By Swami Harshananda
The icons of Viṣnu are generally of four varieties:
- Bhogamurti - It is concerned with the attitude of happiness.
- Yogamurti - It is concerned with the attitude of meditation.
- Vīramurti - It is concerned with the attitude of heroism.
- Ābhicārikamurti - It is concerned with the attitude of exorcism.
Each one of these may again be sculptured in three possible postures:
- Sthānaka - Standing
- Āsīna - Seated
- Śayāna - Recumbent
Further, each variety has three subdivisions:
- Uttama - Superior
- Madhyama - Middling
- Adhama - Inferior
The bhogamurti of the sthānaka type is called ‘bhoga-sthānaka-murti’. This image has four hands. The two upper hands carry the cakra (discus) and śaṅkha (conch). The right lower hands exhibits the gesture of abhaya (protection) or varada (boon- giving). The left lower hand rests on the hip. The complexion is śyāma or dark blue. Srīdevi (Lakṣmi) and Bhudevī (Mother-earth) are shown as the consorts.
In the uttama variety, the deity is surrounded by several sages, celestial beings and attendants. In the madhyama and the adhama versions, the number of these subsidiary beings is gradually reduced.
In the bhogamurti of the āsīna type called ‘bhogāsanamurti’, the same description holds good. Viṣṇu is shown as seated on a splendid throne. In rare cases, he may be shown as seated on the Ananta or the thousand-hooded serpent.
In the bhogamurti of the śayāna type, called ‘bhoga-śayāna-murti’, the god is shown in a recumbent posture. One of the right hands supports the head and one of the left hands is stretched till the thigh. The śaṅkha (conch) and the cakra (discus) may be shown in the other two hands. Sometimes, they are shown independently, the two extra hands being absent. Either Śridevī (Lakṣmī) or both Śrīdevī and Bhudevī (Mother-earth) are shown near the feet. The four-faced Brahmā on the lotus emanating from the navel is another feature.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore