Indian Art


Shiva is one of the most complex Indian deities with many manifestations.  He appears in the Rg Veda, a sacred collection of Sanskrit hymns, dating to approximately 1700–1100 B.C.E. In that text, Shiva appears as Rudra, a fierce, destructive deity.

Later, Shiva appears again in Puranas, ancient Hindu texts which relate the history of the universe, genealogies, and descriptions of Hindu cosmology, philosophy, and geography.  The Shiva Purana describes Shiva as creator, preserver, destroyer, benign teacher, and yogi. Shiva’s destructive powers enable purification, the clear observation of reality, and thus, the opportunity for regeneration.

Shiva may be recognized by several attributes, including the third eye on his forehead, the snake Vasuki (usually around his neck), the holy river Ganga flowing from his matted hair, and the damaru drum. The two sides of the drum represent opposites which fuse together when played, creating one sound: the cosmic sound of AUM, a meditation mantra and the source of the universe. Shiva’s vehicle is the bull, Nandi.

The bronze and brass sculptures of Shiva in this gallery emulate the Chola style. At that time, bronze sculptures of Hindu deities during the Chola period (9th-13th centuries) were created as portable embodiments of the gods, cared for by priests and carried outside the temple during rituals. In the ritual context, deities were bathed, dressed in rich fabrics, and adorned with jewelry and flowers.