Set of ten avatars of the god Vishnu
India, Andhra Pradesh, Kondapalli, 1961
Lent by the Museum of Anthropology, MU (Gift of Robert F. Bussabarger)
Vishnu’s ten avatars are presented in this brightly-painted group of carved wooden figurines. The avatars, in their standard order of appearance, are Matsya (part man–part fish), Kurma (part man–part turtle), Varaha (part man–part boar), Narasimha (part man–part lion), Vamana (dwarf holding a parasol), Parashurama (man holding an axe), Rama (man holding a bow), Krishna (man with blue skin), Buddha (man wearing a robe), and Kalki (man riding a white horse, though here shown as part man-part horse). Possibly this last figure is not Kalki at all, but instead Hayagriva, an unrelated horse-headed incarnation of Vishnu. Also, this particular set did not contain a figure of Krishna so that piece is here substituted with a photo. Omissions and variations in sets are not uncommon.
Sets of figurines like these are made by local Indian craftsmen from soft woods and are available at low cost. The vivid colors appeal to popular Indian taste. This set was made by a toy maker family in Kondapalli, close to Vijayawada, in the state of Andhra Pradesh. Folk art figurines like this these fill a need for some devout Hindus who wish to have depictions of Vishnu’s avatars in their homes.
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"I still remember the feeling of awe and disbelief when I was alone and walked in the room with those casts." --Ruth Tofle, chair of architecture, winner of the 2013 distinguished faculty award from the MU Alumni Association