Lintel showing Lakshmi bathed with lustral water by elephants and flanked by an entourage
The central image of the goddess Lakshmi, seated in front of a rainbow arch, is bathed by the watery sprays of elephants. Above her head she is guarded by a bodiless monster, Kirtimukha, which is flanked by two aerial spirits bearing caskets. Behind each elephant is a fly-whisking attendant. On the left side of the relief are Daksha, Virabhadra, and dancing Shiva. On the right is the axe-bearing Parashurama (an avatar of Vishnu) standing beside a warrior enemy; at the end is Trivikrama (a form of Vishnu). The entire relief is framed by a motif representing the waves and foamy swirls of the sea. The relief symbolically makes visible Lakshmi’s offer of abundance. Such images are frequently carved on the door lintels of temples to Vishnu. On entering, visitors not only bow their heads to the goddess, but also receive in return her grace as the bringer of good fortune.
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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