Sudarshana

Sudharshana
Sudarshana, literally meaning the good eye, refers to chakra (discuss), one of the attributes of Vishnu. In South India, Chakra has evolved as an independent deity. Hence Sudarshana has come to represent the deity, Vishnu, set within a circular mandala of lotus and Satkona, two interlocking triangles.

Here Vishnu with eight arms is standing on a double lotus pedestal. The lotus pedestal itself is on a rectangular pedestal. Vishnu is framed by lotus mandala, a series of Sudharshana backconcentric circles featuring lotus petals. The count of lotus petals starting with eight in the innermost ring increases as you move out. The central portion of mandala features Satkona, two interlocking triangles, representing male and female power. The six angles are supposed to represent the six divine qualities. The outermost concentric circle has four symmetrically places flames. The bottom one is visible from the back. Vishnu has flames surrounding his crown.

Vishnu’s hands hold, starting from the lowest right hand in clockwise direction, Padma(lotus), ankusha(goad), musala(pestle), chakra (discuss), shanka(conch), dhanus(bow), pasha(noose) and Gada(mace). The attributes in this example worn but discernible. The attributes and the order match what is prescribed.

Sudarshana was conceived as a deity of destruction and power, especially the sixteen arm version. But the eight-arm version, like above, is more benevolent in nature.

What possibly started as a personification of Vishnu’s chakra(discuss) attributes has become a  cult. Sudharshana is worshipped on its own and some Vaisnavite temples have a separate shrine for Sudarshana.

This icon is from Tamil Nadu and is about 13 cm in height. In Tamil Nadu, it is referred to as Chakra Perumal (Perumal means Vishnu). This is a rare icon.

A great reference book on Sudarsana is the book by W E Begley: Vishnu’s flaming Wheel: The iconography of Sudarsana Chakra.

Based on examples in the above book, I would estimate the age to be the sixteenth century.

Interestingly such personification of attributes exists in Shaivism as well. There are several examples of Siva’s image with bull, sometimes with  Uma, attached to the base of the trident (Trishul), one of Siva’s attribute. Such tridents are called Shuladevar (literally Trident deity) and are carried in temple processions.(Ref: Manifestations of Siva by Stella Kramrisch, item 128)

 

 

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