Shiva as Bhairava stands against a plain pointed arch supported by pilasters with a kirtimukha or face of glory at the top. He stands in a trihanga pose, with his hip thrust to his right and wears platform sandals. He originally has four arms, the front two of which are broken away. His back two arms hold a decorated trident and a drum. He would have held a sword in one hand and a kapala, a cup made out of a scull and a hanging severed head in the other. He is naked, but wears much of jewelry including belts with pendant elements, anklets, armlets, bracelets, necklaces, a band just under his breasts and large circular earrings. He also wears a decorated sacred thread over his left shoulder. His has an elaborate coiffure in curls around the top of his head with a large topknot to one side. His face is badly damaged. Emaciated hungry ghosts attend him, the one to his right dancing with his hands raised above his head with a pot between his legs. The ghost who is on his left stands behind a dog, whose head has broken away. The ghost and the dog would have been playing with the absent severed head, adding to the ghoulish nature of the image.
Bhairava, or “the Terrible,” is an epithet for Shiva in his fiercer manifestations. One of these is Lord of the Cremation Grounds, a setting indicated here by the small, emaciated demons at his feet. In his rear arms he holds a trident—his signature weapon—and a small drum. His two front hands have broken off, but as in other icons of this type, they would have originally carried a sword and a cup made from a human skull. This particular image adds a further element: it depicts the immediate aftermath of Shiva’s great sin of decapitating Brahma, another of the major Hindu gods. In his left hand he holds the ends of Brahma’s long hair, but Brahma’s head—which was carved completely in the round—has broken away. Below, a dog leaps up to lick the blood dripping from the severed head. Shiva was condemned to wander for twelve years as a naked ascetic in expiation for this horrible crime. Although the image has suffered from wear, the special character of the Hoysala period style comes through in the humor and naturalism of the skeletal figures, and the relaxed yet elegant pose of Shiva himself.
Vishnu stand in a strict unbending pose, samabhanga and has four hands. Reading clockwise from the front right hand, he holds lotus, a club, a discus and a conch. The lotus and conch are also personified with full standing figures at the base below his tow front hands, the lotus as a female figure to his right and the conch as a male figure to his left. On the pointed arch behind the figure a flying figure holding garlands is carved in shallow relief to either side of his crown. He wears a diaphanous lower cloth, the folds of the garment are articulated with a flared section down the center. He wears a long garland down to his knees, a sacred thread and various pieces of jewelry, including bracelets, armlets, a necklace and large earrings and an elaborate crown.
Buddhism flourished in northeast India under the Pala dynasty, but most of the Pala kings were followers of the Hindu god Vishnu, whose role as preserver and sustainer of the cosmos accorded well with ideals of royal duty. This impressive stele shows Vishnu in his form as universal king: he wears an elaborate crown and jewelry, and carries four weapons: the gada (a club or mace), the cakra (a discus), the shankha (a conch-like shell), and the padma (lotus).
At his feet appear two figures who are personifications of the two attributes (anthropomorphic representations of his signature weapons). The female is Padmadevi, a goddess who is the personification of the pure lotus, and the male is Shankapurusha, a personification of the trumpetlike shell.
The figure of Vishnu has an idealized youthful body, with broad shoulders and a narrow waist, and an expression of perfect serenity.
Vishnu is one of the principal gods of Hinduism, along with Shiva and the goddess, and commands a large following. He is often depicted with four arms and consistently carries four attributes: the discus, conch, club and lotus. Sometimes, as in this case, two of his attributes are personified at the base. Gender of the weapon reflects the gender of the personified figure.
Vishnu stands on a base consisting of a flat square element topped with a series of five round rings. He stands in an unbending pose and has four arms. Reading clockwise from his front right hand, he is in varada mudra, holds a discus, holds a conch, and is on his hip. He wears a decorated lower garment flared out on either side in a pattern. He wears a decorated belt and necklaces, a sacred thread and shoulder loops, bracelets and armlets, earrings and a crown. The jewelry and crown is highlighted with gold paint as is his clothing and the two attributes.
Vishnu is one of the principal gods of Hinduism, along with Shiva and the goddess, and commands a large following. He is often depicted with four arms and consistently carries four attributes: the discus, conch, club and lotus.
Three bronzes form a group: Vishnu 1978/2.123, Bhudevi 1978/2.132 and Shridevi 1978/2.131
Parvati stands on a tiny base with little feet in a strict unbending stance. The body is elongated with a small waist, the hips billowing out and tapering in a stylized way to the feet. He has broad shoulders, pointy breasts that fall quite low in the chest and has two arms holding a bowl in her right one and a lotus flower in her left. She wears a d simple tight fitting skirt decorated with incised lines and a corded belt that falls down the center of her body with five rows of cords falling from the center and wrapping around her legs creating a fishbone pattern. She wears necklaces with added pendants on her shoulders and her coiffure is tied in a chignon on the right side at the back of her head wearing a headdress that has decorations that cascade down both shoulders. Like the accompanying Shiva figure she has large eyes and what appear to be two sets of eyebrows, but the tikka on her forehead is of a flame shape.
Unlike the elegant and courtly figures of Shiva and Parvati produced in northeast India six centuries earlier (also on view in the exhibition), these two figures bristle with a fierce energy. The style seen here is unique to the region of Pudukottai in Tamil Nadu, in the far south of the subcontinent. There are many such guardian figures with sword and shield found throughout the south in both metal and terracotta; this pair can be identified as Shiva and Parvati by Parvati’s small cup, probably a kapala or skull cup, which refers to Shaivite ascetic practices.
1978/2.116 the Shiva and 1978/2.127 the Parvati are a pair
Bhudevi stands in a tribhanga pose (with three bends) with her left arm hanging pendant to her side and holding a lotus bud in her right hand. She leans towards the figure of Vishnu in the grouping of three bronzes. She stands on a base consisting of a flat square element topped with a series of five round rings. She wears a decorated lower garment flared out on either side in a pattern. She wears a decorated belt and necklaces, bracelets and armlets, with shoulder loops, earrings and a crown. The jewelry and crown is highlighted with gold paint as is his clothing and the two attributes. She does not wear a band across her breasts, as does Shridevi in groupings with Vishnu and Bhudevi.
Two goddesses often flank the god Vishnu. They go by a variety of names, but the most common are Bhudevi and Shridevi. Essentially Bhudevi is the earth goddess and Shridevi represents Lakshmi the goddess of fortune. There are generically rendered, merely holing a flower of various kinds, usually the lotus, but sometimes the blue water lily.
Three bronzes form a group: Vishnu 1978/2.123, Bhudevi 1978/2.132 and Shridevi 1978/2.131
Two figures, Anjana and a bull are depicted centrally in the image. The background is very simple with some grass tufts and a pond near the very bottom of the images. Near the top of the image in the background there some trees and sky are visible.
This is apart of an iconography series which examines Hindu deities and the objects and animals often associated with them. In this image Anjana is seen mounted on the back of a bull. The bull embodies sexual energy and fertility, this scene is perhaps a representation of Vayu’s introduction of Hanuman into Anjana’s womb.
The jina Malli sits in the lotus position on an inlayed cushion on a tiered throne. Seated with his hands folded in a gesture of meditation, he is surrounded by a number of figures representing other jinas, attendants and demigods. In the center in front of the throne sits the goddess Ambika with a child on her lap. On the first tier of the throne sit two figures that may represent donors. On the next left are nine mounds representing the nine planets [navagraha], five to his right and four to his left. At the base of his seat are two stylized lions and this is flanked by a male and female demigod. On the arch surrounding the figure at his level a standing jina figure is to each side and cauri bearer is on the outside of each of them. At his shoulders, the cross bars of the throne back end in stylized makara heads with jewels hanging from their mouths. A seated jina adorns the arch to each side of his head and elephants surmount them with an umbrella over his head with a dancing figure atop it. The whole is surmounted by an auspicious lota or pot. Diamond shaped copper and silver pieces adorn the pillow and parts of the throne back and silver inlay highlight his eyes and chest jewel.
Similar to the Ambika in this case, the jina Malli—the nineteenth in the series of twenty-four Jaina teachers—appears almost as a two-dimensional figure. Each element of the elaborate throne is a cutout figure, from the lions under his knees to the guardian figures at his sides and small jinas seated over his shoulders.
The “VS” in the date indicates Vikram Samvat, a calendar that begins in the year 57 B.C.E. Full inscription not read.
Malli is the nineteenth of the Jaina line of twenty-four teachers. Loosely translated as Spiritual Victors and called Peaceful Liberators in an important exhibition catalogue, there is a line of twenty-four jinas in Jainism. Their other important title is Tirthamkara, or “ford crosser” designating them as figures who can teach others in the means for liberation. Jaina cosmology consists of a constant swing from perfection to dissolution and twenty-four jinas map out this progression. There is a tradition among the Shvetambara sect that Malli may have been a woman. In other sects that would be impossible since woman are not able to reach enlightenment.
Note: in the center on the level of the navagraha is a stylized cakra or wheel of the law and deer in center. This motif is also found in Buddhism where it signifies the Buddha’s first teaching in the Deer Park at Sarnatha. The Jainas also use it.
This intricate stele has a large Varaha in the center. He is in the archer’s stance, with his right leg extended and his left leg bent resting on a lotus held up by a male and female snake figures. They have human bodies from the waist up and knotted snake bodies below. Varaha has a human body with the head of a boar, his head thrown back supporting the figure of the earth goddess who holds on to his snout. A lotus leaf acts as an umbrella over his head. Three of his four arms are intact with his right one at his hip holding a broken lotus, only the stem survives, and the two left hands holding a conch at his chest and a discus at his knee. The broken arm held the club and the top of it is still visible next to the pavilion on the left over his shoulder. Besides the two snake figures, three figures stand on the base to either side, the other one female, while the others are male. The inner two hold the conch and discus and can be considered shankhapurausha and cakrapurusha, the personifications of the two weapons. The figure in the center on the left ahs his hand raised over his head and the one on the right holds an arrow. They stand against pilaster forms, each surmounted by a pillared pavilion. To the sides of the pillars, vyalis (a composite animal) decorate the columns, a conventional throne motif and above them on the outside some devotee figures, the one on the right is broken. Against the pillar a broken animal figure is to the right and a seated devotee is seen on the left. The two pavilion forms house gods. The one to the left houses a small four-armed image of Brahma (three of his heads show, the central one with a beard) holding his usual attributes, a ladle for ritual and probably a pot, etc.. That on the right houses a four-armed figure of Shiva holding a trident and other attributes. The top of the stele is broken, but there is a devotee to the left and a row of seven figures all with hand up in a reassuring gesture and the other holding a pot. Could there have been two more and represent the nine planets? They do not appear very different one from the other.
Stories of the incarnations of Vishnu are very common and various groups of different numbers of incarnations are found. The most standard one is of ten, the Dasavatara. Varaha, the boar incarnation is number three in the series. The first five are non-human or at least full-sized human, the fifth being a dwarf. The Cosmic Boar was necessary to save the Earth goddess who had been captured by a demon and dragged to the bottom of the ocean. Varaha dived into the sea and saved the goddess. This is a myth that is sometimes associated with other India-Aryan flood stories as is the first incarnation, Matysa, the fish.