An Alvar (Vaishnavite saint)

This Vaishnavite saint, identified through similar examples, is sitting on an inverted lotus (Padmapeeta) which in turn is supported by the rectangular Bhadrapeeta.

He is sitting in Ardhapadmasana and his hands are in Anjali mudra. His head is mostly shaven but for the elaborate rear tuft (pin kudumi – translating to rear tuft).

This saint is probably an Alvar, a group of twelve Tamil poet-saints who are responsible for the Bhakti (devotion) movement in Vaishnavism.

True to being a saint, the ornamentation is sparse, just a necklace and arm bands and it is probably made of Tulsi beads.

In the absence of distinctive attributes the identification is a challenging and interesting task. Consulted four of the best secondary sources, books by T A G Rao, R Champakalakshmi, T N Ramachandran and Vidya Dehejia. The analysis of iconography as documented in these books and the full details of references are at the bottom of this blog.

Still I do not know the identity of this Alvar. A well-researched ‘I do not know’.

This Vigraha is from Tamil Nadu and may date this to the nineteenth century or earlier. It is about 7 cm in height.

Comparison :


F H Gravely and T N Ramachandran 1932 Catalogue of the South Indian Hindu metal images in the Madras Government Museum. (Referred later Reprint)

Vidya Dehejia 1988 Slaves of the Lord: the Path of the Tamil Saints

R Champakalakshmi 1981 Vaishnava Iconography in the Tamil Country

T A Gopinatha Rao 1914 Elements of Hindu Iconography (Referred later Reprint)

25 Apr 2021: One more replacement. The earlier smaller Vigraha is replaced (5.5 cm Vs 7 cm). Style-wise they compare. The current worn has bit more wear, creating a presence. Picture below for comparison.


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