This brilliant brass cast, a statue with enough merit to stand on par with the best of the early Chola and Chalukyan bronzes of the South, and Pala, of the east, represents Parvati, consort of Shiva, offering him a flower after he eliminated the demon responsible for cutting his bull’s horns and tail. As a local legend goes, a mighty demon, with an intention to insult Shiva, once cut the horns and tail of his bull Nandi. To punish the wicked demon Shiva killed him. Afterwards, for consoling Nandi Shiva patted it on its back affectionately and leaned on it with his right arm extending over its hump. This form of Shiva, leaning over his bull and in the process his hip tilting to left is known in the tradition of art as Vrashavahanadeva of Vrashavahana Shiva. In many Vrashavahana statues Nandi’s presence is suggested merely by Shiva’s body posture, not by the bull’s actual presence.
This form of Shiva, an innovation of art, first revealed in early eleventh century, to be exact, in A. D. 1010-15 bronzes, recovered from a temple-site in Tiruvenkadu in Tamilnadu. Along with such statues were found a number of Parvati statues, cast independently, which represented her with an identically curved figure, her right hand lifted and extended and her fingers gesticulated knot-like as if offering Lord Shiva a flower. The local myth of mighty demon cutting Nandi’s horns and tail and Shiva punishing him gave to the forms of Shiva and Parvati, as represented in these statues, a mythical context as also typified their forms in art. This statue of Parvati not only pursues Parvati’s figural anatomy as reveals in these early eleventh century statues of the goddess, but also the same level of aesthetics in regard to her beauty, adornment and wears.
Parvati, Shiva’s spouse, has been represented in the statue as the timeless paramount beauty that she always has been. The caster of this statue transgressed all set norms of iconography in conceiving her figure. Her anatomy, gestures of hands, demeanour of face all reveal an emotion foreign to the divinity and even iconography of the world mother. She looks like one performing to a formal audience. Except that a motif which looks like emitting flames the style of Parvati’s crown has nothing in common with Shiva’s coiffure with which his Vrashavahanadeva statues have been conceived.
The figure of Parvati has been conceived with a posture identical to that of Shiva – her hip bulging in a powerful curve drawing the weight of her body shifted onto it with the result that two separately cast figures become components of one whole. Aesthetics of her sharp and tenderly conceived features, beauty of her gracious and highly balanced anatomy, lustrous jewellery, ingeniously patterned tight clinging ‘antariya’ – lower wear, with close, restless folds reaching the calves and even the two-tiered lotus pedestal her figure has been installed on, all have been beautifully conceived.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.