Shrine of neo-Vaishnava deity, Dev Narayan. Painted and varnished terracotta plaque in hollow relief; 75 cm x 55 cm. Molela, Rajasthan. Contemporary. VCD.
Once upon a time1 a blind potter in village Molela, Rajasthan, dreamt of the local deity Dev Narayan, also known as Dharamraj, who instructed him to construct his image as a horse rider in clay. The next morning the potter’s vision was restored and he found a hand impression on a brick in his courtyard left by the lord himself. Having been promised his livelihood by the deity, the potter was to continue making these idols or murtis for the rest of the village. One day he came home drunk and did not find the money that used to appear by the brick. All his descendants, therefore, continue to make terracotta plaques of Dev Narayan which, made only in Molela, are bought by people coming from as far away as Gujarat.
The long snake, found in all such plaques of Dev Narayan, is symbolic of the deity, who is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The cowherd on his right is Nepha Gwala and the man on his bottom left, Chhocha Bhat or one who keeps records of his clan history. Dev Narayan is shown riding his mare Bavli, and, as is characteristic of all Rajput warriors, he holds a bhala or javelin and dhal or shield. He is said to have taker birth from a lotus flower. His mother, Sadhu mata, was the only woman left in the kingdom devastated by war since the other women had committed sati after the death of their husbands.
1 In conversation with potter, Mohan Lal Kumar, from Molela