I am a graduate student at UW-Milwaukee in the United States and I am currently doing object research at the Milwaukee Public Museum. The specific object I have a questions about is listed in the catalogue as an eighteenth century bronze Statue of Shree Vishnu from Bengal, India. What is peculiar about this object is that it has eight arms (instead of the traditional 4) that hold a conch, bow, shield and lotus flower on the left, and a discus, sword, mace, and one unidentified object on the right (through my research I have not been able to find a match, and there is a possibility that part of the object has broken off making identification difficult); he also has a mustache which I have seen on very few other depictions.

Image from front image 2 from rear

Image focus on a weapon held image 4 specifically focusing othe weapons

Is the style of this object reminiscent of Indian/Hindu culture, or is it possibly Southeast Asian?

Does anyone know what the unidentified object is and its symbolic properties?

Is there any symbolism attached to all of these objects being together? Is this figure supposed to represent one of Vishnu's dashavatara, or possibly the form he took to fight Kali or any other God?

Can anyone confirm the age and provenance of this object?

  • -Welcome To Hinduism SE! As far as the age of the statue which you are pointing ,is difficult to ascertain I think , by mere visual inspection. There may be lot's of artifacts similar like this , intentionally made to look like antiques items. – SwiftPushkar Aug 3 '16 at 18:02
  • Thank you for your reply, as far as the authenticity of the object is concerned the age that it does show appears real, but could also have been poorly cared for before it was donated in the 80's, additionally the care and detail of craft on the sculpture is quite good – Dana Hansen Aug 3 '16 at 18:23
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    Vishnu's eight armed for with all the weapons you mentioned is described quite a few times in the scriptures, especially Srimad Bhagavatam, though not as commonly as his four armed form. – Surya Aug 3 '16 at 18:38
  • The eight hand would have probably been held in Abhaya Mudra, the boon conferring gesture. Vishnu with a mustache is also mentioned in the Vedas; maybe @Keshav will know the exact references. – Surya Aug 3 '16 at 18:41
  • Thank you, that is a great help! Just some background info in case anyone is interested this object is being considered for the Weapons exhibit that will be opening next year, and will most likely become a traveling exhibit, so the symbolic and cultural nature of the weapons that this figure holds is very important, thematically the exhibit is more concerned with not how weapons were used in a utilitarian manner, but to how they expressed the culture and society that made them, and to what end/purpose they had beyond harm and war – Dana Hansen Aug 3 '16 at 18:51

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