Opening - Vishnu: Hinduism's Blue-Skinned Savior @ Nashville

A rare exhibition devoted to Vishnu, one of Hinduism's three major deities, has opened at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, in Nashville, Tennessee. “Vishnu: Hinduism's Blue-Skinned Savior” contains more than 170 paintings, sculptures, textiles, and ritual objects created in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh between the fourth and twentieth centuries.

Hinduism, the world’s third-largest religion, was first codified in India around 1000 BCE and has been practiced there since that time, perpetually absorbing new beliefs and approaches, while continuing to recognize the sanctity of older traditions. Each of the three primary Hindu deities—Vishnu the Preserver, Shiva the Destroyer, and Devi the Great Goddess—is believed by his worshippers to be responsible for creating and maintaining the cycle of life, and to be a portal to ultimate salvation. Some Hindus affiliate themselves with one of the three gods, while others worship more broadly. Those who worship Vishnu are known as Vaishnavas.
Known as Hinduism’s gentle god, Vishnu is easily recognized by his blue skin and his poised and calm demeanor, as well as by the objects with which he is traditionally portrayed. While he is an interesting figure in his primary form, the complexity of Vishnu’s character becomes clear when he is represented in the numerous embodiments, or avatars, in which, according to legend, he has descended to earth to save it from a multitude of dangers. The avatars include not only the humans Rama and Krishna, but also animals, ranging from a fish to a turtle to a lion.

Vishnu: Hinduism’s Blue-Skinned Savior is organized thematically, opening with “Images of Vishnu,” an exploration of the god’s fundamental traits, as well as the key figures and objects with which he is associated, such as the halfman/half-eagle Garuda, on whom Vishnu rides as he swoops down to earth from the heavens, a conch shell. There is also an expansive section devoted to the god’s avatars.