The 9th Century Vaishnava Avatar
One of the most priceless treasures on display is a 9th Century metal “Vaishnava Avatar” frame which is a Prabhavali of bronze metal alloy measuring 6’4″ in height and 4′ wide and 1’2″ thick weighing almost 100 kgs excavated from Devsara. As the name suggests it shows various Avatars of Vishnu. Devsara, which is in Kulgam district had been in the past a great center for the casting of Bronze images and other metal works. Many of the bronze/ metal sculptures found here have unfortunately gone missing as they were simply taken away in the olden times as metal was always in high demand.
This masterpiece was discovered in 1931 and it is dated to the period of Shankar Varman. Each of the deity cast on it has great detailing and as such is a brilliant example of Kashmiri metal craftsmanship of that period. Fortunately this great piece of art along
with another bronze sculpture of Lord Buddha along with a few coins made it to the Museum from the Devsara site. This sculpture is one of its kind in Kashmir and maybe India as well and is rated one of the most significant archaeological find in the Indian sub-continent.
The board at the Museum describes it as such : The frame of the 9th century is represented with utmost brevity and exhibits the technological power of the metal workers of Kashmir. At the top of the frame has a pillared shrine surmounted with amalaka festooned with ribbons and a crescent above. I this shrine is transcendental form of seven headed and ten armed Vishnu – the lower tier is of Vaikuntha, the second tier is of Vasudeva, Aniruddha and Samkarsana. And at the apex is Hayagriva, the horse head.The other 15 figurines in the frame starting from the left are (with pics of that area) :
1. Nagaraja donor with seven headed serpent canopy.
2. Sesasayi Vishnu on serpent Sesa with Brahma seated on lotus the stem of which arises out of his navel, with accompanying pair figures of Madhu and Kaithaba.
3. Hayagriva, six armed of which upper two hold sun and moon symbols.
4. Vishnu killing Madhu and Kaithaba.
5. Three headed Vishnu with kneeling four armed Brahma on left.
6. Three headed seated Vishnu with kneeling Lakshmi on right.
7. Bhuvaraha standing on the coils of serpent Adisesa and raising Goddess balanced on his left arm.
8. Vishnu in yogasana with two attendants.
9. Varaha killing Hiranyaksa.
10. Narsimha killing Hiranyakasipu.
11. Missing figure.
12. Missing figure; later replacement of indeterminate form.
13. Vamna with kneeling figure of Bali holding libation pot and his Queen has veiled hair.
14. Trivikrama striding over Bali with diminutive Horse.
15. Nagaraja donor with seven headed serpent canopy.