Shiva stands in an unbending pose and the sculpture is broken just below the knees. He is two-armed and his right hand is raised with his palm outward. His left arm is broken away. He wears a short lower garment with incised lines delineating folds and he is ithyphallic, his upraised penis extending up from behind his belt. He wears simple jewelry, a belt, armlets, a bracelet on the one wrist still extant and a simple beaded necklace. There is an auspicious diamond pattern in the middle of his chest. He has a fleshy face with a full mouth and large eyes, a third eye is incised on his forehead. His hair is done in an elaborate coiffure piled high.
The great Hindu god Shiva encompasses many aspects or personalities, as he has absorbed the conflicting identities of various deities over time. Here he is shown in his role as the divine ascetic, or yogin, unclad but for an animal skin about his loins, and matted hair piled high on his head. His erect phallus simultaneously indicates potency and self-control; it is through arduous practices of self-discipline that he has gained extraordinary powers. At the abstract level, the phallus represents procreative energy that is never exhausted; it is neither erotic nor pornographic to the Hindu viewer. This image, carved from the buff-colored sandstone typical of central India, has an especially graceful stance and sweet facial expression.
This capital, based upon the Roman composite order, features stylized acanthus leaves and rinceau on the bell of the capital, which terminates in a band of bead-and-reel motif on the astragal. This, in turn, is capped by an echinus decorated with three fleurons and vine rinceau on each face as well as four projecting volutes also decorated with rinceau and fleurons. Originally the bell of the capital had two tiers of acanthus leaves, but the capital has been cropped below the top of the first tier and the tips of the leaves, which once curved outward from the surface of the capital, have been sheared off.
This capital comes from Medinat al-Zahra, the vast palace-city begun in 936 CE near Cordova by ‘Abd al-Rahman II, the Islamic Umayyad ruler of Spain, where it probably adorned the sumptuous audience hall known as the Salon Rico. The majestic scale and splendor of the palace accommodated the needs and sophisticated protocols of the court, and boldly strengthened Umayyad claims to the status of caliph, or supreme civil and religious ruler of the Islamicate world. In this setting the elegant vegetal decoration of the capital both reflected the lush paradisiacal garden in which the Salon Rico was situated and reverberated with echoes of authority emanating from the Roman and Byzantine models from which the form of the capital derived, thereby contributing to the majesty of the Umayyad caliph.
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.
Black schist carved in the relief of Green Tara, a guide and saviouress on the Buddhist path to enlightenment. She holds two lotuses, one open and one closed and makes the gesture of gift-giving with her palm facing outwards, towards the devotee.
In the ancient Indian language of Sanskrit, Tara can be translated as "star" and thus her name emphasizes her role as a guide and saviouress on the Buddhist path to enlightenment. This form of Tara, Green Tara, holds two lotuses, one open and one closed and makes the gesture of gift-giving with her palm facing outwards, towards the devotee.
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.
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.