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Massive, Silver-clad Indian Temple Image of Lord Venkateswara

Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh, India

height: 128cm, width: 88cm, thickness: 4.2cm



private collection, England.

This large image of Venkateswara, a form of Vishnu, is of carved wood over which silver sheet has been laid. It is  unusually large and of fine quality, and was intended for mounting on a wall.

The deity is shown standing on a raised circular platform within an arched aureole that incorporates two hamsas or sacred swans. He wears a tall crown and multiple garlands of flowers. A conch on a stand, what appears to be an incense burner aflame, and two ritual crowns are before the deity.

Venkateswara (literally, ‘Lord of Venkata’) is also known as Srinivasa, Venkata Ramana and Govindha, among other names. Venkateswara is the presiding deity of the  large and wealthy Tirumala Venkateswara Temple in Tirupati in The Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. ‘Venkata’ is derived from Sanskrit and means ‘destroyer of sins’. Venkateswara is believed to have appeared at Tirumala to save mankind from trials and troubles of Kali Yuga, the last and most destructive of the four ages of Kali. The temple is constructed in the Dravidian style and was commenced around 300AD. It is believed to be the richest Hindu temple in the world in terms of donations and accumulated wealth, and is visited by an astonishing 30 to 40 million pilgrims annually.

Pilgrims typically purchase small images of Venkateswara that are produced in Tirupati and sold in and around the Tirumala Venkateswara Temple complex. The example here is especially large and detailed.

It is backed with what is likely to be shisham or tali wood, a strong, durable and heavy wood that is native to the area. The use of solid wood suggests the age of the image. Cheaper and lighter substitutes were found going into the 20th century.

The image and frame are in excellent condition for their age. There is some lifting and loss to the silver on the edges of the frame but otherwise there is little or no loss. The silver has been left in it’s age-related tarnished state.

Overall, this is a large image of Venkateswara of a size and type rarely seen outside India. Almost certainly, it came to the UK during colonial times.

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