Lord Nrsimhadeva, Man-Lion


Oct 17, CANADA (SUN) — Krsna consciousness in art criticism.

Over the last year we have offered a number of commentaries on the Alvin Bellak group of Indian miniatures, known as the Intimate Worlds collection, exploring from a Krsna conscious standpoint the comments of various non-devotee art critics. Today we approach a fresh subject matter -- the study of a Lord Nrsimhadeva murti analyzed by art critic Stella Kramrisch and later, by Michael W. Meister. The piece, known as the 'Philadelphia Narasimha', is a murti image (above) that will be familiar to many devotees.

Stella Kramrisch (1896-1993) was an acclaimed art critic, historian, and writer. Born in Czechoslovakia, she came west and later taught at the Institute of Fine Art, New York University, the University of Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Kramrisch was known for approaching art criticism by way of a metaphysical approach, employing distinctly non-western concepts gleaned from Kandinsky and Rudolf Steiner, who was a personal acquaintance. While in India, she converted to Hinduism and amassed a significant collection of South Asian art which she later sold or willed to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In 1968 she mounted a major exhibition there, "Unknown India".

Mr. Meister, a well-known writer in the field of Indian and Pakistani art, is a professor of South Asian Studies in the Department of Art History at the University of Pennsylvania. He is also the curator of Indian Art at the University's Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

In 1996, Mr. Meister wrote an article entitled Man and Man-Lion: the Philadelphia Narasimha, which was published in the winter edition of the Artibus Asiae magazine. In it, he critiqued an earlier article about the Philadelphia Narasimha written by Kramrisch, who was the Indian curator at the time the Philadelphia Museum of Art acquired the piece. The murti, a small (13.25" x 8.75" x 4") piece made of mottled red Mathura sandstone, was acquired by the Museum in 1987.

Kramrisch described the piece at that time as "perhaps the earliest image of Narasimha as yet known." She attributed the sculpture to the second-third century A.D. Mathura, described as a time "when strict rules for the iconography of the images of the main Hindu deities had not as yet been evolved."

In his article, Meister comments upon the report Kramrisch made to the Museum's acquisition committee at the time describing the importance and merit of this rare image, adding his own analysis on related sastric references, iconography and the general style of the piece.

Unfortunately, as is so often the case, the commentaries on this super-excellent murti of Lord Nrsimhadeva suffer from having been written by non-Vaisnavas. While Kramrisch eventually converted to Hinduism, it is clear that neither she nor Meister are Vaisnavas, nor do they have a real understanding of sanatana-dharma, the eternal religion. Consequently their writings are replete with the most obvious errors - references to sastra as "myth" and "legend", and references to the Deity iconography based on that fundamental misconception.

Despite this unfortunate state of affairs, we still find that much of what these mundane art critics have to say can enrich the devotees' understanding and appreciation for the transcendental beauty of Lord Nrsimha's Name, Fame, Form and Pastimes. Their commentaries give us an opportunity to make our own analysis from a more Krsna conscious standpoint, which we hope will be of interest.

Opening his paper, Mr. Meister quoted Ms. Kramrisch's original paper:

    "The sculptor, full of his own realization, achieved an image conveying his religious experience of Visnu as man-lion. The god is shown seated in a unique way. The legs are almost as if running, the left leg is thrown upward.... Although the human body carries the head of a lion there is no ferocity in that lion's mien, it is a calm face....

As illustrated in our April 2007 presentation, "The Glories of Lord Nrsimha", a vast array of images are found of Lord Nrsimha, in a host of bodily postures. In our collection, we included the Philadelphia Narasimha in the group of images showing only one of the Lord's legs. In some cases His second leg was tucked beneath Him in yoga pose, while in this case the leg shows, but not the foot. As Kramrisch notes, the posture of Philadelphia Narasimha has a sense of movement, or running, because of the angle of one leg.

The Mathura murti of Sri Nrsimhadev does appear to have a benign face, although the Lord's tongue is fully extended. Other images appear to show Lord Nrsimha smiling, including the Dvaadashah-karuna nidhih Nrsimha (Ocean of mercy), and this second smiling Form.

    "The demon stands for ignorance. Narasimha as an embodiment of wisdom is rendered by the sculptor with grace and power. In no other image is the robe of the deity shown with such detail and care.... Iconographically inventive also is the mane of the lion's head with two long strands of hair on either side of his face connecting the head of the lion with the body of the man."

Of the Philadelphia Narasimha, Meister wrote:

    "This figure deserves close attention. Its furled brow, fangs, and lolling tongue conform to later images of Narasimha but its robe, simplicity, and stance set it apart. Under the robe on his chest appears the suggestion of an amulet, which Kramrisch chose to associate with Visnu's cognizance, the Kaustubha jewel. The upper garment flows over both shoulders; but below Hiranyakasipu, the demon figure placed horizontally across Narasimha's body, a twisted waist-band suggests a separate garment covering the legs.

    The demon's hair streams behind him, cushioning his head against the man-lion's right knee. He wears a simple single strand of beads. His body seems relaxed, even pliant. His face is calm, with a slight suggestion of a smile. His eyes stare adoringly up at the face of Visnu. There is little tension in his legs or feet, even as Narasimha gently disembowels him. His innards spill along his right side. As the Matsya Purana describes it, Narasimha ripped "apart the mighty Daitya chief as a plaiter of straw mats shreds his reeds."

From this description we get an idea of the many seemingly contradictory aspects of Lord Nrsimha and Hiranyakasipu, as they are so unique depicted in various artworks. In many images, the demon looks absolutely stricken - fearful, shocked, or raging. In others however, like this Philadelphia Narasimha, Hiranyakasipu's face is quite peaceful. In his c. 1800 painting, Sourindro Tagore painted Hiranyakasipu in a peaceful (if not ecstatic) mood, as did the sculptor of this South India temple murti.

    "Narasimha, is shown two-armed, carrying no emblems, his right leg bent at the knee. His right foot is firmly placed on the ground above a pattern suggesting a pillared platform (vedika). His left knee also rests on this platform, the lower part of his leg turned up, his left foot tautly touching his elbow, as if to reflect an Indian dancer's earth-bound means of portraying flying."

In this part of Meister's description, he gives us a piece of information not readily apparent when viewing the photographic image of Philadelphia Narasimha. That is, that the Lord's left knee is actually touching the platform and His leg is tucked upward, foot touching His elbow. Upon reading this description, the photo seems an optical illusion. Surely it appears that the demon is slung across both knees, not just one. It's hard to imagine the posture as described, which seems contrary to both proportion and physiology. Seeing the dimensions of the piece in person, however, perhaps makes this aspect much clearer.

    "The image, stable and symetrical above, active below, is centered on Narasimha's hands, which plunge their limpid fangs into the demon's belly directly in front of Narasimha's centering navel. The significant male figure, lying across Narasimha's lap thus divides the composition in half."

Here Meister uses an odd choice of words to describe Lord Nrsimhadeva, citing "fangs" instead of "claws", and calling them "limpid". We seldom think of Sri Nrsimha's sharp claws as being 'calm or emotionless', but Meister apparently associates "limpid" with Narasimha's calm face. His use of the descriptor "fangs" is clearly erroneous.

Meister states that he finds Kramrisch's dating of the piece to be early, and he suggests a more accurate date of fourth century A.D.

    "Few images of Narasimha do, indeed, pre-date this example. Doris Srinivasan has identified a lion to one side of a Caturvyuha figure from Bhita as perhaps a representation of Samkarsana/Narasimha. In Andhra Pradesh in South India a panel discovered some years ago from the third-fourth century A.D. shows a full theriomorphic squatting lion with two human extra arms behind his shoulders holding Vaisnava emblems. This lion, flanked by five heroes (viras), has been identified as an early depiction of Narasimha."

We have seen similar depictions of lions in South India work like those below, which bear some distant resemblance to Lord Nrsimha, but so out of context one can't be sure. Meister's comments, however, indicate that these temple guardian figures might indeed have been inspired by Sri Nrsimhadeva.

    "Images of Visnu with a boar's head to one side and a lion's head to the other also begin to appear in the Gupta period, and temples from that period survive that were dedicated to the worship of Visnu-Narasimha. Standing cult images of Narasimha from the early Gupta period, for example, survive from Eran and Vidisha (Fig. 2). These sculptures are two-armed, long maned, frontal, wearing only a lower garment, and with no demon figure."

As described in an earlier Sun article, "Vaikuntha and Visvarupa", examples of such multi-faced Deities from the Kushana period were also found in the Mathura area.

Standing Nrsimhadev from the Udaigiri Caves (Vidisha Museum)

    "The Philadelphia image - not a cult image - is, in contrast, remarkable in its free and expressive embodiment of narrative action. Other small images that represent the narrative of Narasimha slaying Hiranyakasipu also survive from slightly later Gupta-period temples: one at Marhia and one from a temple-doorway now set into the Kumra-math at Nachna. Both date to the late fifth or early sixth century A.D. Williams refers to the "sprightly" figure at Nachna as "one of the earliest illustrations of the role of the Man-Lion as a destroyer of demons" and comments that there "is a care and freshness in the treatment of every element that make one regret the loss of the rest of the large temple to which this belonged." Of the figure at Marhia she writes that "the lion is wrapped around one of the Man-Lion's legs in the type current later" and that "the interlocking legs of the two is an explicit feature of later texts."

In the excellent narrative examples of Lord Nrsimhadeva's pastimes linked above we get a great sense of the drama of the scene. The motion of battle is beautifully depicted, as the pastimes are broken down into so many precise moments of the Nrsimha-lila, as Meister describes below:

    "The narrative of Narasimha slaying the demon Hiranyakasipu is recorded, with both increasing complexity and changing agendas, in a succession of narrative compilations known as the Puranas. Deborah Soifer, a scholar who has worked on these texts in relation to Narasimha, on the whole believes that "the traits basic to Visnu in the Veda remain central to Visnu in his avataras." She points out, however, that:

    we have virtually no precursors in the Vedic material for the figure of a man-lion, and only one phrase that simply does not rule out the possibility of a savage side to the benign Visnu."

Meister is correct in stating that there is no known appearance of the Lord as half-man, half-lion until the manifestation of Lord Nrsimhadeva, a Form chosen by the Lord due to the circumstances of the special boon granted to Hiranyakasipu by Brahma.

Ms. Soifer states the obvious in noting that "the traits basic to Visnu in the Veda remain central to Visnu in his avataras." She makes much less sense, however, in saying there is "only one phrase that simply does not rule out the possibility of a savage side to the benign Visnu." In fact, there is no such thing as "ruling out" anything with respect to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Savage or benign, Lord Visnu will do as He pleases. Further, we find many expansions of Visnu that are far from benign, beginning with the Dasavatara, Varaha and Parasurama.

This passage confirms both Meister and Soifer's lack of fundamental knowledge of the Supreme Personality:

    "It is perhaps precisely Visnu's violent side represented by Narasimha that is not "natural and understandable given Visnu's Vedic roots." Soifer speaks of "the enigma of Narasimha avatara" and comments that "how the myth arrived at its rudimentary form [in the Mahabharata], and where the figure of the man-lion came from remain unsolved mysteries."

Thankfully the authors return to informed sastra on the matter, with these beautiful descriptions:

    "Narasimha in the Brahma Purana (213.44-79) is described as "looking like a dark cloud, glowing with the energy of a dark cloud, and swift like a dark cloud." In the Visnudharmottara Purana (I.54) he is described as "resembling a cloud that is red like the twilight, dressed in dark clothes like Acyuta"...."

    "having two hands that were shining and that would cause the destruction of the Daitya lord as if with the blades of anger; having a mane of curled and matted hair, golden as the flaming fire.... His tongue was moving up and down, to and fro, visible and invisible, and it quivered like the lightning of the cloud at the end of pralaya..... [H]aving flaming breath that, going in and out, sounded like the cloud at the end of the kalpa, he was difficult to look at, invincible and terrifying like the center of the thunderbolt."

In the passages that follow, we find an interesting point of view developed by Kramrisch, and purported by Meister. This is not a common aspect of Lord Nrsimhadev's pastimes nor one typically discussed. Certan elements of the idea seem to be philosophically reasonable, while others are patently wrong.

    "Stella Kramrisch in her last few years became fascinated by this Mathura image and by the relationship it suggested between the demon so gracefully poised in his lap and Visnu. To her, the figure seemed youthful, devoted, a forerunner of Prahlada, Hiranyakasipu's son in developed versions of the story. Early medieval depictions of Narasimha's fierce battle with the demon, as on the Vaisnava temples at Osian near Jodhpur in Rajasthan in the eighth century, often show Prahlada bowing in devotion and submission to Narasimha as his father lies prostrate and eviscerated (in this image shown with flowing hair much like that of Narasimha himself) across Narasimha's lap.

Osian Harihara Temple, near Jodhpur

In Kramrisch's conception, the idea of Hiranyakasipu as a 'forerunner of Prahlada' seems to intuit the reality that Hiranyakasipu had the choice to be a demon or devotee, and this suggests his devolution to a demoniac nature. Had Hiranyakasipu chosen to serve God rather than trying to be God, he might have grown to express the youthful, devoted presence Kramrisch senses in this Philadelphia Narasimha piece - regardless of Prahlad's absence in the murti.

    "Several scholars of Narasimha's myth have pointed out that the introduction of Prahlada marks a sharp change in the nature of this myth, its rationale, and of its use. Soifer points to:

    that slow transformation from a mythological mode of expression of the Narasimhavatara to a mythologically framed vehicle for the outpourings of bhakti teachings, coming from the mouth of its most popular Puranic advocate, Prahlada.

    She argues that early versions of Narasimha's myth (or at least its earliest layers) represent "orthodox, bramanic concerns" about the order of the three worlds (trailokya) "free ... from the superseding universe of bhakti":

    The rhythm stressed ... is not that of yugas or pralaya (kalpa), but of the upside-down-rightside-up oscillation that characterizes the relationship between the Devas and the Asuras."

Again, both authors expose their ignorance on the subject matter at hand by suggesting that it is mere "mythology". They take as gospel some speculative timeline for the origin of Lord Nrsimhadev's pastime story, undoubtedly based on an academic understanding of the history of Vedic literature. Their conclusions suffer a lack of understanding of the phenomenal reality of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, His eternal nature and inconceivable lila pastimes, and the tradition of Absolute Truth passed down by sound vibration through disciplic succession. Both critics are under the wrong assumption that because Prahlad was not mentioned in what they believe to be the 'earlier literature' depicting Nrsimhadev's pastimes, that Prahlad was somehow introduced later as a sentimental 'bhakti afterthought'. In truth, their ignorance is an expression of the same demoniac nature seen in the symptoms manifest by Hiranyakasipu.

    "What seems startling in the introduction of Prahlada to the myth of Narasimha and Hiranyakasipu is that it is the son's pure powerful devotion to Visnu that becomes the excuse for his father's disembowelment. Hiranyakasipu, in these versions of the myth, becomes enraged by his son's devotion to Visnu and his seeming disloyalty to his father's importance and riches. By trying to kill his son, Hiranyakasipu brings on Narasimha's wrath. Asceticism (tapas), the source of Hiranyakasipu's power, thus is set against the transforming power of devotion (bhakti) by pairing these two demon figures, son with father."

Here Meister goes even further off track, to the point of offensiveness. First, he does not understand the concept that the Lord comes, again and again, to re-establish the Absolute Truth and to save the devotees from the demoniac element. The Supreme Personality of Godhead has all the tendencies that may be found in the living entities, for He is the Chief living entity. Therefore it is natural that sometimes Lord Visnu wants to fight. The demons cannot stand the presence of Visnu, the Personality of Godhead, and are always busy trying to vanquish Him. God does not manifest capriciously, however, just to fight for the pleasure of it, thereby causing suffering to the living entities. He comes with a purpose, always mercifully.

While Meister doesn't clarify it in comparing tapas to bhakti in this context, the important qualifier is that Hiranyakasipu adopted the practice of austerities in order to become powerful - to become the Supreme Controller. He did not engage in these practices in order to become a more perfect servant of the Lord, consequently, bhakti stands as a complete contradiction -- but that is not a contradiction inherent to tapas. In other words, one can engage in austerities with the intent of becoming a more pure servant of Krsna.

Where Meister makes his greatest mistake is in stating, "thus [asceticism] is set against the transforming power of devotion (bhakti) by pairing these two demon figures, son with father." In other words, the author has mistakenly, and offensively, associated Prahlada with his demoniac father because he pairs the two elements of tapas and bhakti as the moving forces that caused Lord Nrsimhadev to manifest. As the devotees know, that couldn't be further from the Truth.

    "In the Visnu Purana, "after Prahlada's liberation, he is granted a boon by Visnu and he asks for a pardon for his father, that he might obtain 'liberation from existence'." Prahlada's devotion itself thus becomes the source of Hiranyakasipu's salvation (as in the image above). As Prahlada preaches in the Visnu Purana:

    These are the reasons for suppressing hate.... This whole world is but a manifestation of Visnu, who is identical with all things; and it is therefore to be regarded by the wise as not differing from, but as the same with themselves.

    Hiranyakasipu and Prahlada - father to son, who are of the same flesh - thus between them separate into a "before" and "after" scenario the transforming power of Visnu's bhakti."

Here we get a glimpse into the underpinnings of Meister's wrong thinking, as he associates Prahlad as being "of the same flesh" as his demoniac father. Of course, the bodies of these personalities had nothing to do with their consciousness or free will to be devotees rather than demons. Prahlada did not incarnate into the family of Hiranyakasipu so that he could 'learn not to be a demon'. Rather, he and Hiranyakasipu got to perform in this lila drama by the will of the Lord, for the mercy of all the living beings across the ages -- from the demigods on down to us, the aspiring devotees of this day. Further, it is not the power of "Visnu's bhakti" that transformed the scene with Hiranyakasipu, but rather the power of Prahlad's bhakti and the Lord's mercy. Meister's 'before and after' concept is simply erroneous.

    "Kramrisch, with prescience, had wanted to see in the youthful figure of Hiranyakasipu in the Philadelphia sculpture a forerunner of his son Prahlada. "The legend of Prahlada and the myth of the Narasimha avatar intertwined," she wrote. She, however, recognised that the image had to predate the development of Prahlada's myth by several centuries as she found it recorded in the sixth-seventh century A.D. Visnudharmottara. It was in the Narasimha Purana's even later version of the story that she found what she felt to be the myth's most nearly perfect embodiment. There Prahlada first has a vision of cosmic Visnu days prior to the appearance of Narasimha as the source of the destruction of Hiranyakasipu. Prahlada's vision occurred on the shores of the ocean into which his father had had his minions fling Prahlada to punish his continuing expression of his devotion to Visnu. In this version, Kramrisch saw a forecast of Narasimha's and Hiranyakasipu's typical relationship - that of demon-slayer with transformed devotee:

    Full of anxiety he [Prahlada] fell senseless to the ground when all of a sudden the Lord appeared fondling poor Prahlada in his tender arms.... When Prahlada regained consciousness and opened his eyes he found himself clasped in the arms of the Lord.... Then the Lord began to fondle the boy with his tender and delicate arms. Like a loving mother the Lord pressed Prahlada to his bosom with affection. In his waking trance of experience Prahlada realized that he had been reposing in the lap of Visnu."

In the above statement, we see that Meister's misunderstanding about the nature of Prahlada comes, at least in part, from his appreciation for Kramrisch's view on this 'before and after' idea of Prahlada. Here we find Kramrisch's conclusion that the first written artifact of Prahlad's story is to be found recorded in the 6-7th c. Visnudharmottara. While time doesn't permit a thorough study for this article, we will hope to carefully research the genesis of the Prahlada story in Vedic literature one day soon, and encourage the devotees to contribute to that research.

Kramrisch apparently got her real inspiration for the Philadelphia Narasimha from the Narasimha Purana. Personally, I find this to be the most unique aspect of her commentary. In the Narasimha Purana we read about Prahlada's vision of the Lord in advance of Nrsimhadev's manifestation. Prahlad experienced the Lord's protection, sitting in His lap, which is so similar to the later interaction between Nrsimhadeva and Hiranyakasipu - the relationship of "demon-slayer with transformed devotee".

This is apparently the seed of Meister's misunderstanding of Prahlada, as he extrapolated from Kramrisch's commentary the idea of a similarity between Prahlad and his father, incorrectly labeling both as being 'demons'.

Actually, Kramrisch's personal inspiration is tied to the fact that Hiranyakasipu was liberated due to the Lord mercifully killing him. Of course, sastra explains that any living entity who is killed by Krsna Himself is automatically liberated, so Hiranyakasipu is not 'special' in this regard.

    "Kramrisch's vision of the transforming nature of Narasimha's violent act - with Hiranyakasipu placed across Visnu's lap, centered at the level of Visnu's cosmos-generating navel, as Prahlada previously had lain in the lap of Visnu - seems to me both a correct projection and fore-shadowing of how narrative images of Narasimha came to function."

Here we find the crux of the matter: because of Kramrisch's misunderstanding (as reported by Meister) of the timeline of Vedic literature, and her lack of knowledge of the Absolute Truth, she thinks Lord Nrsimhadev's pastimes are "myth", and that proof of how the myth unfolded is to be found in how stories were presented in various texts, i.e., at what point she identified mention of Prahlada. She then extrapolates from this the idea that because of Prahlad's experience being held protectively on Visnu's lap, and Hiranyakasipu's later disembowelment on the lap of Nrsimhadev, that somehow father and son are associated together - the two foreshadow Nrsimhadev's destruction of the demoniac forces. But in fact, Prahlad cannot be associated with the demoniac element, in this or any other way.

    "The legend of Prahlada, as it survives in texts, however, moves the myth substantially away from what is depicted in the Philadelphia image. The Philadelphia Narasimha would seem to record Hiranyakasipu's own personal transformation at Visnu's hands, without the need for any secondary mediation by Prahlada, Hiranyakasipu's later bhakti-besotted son. In this early image, Hiranyakasipu is alive, responding. In later images, he is a corpse, having transferred the virtues of fulfilling his own karma to his offspring, Prahlada."

Here Meister further convolutes the pastime. He apparently does not understand the vast range of representations of the Lord's pastimes, in Name, Fame, Form, Paraphernalia, Posture, Narrative, etc. Regardless of the fact that Lord Nrsimhadev manifested only once, in this pastime, we find a vast range of expression of Lord Nrsimhadev's qualities in Vedic art and literature. It should be no surprise that some images include Prahlad while others do not. Similarly some images include paraphernalia, or Laksmi, or the demigods, while others do not. In some images Nrsimhadev is standing, sitting in yoga poses, offering hand mudras, etc. There is no single 'truth' to be found, but rather the Absolute Truth, inconceivable in nature. Here we have the vain attempt of non-devotees who are trying to contain the Lord's inconceivable pastimes in an academic box. It cannot be done.

Above, Meister also makes the grievous mistake of thinking that upon his death, Hiranyakasipu's now improved karma (his virtue) was transferred to his son. In fact, Prahlad was a pure devotee from start to finish. If anything, his own transcendental luster was increased by his merciful request on his father's behalf that the Lord should give him liberation. As I understand it, it is not that Prahlada was benedicted by his father, as described above by Meister.

Meister concludes his presentation with the following:

    "The emergence of Prahlada's story changes the structure of the prior myth of Narasimha by making bhakti (his interior vision of Narasimha) the most potent primary source for devotional transformation. Such faith - as recent events have shown - can lead to revolutions. Hiranyakasipu's fault becomes, not so much his threatening of cosmic order by accumulation of pranic power but rather his obstruction of his son's Vaisnava religion. Prahlada renounces his father's parochial power because of his personal intense vision of Hari's universal order. "Prahlada's `bhakti', his love of God, is an all encompassing dhyana, a total realization at its highest pitch of the omnipresence of Visnu." Prahlada denounces such faith only to his own destruction."

While he reaffirms his erroneous thinking that Lord Nrsimhadev's pastimes are myth and not Absolute Truth, and that Prahlad somehow manifested as a later addition to the story, he at least gets it right that the demon Hiranyakasipu's real fault was his hatred of Prahlad's Vaisnava sentiments. Prahlada did not, however, renounce his father because of his 'intense vision of Hari's universal order' - a reference to Prahlad's being saved from the ocean by Visnu. Rather, Prahlad was born a pure devotee, and from his early childhood, well before the ocean experience, he was preaching love of God to his friends. One could only hope that Meister's last sentence, "Prahlada denounces such faith only to his own destruction" was an error, and he meant to write "Hiranyakasipu denounces…", otherwise, this statement would mark Meister's complete and total bewilderment. But as we see in his closing paragraph, Meister actually is just that bewildered:

    "Kramrisch came to question her early date for the Philadelphia image, worried by what she saw as its deep commitment to a vision of Visnu embodied in Prahlada's later story. Yet the transformation of Hiranyakasipu by his submission to Visnu precedes and must predicate the separated definition of his demon-devotee, Prahlada. It is that earlier unitary vision that the Philadelphia image embodies, with all the power that drew Kramrisch initially to it. As a unique representation, this Narasimha must now enter the dialogue of those who study India's myths, both in their visual and verbal embodiments. It is a text; and it is a vision."

As Srila Prabhupada so often said, these academics and scientists are fools and rascals. It is up to the devotees to set the record straight. Commentaries by rascals such as Kramrisch and Meister, if left unchallenged, will stand to confuse countless numbers of students and art aficionados for years to come. By applying Krsna consciousness to the practice of art criticism, we hope to provide a more correct philosophical understanding, albeit within our limited ability to do so.


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