Description Shiva is a prominent deity in the Hindu traditions. As a powerful ascetic, he has long matted locks of hair, which in this sculpture are elaborately bound into a tall crown and held in place by a diadem fit for a king. The crescent moon adorns one side of his coiffure, while the river-goddess Ganga, represented as a watery stream, perches on the opposite side. Shiva holds a battleaxe, used to cut through illusion, and an antelope, a reference to his role as lord of creatures. With his lower right hand he makes the gesture of reassurance, while the curled fingers of his lower left hand are positioned to hold something such as a flower. Shiva's third eye, positioned vertically in his forehead, both points to his supreme wisdom and, when opened, serves as a seat of fiery destruction, which ultimately enables cosmic regeneration. When serving for worship, this sculpture would have been adorned with silks, jewelry, and garlands, which covered many of the carved details but enhanced the beauty of the image in the eyes of devotees. Made for processions, through this image worshippers could access Shiva both inside and outside the walls of his temple.
Provenance Nasli Heeramaneck, New York, [date and mode of acquisition unknown]; John and Berthe Ford, Baltimore, April 1970, by purchase; Walters Art Museum, 2011, by gift.
Credit Gift of John and Berthe Ford, 2011
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