Shields from Hindu mythology: Srivatsa


The Shrivatsa (Sanskrit श्रीवत्स śrīvatsa) is an ancient symbol considered auspicious in Indian religious traditions.

In Hinduism

Srivatsa means “beloved of Sri”, the goddess Lakshmi. It is a mark on the chest of Vishnu where his consort Lakshmi resides. It is said that the tenth avatar of Vishnu, Kalki, will bear the Shrivatsa mark on his chest. It is one of the names of Vishnu in the Vishnu Sahasranamam. Srivatsa is a popular name in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

In South India, the bronzes made after circa 10th century, the Srivatsa symbol is shown as an inverted triangle on the right chest of Vishnu and his various incarnations.

In Buddhism

In Buddhism, the śrīvatsa is said to be a feature of the tutelary deity (Tibetan: yidam) Mañjuśrī the Youth (Skt: Mañjuśrīkumārabhūta).

In Tibetan Buddhism, the śrīvatsa (Tib: དཔལ་བེའུ་, Wyl: dpal be’u) is depicted as a triangular swirl or an endless knot. In the Chinese tradition, Buddhist prayer beads are often tied at the tassels in this shape.

In some lists of the 80 secondary characteristics, it is said that a Buddha’s heart is adorned with the śrīvatsa.

In Jainism

Tirthankara statue with flower shaped srivatsa on the chest
In Jain iconography, Shrivatsa often marks the chest of the Tirthankara image. It is one of the Ashtamangala (eight auspicious symbols) found in Jainism. The canonical texts such as Hemchandra’s Trīṣaṣṭiśalākāpuruṣacaritra and Mahapurana mentions it as one of the Ashtamangalas. Acharya Dinakara explains in his medieval work that the highest knowledge emerged from the heart of Tirthankaras in the form of Shrivatsa so they are marked as such. In North Indian Jain sculptures of the early centuries, it is marked in the centre of the chest.

This artifact is a part of SwordTemple Library

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