Vamana (Possibly)

Identification of this Vigraha posed its challenges. What we have to go by is the crowned figure and it is an ascetic going by the Paduka (wooden footwear), Danda (a staff) and Kamandala (water carrier). It is a two-armed figure.

Three possibilities came to my mind, Vamana, Balarama and Parasurama.

For it to be Balarama, he should be holding a ploughshare. What he is holding in his right hand may be interpreted as a ploughshare, because of the top portion. Despite the bent portion, it is unlikely to be a ploughshare as they are heavy to be held by the fingers. The bent portion may just be a casting-support, rather than an integral part of the attribute.

Parasurama is identified by an axe and sometimes by a bow and arrow. The right-hand attribute is unlikely to be an axe. Moreover, the Kamandala is not one of his attributes.

Vamana’s attributes include Umbrella (Chattri), Danda and Kamandala. Most of the Vamana figures we come across hold an umbrella and Kamandala. Shrinivas Padigar’s book on Vishnu Cult in Karnataka, 1996, refers to an example of a two-armed Vamana holding Danda and Kamandala in Veeranarayana temple, Belavadi, Karnataka. This Hoysala-style temple is dated to the 12th century.

A picture of that Vamana sculpture, taken from a travel blog,, is included here for information.

The element of doubt is because of the crown, as an ascetic Vamana is normally shown with a clean-shaven head. Well, three of the four identifying features match that of Vamana.

In any case, it is a good Vigraha and a good addition to my collection. It is a good example of craftsmanship, see the number of engraved patterns on the back and the detailing of the Padukas.

The Vigraha is about 9 cm in height and it is from Karnataka. It is unlikely to be earlier than the nineteenth century.


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