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Sculptures > Hindu > Mahishasura-Mardini
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South Indian Temple Wood Carving

36 inch x 18 inch x 4.7 inch
13.2 kg
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Viewed 4489 times since 18th Dec, 2014

This excellently modeled figure with a benign face represents the six-armed goddess Durga subduing the demon Mahisha, hence popularly revered as Mahishasura-mardini – Durga subduing the demon Mahisha. Unlike the usual Mahishasura-mardini  icons, a painting or sculpture, that represent the demon as half buffalo and half man this statue represents the two figures, the demon’s anthropomorphic icon and the buffalo’s animal form, as detached, complete and independent. Here the demon, the usual human form, appears to be riding the buffalo, though a bit awkwardly, he is seated on its hind part. The goddess has held the demon by his head with one of her left hands while she is striking on his breast with a spear held in one of her right hands. In an effort to contain it the goddess has planted one of her feet on the buffalo’s neck, though taking the animal just as the demon’s mount, not his component as the animal form is conceived in most other representations, the goddess seems to spare its life.<p>

Corresponding to this duality – the demon separated from the animal, his basic character as also his essential form the legends consider him to originate in, the goddess’s apparent act – annihilation of the demon, is completely different from her intrinsic ‘bhava’ – the essence of her being as reflects in the demeanour of her face. Instead of wrath or anger, or an eagerness to curve a wrong her deep contemplative face enshrines some kind of deep concern perhaps for mankind. Not ferocious or awful, as someone killing a buffalo should naturally look like, in her triply curving, proportionate and balanced figure, colourfully clad and gracefully adorned the goddess is the model of sublime beauty. Whatever its central theme – killing a demon linked with an ugly looking animal like buffalo, the statue, each detail minutely carved and brilliantly painted, outstands in aesthetic beauty. The statue’s aesthetics being its focal point the artist preferred keeping not only the statue’s human form unmixed from buffalo’s but also conceived his figure as one of a normal human being. Perhaps for emphasizing this aspect further he has carved a devotee figure on the goddess’s right that has been modeled exactly like the demon.<p> 

Rendered – carved and painted, in characteristic South Indian idiom adhering on one hand to her mythical aspect and on the other to South Indian cult of ornamentation and benignity of form, the six-armed goddess is carrying in her right side hands ‘chakra’ – disc, spear with axe-head and triply formed blade, and sword, and in those on the left side, trident and shield, the sixth holds the demon’s head. Clad in tight fitted ‘antariya’ – lower wear, and a sensually fashioned ‘stana-pata’ – breast-band, and appropriately ornamented – a towering crown along a halo, beautiful frill suspending along her girdle between the parting of legs, an elaborate girdle and ornaments on neck, ears, shoulders, arms, feet and other body-parts, the image of the goddess has been installed on a rectangular platform consisting of a plain moulding on the top, and conventional lotus motifs in the rising.<p>

The goddess has her right foot planted firmly on the platform, while with the left she is containing the animal that pressed by her divine force seems to bend. Besides the buffalo figure, and the devotee’s, the platform is also the base of the ‘prabhavali’ – fire-arch that the goddess enshrines. Apart an elaborate ‘kirttimukha’ motif on the top conceived with multiple fangs, large bulbous eyes, ferns-like whiskers and an over-all awful appearance, the circular arch rises using uniform pattern – a beaded lace running across the entire length curving in variously shaped loops to frame various floral and vine motifs all conceived arabesques-like on decorative line. The statue has been brilliantly painted and minutely rendered but the craftsman has evaded hitting the demon’s body as also any trace of blood gushing from it; perhaps blood-shed not his choice.<p>
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.<p> 
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