The setting is against a Mughal-style garden. Lush vegetation and ample flowering foliage characterise the surroundings of the deities. The parrot-beaked Lord Garuda supports His masters by their feet, the stance of His wings as if He is about to take off into the heavens. Lord Vishnu and His Devi Lakshmi are in auspiciously coloured silks (saffron and red) and gold-and-pearls shringar. She secures Herself in position with a hand on the vahana's crown, as She sits in close communion with Her Lord. They are looking straight into each other's eyes, as His multiple weapons-laden arms flank their composite central figure. A rosy sunset dominates the background, bringing out the beauty of the delicate sprigs that dangle from the shock of green along the upper edge of the painting.
This brilliant work of art, a painting in miniature format in characteristic Kangra idiom of Pahari art style as evolved in many of its miniatures of around 1800-1810 A. D., one being on this very theme, almost its exact prototype, considered as one of the great masterpieces of Indian art, represents the eight-armed Lord Vishnu riding his 'vahana' Garuda. Garuda is supporting one of his feet on its right palm, while Lakshmi’s, his consort, on its left. The painting, though a contemporary work, abounds in same magnificence and lustre as the earlier Kangra masterpiece of 1800 A. D. Unless chemically examined or an expert eye analysed, one might hardly distinguish this contemporary painting from its 1800’ proto-model.
The green-bodied Garuda with red beak has been represented as couched on a hexagonal golden chowki which an ivory plaque inlaid with precious gems comprising floral patterns tops. The chowki is placed on a garden-terrace conceived with flower-beds on char-bagh pattern and a fountain in front, and on its back a column of taller flower-plants and a large tree with ‘mallika’ tree-type creepers suspending on it with its branches extending over the divine couple like a colourful canopy. Two straight rows of lotuses, comprising low railings, divide the terrace from the garden. In his four right hands the Great Lord is carrying an arrow, lotus, goad and conch, and in his left, a bow, mace, disc and a noose. Appropriately bejeweled Lord Vishnu is wearing his usual ‘pitambara’ – yellow lower wear, and the garland of white celestial Parijata flowers, besides his multi-crested crown.
Supported on his left thigh, Lord Vishnu has riding along him Lakshmi, his consort. Apart that his all hands carry one attribute or the other, those on the left afford Lakshmi from behind dependable support too. In striking contrast to blue, Lord Vishnu’s body-colour, and yellow, the colour of his wear, Lakshmi has been painted with golden complexion, her body-colour, and bright orange, her costume, besides her dazzling jewels which further magnify their glow. Delightfully, Garuda’s green, the sacred bird’s body colour, affords to both, Vishnu’s yellow and Lakshmi’s orange, a contrast not ever thought of. Lord Vishnu is passionately looking into the eyes of Lakshmi.
In Indian thought Lord Vishnu is one of the Great Trinity – Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva who represent Creation, Sustenance and Dissolution, the only manifest form of God in Hindu way. The 'Puranic' literature weave around Lord Vishnu great magnificence, spiritual aura and the cult of incarnation. Devi Bhagavata acclaims Vishnu to be the earliest to emerge after the Great Deluge and recommence creation. Vishnu fought a thousand battles against 'asuras', and killed demons like Hayagriva, Madhu and Kaitabha, Andhaka, Vritrasura, Nemi, Sumali, Malyavan and many others. Vishnu creates and sustains and his consort Lakshmi or Shri brings riches, fertility and benefaction.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.