Shiva as Virabhadra stand in a relaxed posture under an elaborate arch placed above a goose form on either side. The arch curves inward and forms a heart shape at the center meeting in a mask of glory, a kirtimukha. Against the pillars holding up the arch are figures of the goat-headed Daksha on his right and saintly figure on his right. Both are in posed of devotion with their hands in a prayer pose, namaskara. Virabhadra has four arms (reading clockwise from his front right hand) holding a sword, an axe, a trident and resting on a club. He wears a lower garment covered by a series of belts and a multi-tiered necklace coving much of his chest. He also wears a long garland decorated with small human heads at the bottom across his thighs. A five-headed snake hood is spread behind his crown and coils of the snake project above each of his shoulders.
Virabhadra was an emissary created by Shiva to wreak punishment on his father-in-law, Daksha, who had refused to render him offerings when performing a great ceremony of sacrifice. Virabhadra carries Shiva’s standard attributes of the drum and trident in his back two hands. His sword and necklace of human heads indicate his wrathful nature. The sun and the moon are above his head, and he is crowned with a high topknot and a snake hood. He stands before a flaming aureole, surmounted by a kirtimukha or face of glory. With his left hand he gestures toward the goddess Parvati, while at his lower right stands the ram-headed Daksha, now submissive. Virabhadra was widely worshipped in the villages of south India, and inexpensive hammered metal plaques such as these were readily available from local smiths.
Varahi has a crowned boar’s head on a woman’s body. She sits with her ankles crosses and originally had four arms, the back two have broken away as has the front right hand which had probably been held up in a reassuring gesture. Her left from hand is held down at her left knee with the palm held facing out in a gesture of giving. Her body is softly modeled with a narrow waist and full breasts. She wears jewelry that is in sharp but low relief and includes a series of necklaces forming a collar of decoration and a longer one that falls between her breasts which suggests the sacred thread extending down to her waist at her right. She is naked from the waist up and the lower garment is merely suggested by the heavier folds at the waist. Her head is tilted and her chin/snout had jutted out to the left, but the lower snout is broken away. She wears a conical crown that accents the long diagonal of her face. Originally there was an arch behind the image which would have supported her back arms, so the image would have appeared denser, with only the cut away empty space to the sides of her waist.
This image was discovered in 1926 by the French archaeologist Gabriel Jouveau-Debreuil in Kancipuram, an area about 70 km southwest of Chennai (Madras), along with a large group of other sculptures of goddesses and one image of Siva. Varahi is one of the Saptamâtrikâ, or "seven mothers"—mothers of the principal gods of the Hindu pantheon. Several other, larger images goddesses at the site have been identified as Yoginis, or tantric goddesses. Companion images from the series are now distributed among major museums of the world, including the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Musee Guimet, and the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco.
One of the set of goddesses often grouped into the Saptamatrika, the Seven Mothers, Varahi is the female counterpart to Varaha, the boar-headed incarnation of Vishnu. In Hindu mythology, the Seven Mothers are extremely powerful and as a group represent the power of all of the gods. The female principal is the active one in Hinduism and the Mothers as a group can destroy demons and protect against diseases.
Ganesha is shown here seated on a double lotus throne, in a royal posture with the soles of his feet together. He has four arms, and holds two of his attributes in the rear pair: an ax and a rosary. His trunk curls down across his rotund belly to reach for a bowl of sweets that rests in his left forward arm. The cobra slung across his shoulder, now hard to make out because of the centuries of wear of the stone, indicates Ganesha's lineage as the son of the Shiva, in his aspect as the great ascetic. Almost 27 inches high, this sculpture of the Hindu god Ganesha is carved of andesite, a volcanic stone common to the island of Java in Indonesia. Andesite is a soft stone and erodes easily, which is why the carving is no longer crisp.
Ganesha, the elephant-headed Hindu deity who removes obstacles.
Pot-bellied Ganesha, with his elephant head and curved trunk, is perhaps the most endearing and gentle of the Hindu gods. The elder son of Shiva and Parvati, he is famed for removing obstacles; as such, he is worshipped at the start of any new venture. Scribes, for instance, will inscribe Ganesha’s name before writing anything else, as will students beginning an exam. His presence is also invoked at the onset of religious rituals. Sculptures of the plump god are typically located near the entrance to Hindu temples so that they are among the first encountered in the act of circumambulation. Also, when sweets are prepared for a festival day, the very first portion will be set aside in his name. This stone sculpture from eastern Java suggests that the treats do not go to waste: Ganesha’s trunk drops directly into a bowl of snacks that rests in his left hand.
Goldweights are small objects cast from brass used to weigh out quantities of gold and gold dust. They are cast using a lost-wax casting technique, wherein wax is sculpted into the desired shape and a mold is pressed around the wax model. Then, the mold is heated and the wax drained out, leaving a void in the shape of the original wax model. Liquid brass is poured into the mold and allowed to set before the caster cracks the mold open and retrieves the finished goldweight.
The Akan gold fields were an important source of West African gold from antiquity through the 20th century. Gold was traded on a global scale through both the trans-Saharan and trans-Atlantic trades. The use of gold in long-distance exchange was facilitated by the use of standardized weight measurements. Goldweights, based on divisions of the Islamic ounce, were widely employed throughout the Akan area to measure the quantity and value of gold.
Akan goldweights take many shapes. Different sized goldweights measure different amounts and values of gold dust. Goldweights also vary by their aesthetic attributes. Geometric designs are common and are found in the earliest archaeological contexts. Later goldweights take many figurative forms, often linked to proverbs, jokes, and poems. Still other goldweights duplicate adrinka, a system of visual symbols used in cloth decoration.
This phallic representation of the god Shiva appears as a columnar head placed on a base with two rounded moldings on top of a series of square ones. His neck is fully cylindrical and the face is modeled on that cylinder. The eyes are wide open and a bow shaped eyebrow curves over them. He has a flared nose and luxuriant moustache over a narrow but full lips and a short ball like chin. A ‘U’ shaped element consisting of lines and a pearl motif probably represents his beard, perhaps held up in a tight net. His forehead is decorated with three raise lines that go straight across and his crown is basically flat over his hear decorated with a bunch of peak forms in the center with a finial surmounting the whole. His ears fan out almost like handles to a jar and are decorated with stylized arabesques. A five-headed snake hood rises behind the head and has a rib down its center and scale motives incised towards the bottom an ‘S’ shapes t denote the cobra ‘eyes’ to each side.
Shiva is often worshipped in his aniconic form of the linga, a representation of the creative power of the phallus. Often the form is quite abstract, being a simple shaft with lines representing a formalized glans penis. But in many cases the shaft is decorated with a face of the god, mukha meaning head and can be seen as eka (one) or sometimes at catur (four) facing the cardinal directions: hence we find ekamukhalingas and caturmukhalingas as well as lingas that are totally plain. A snake hood acting as a canopy over the linga is also very common, adding sanctity to the image. Snake symbolism reflects ancient pre-Hindu religious practice and was absorbed into a number of religions that developed in India.
The richly dressed sculpture in the central niche is Shri Nathaji, an alternative name for Krishna, and the principal deity of the Vallabha Sampraday sect, to which the Kotah ruling family belonged. A priest is shown performing the lamp-waving ceremony before Shri Nathaji. At right is a small costumed sculpture of Krishna playing the flute.
This painting was once part of a large set documenting liturgical practices at the Kotah royal palace in Rajasthan.
The Kotah royal house developed a detailed calendar of rituals to be performed in the presence of Shri Nathaji, who would be dressed in different costumes depending on the season and occasion. At least two sets of paintings were commissioned to document these rituals.