Vithobha

This blog site has a rich collection of Vithobha of Pandharpur and the collection is growing. The published ones include Vithobha with consorts (Ganga Jamuna), Vittala with Rukmini, Vithobha (Ganja Jamuna) and Vithobha. Here is one more. For information on Vithobha please refer to the above blogs.

This Vithobha Vigraha is iconographically significant on two counts. One of them is the Linga, the aniconic form of Siva, on his crown. The second is Garuda, Vishnu’s Vahana kneeling in front of him.

The Linga on Vithobha’s can be traced to the story of the saint Sonar Narhari from Pandharpur. Being a staunch Saivite Sonar Narhari, a goldsmith by profession, he refused to set his eyes on Vithobha or the temple, leave alone worshipping Vithobha.

As a goldsmith Sonar Narhari was commissioned to fabricate a golden waist belt for Vithobha, based on the measurements provided by the donor. One thing led to another and the result was Sonar Narhari got into the inner sanctum of Vithobha, blindfolded to take waist measurements. When Sonar touched the Vithobha Vigraha he thought that he was touching Siva as he felt the Cobra, Tiger skin, …Sonar removed the blindfold only to see Vithobha. The message was obvious that Siva and Vishnu (in this case as Vithobha) are one and the same. The folklore is that since that day Vithobha sports the Linga on his crown.

The second point, it is unusual to see the Vahana Garuda be shown with Vithobha. Normally the Vahanas are cast separately and kept on the Peetha.

The Vigraha is about 16 cm in height and it is from Maharashtra. This may be dated to the nineteenth century.

Note: Regarding the LInga on the crown, researching the origin of this practice is one of my hobbyhorses. In my collection, there are Mardini, Annapurna (not yet published), Sadasiva and Mahalakshmi Vigrahas with Linga on their crown. Not quite sure whether there is a single explanation for all these occurrences. Interestingly all the examples with me are from the North Deccan area (South Maharashtra/North Karnataka).

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