranyakashipu wrecked havoc in the three worlds and because of his boon, was invincible and unstoppable. By a twist of fate and to his fury, Hiranyakashipu’s son Prahlada was a devotee of Lord Vishnu. Hiranyakashipu’s hatred of the Vishnu ran so deep that he decided to kill his own son. But each time his attempts were foiled by Vishnu’s mystical powers. Hiranyakashipu attempted to browbeat his son into acknowledging his father as the supreme lord of the universe but Prahlada refused saying that Vishnu was the one who was all pervading and omnipresent.

Hiranyakashipu laughed and pointed to a pillar in his palace, “Does He reside here too?”

Prahlada said, “He does.”

Unable to control his wrath, Hiranyakashipu smashed the pillar with his mace in the twilight hour (which is neither day nor night). Narasimha, the fourth avatar of Lord Vishnu, emerged from the pillar. He was neither beast nor human. He dragged Hiranyakashipu to the threshold of the courtyard, (neither indoors nor outdoors). Narasimha put Hiranyakashipu on his thighs (neither the earth nor space) and using his fingernails (neither animate or inanimate) he disemboweled the demon and relieved mankind from Hiranyakashipu’s reign of terror and torture.

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For readers of Moonshine, here's Chapter 114 and Calvin and Hobbes