Chapter 2:
Background Information for Teachers


How do I identify images of Vishnu, Lakshmi, and their incarnations?
Vishnu and Lakshmi


Vishnu, the god of home and family values, represents stability and order. Vishnu is recognizable by the four symbols he often carries: the discus, conch, club, and lotus.DiscusThe discus and club are both weapons, signifying his absolute might Clubin destroying evil. The lotus represents fertility and regeneration, the nourishment of Lotusthe soul that occurs through devotion to this deity. The conch shell is blown in India like a trumpet during many sacred rituals. ConchIt is considered to make the purest sound, from which creation springs. In Vishnu's hand the conch symbolizes purity and auspiciousness. In paintings and prints, Vishnu is often shown with blue skin to accentuate his otherworldliness. A stylized representation of his footprints appears on his forehead. This V-shaped symbol of the god is also applied in sandalwood paste to the foreheads of worshipers of Vishnu during puja.

Click on the thumbnail images for a closer look!

Left: Contemporary poster of the god Vishnu and his wife, Lakshmi


Vishnu's wife, Lakshmi, is the Goddess of Abundance and Prosperity. She is frequently depicted standing on a lotus throne and holding lotuses in her hands. As the goddess of prosperity, she is often shown with gold coins spilling from her hands. Lakshmi is associated with light and is honored with lighted lamps and fireworks in every household on Divali (or Deepavali), the Hindu New Year, one of India's most popular festivals. Lamps depicting Lakshmi, sometimes riding an elephant, are filled with clarified butter and lighted as a part of puja to Vishnu or his incarnations.


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