A sculpture is more than mere decorative art. It is an art genre that finds diverse uses in the expression of politics, culture, history, religion, rituals, and commemorative tributes.
A sculpture is a language that speaks of a distinct moment in time. They have been utilized by people for a variety of purposes. And it’s not just today; they have been used for thousands of years. In ancient times, different cultures made them from a variety of materials. And they used them for different reasons, too. Because of this, we’ve been able to learn a lot from them about their cultures.
One of the most common ways in which people have used sculptures in the past is in association with their religious beliefs. The sculpture is thought to be one of the oldest forms of art, dating back before painting. And so it was the only method to convey the importance of religion.
Well, historically, these artifacts are the most important pillars of the history that we are studying today. Just by studying the figures, we study past cultures and traditions. The same rule applies to Nepal and Nepal’s sculptures.
Most of the ancient sculptures that we find in Nepal are related to religion. Among them, the sculpture of Vishnu Vikranta is considered a sculpture carrying an entire story. But did you know that Nepal’s first dated sculpture concerning religion is also of Vishnu Vikranta?
Nevertheless, there were two sculptures that were dated and were supposedly established on the same date. One of them is still standing on the Pashupatinath Temple premises, near Tilganga, while another one is now in the National Museum.
In the shastra of Hinduism, this sculpture is called Trivikrama Vamana, where Vamana means dwarf. The word Vamana means dwarf. And the image represents the incarnation of Lord Vishnu as a dwarf. As per the story, there used to be a king named Bali. He was also kind and adheres to the Dharma. He was a good king who watches out for all of his subjects’ welfare under the guidance of Shukracharya (Demon’s instructor).
Once, he decided to do Ashwamedha Yagya at the suggestion of Shukracharya. If king Bali was able to do the Yagya successfully, then he could be elevated to the position of Lord Indra. Indra was the king of gods. The thought of King Bali will be as powerful as he makes Indra gets tensed. Then, Lord Indra appeals for the help of Lord Vishnu. Lord Indra convinced Lord Vishnu to help him.
Thus, Lord Vishnu gets ready to help him in saving his position. Then, in the form of a dwarf, Lord Vishnu went to the Ashwamedha Yagya conducted by the Bali Raja and requests an alms of three paces of land from Bali.
Bali, who was leading the Yagya, tried to postpone the alms, but Vamana refused, saying he wouldn’t get the merit unless he gave alms to him. King Bali also thought about it, three paces of land are nothing, and agreed to give.
Vamana (the dwarf) expands his body to encompass the universe after Bali nods in agreement to give three paces of land. At that moment, he covered the entire sky with a foot. In the sculpture, you can see a replica of Bramha holding the foot of Lord Vishnu.
The other foot covered the underworld. It means the world of Nagas. Thus, you can see the depiction of Serpents in the sculpture holding another foot of Lord Vishnu. Now, he has won both sky and earth. He then inquires about where to place the third pace with Bali. Bali offers his own head to keep the third pace even though he has realized that Vamana is no other than Lord Vishnu.
Because of this, he could not complete the Yagya. But was throned as the king of the underworld by lord Vishnu for the remainder of running manvantra. With that, he gave him the position of Indra for the following manvantra.
According to Hindu cosmology, a manvantara is a cycle of time that marks the age, reign, or duration of Manu, the ancestor of all living things. In each manvantara, seven Rishis, various deities, an Indra, a Manu, and kings are born and die.
You can also find the Vamana avatar of Lord Vishnu giving blessings to Bali Raja in the sculpture.
There is one interesting character Tri Sankhu who is upside down and looks like a balloon in other similar kinds of sculpture. But you won’t find it in this sculpture of Changu.
The story of Tri Sankhu goes like this: The emperor of Surya time, Haris Chandra’s father Sathagrath. Sathagrath was known as Tri Sankhu. who was sinful (Papi) because he did 3 bad things
- Having a bad mentality towards another wife
- Killed a holy cow
- Gave cow meat to eat to brahmin son.
He then thought of not living on this earth and going to heaven alive and getting sacrosanct (Punya). He requested Basista Risi and his son to do Yagya to take him to heaven alive but they refuse because the only person who is dead can go to heaven.
After that he again visited Biswa Mitra Rishi and asked for the same thing, Biswa Mitra Rishi agreed and sent him to heaven and from up Indra kicked him because the only soul can go to heaven not the living person, Biswa Mitra Risha in other hand push him to go to heaven. So, This Tri Sankhu neither can go up nor down.
On the older sculptures of Vishnu Vikrant, you could find this image as well.