This excellent twin brass-statue in characteristic south Indian style of bronze-casting represents the four-armed Shiva with Parvati amorously poised close on his left – ‘vam’, which in Indian tradition is the place of a wife who is hence often called ‘vama’ – the woman on the left. In his upper right hand he is holding a goad, while the lower right is held in ‘abhaya’. Though cast largely independent of each other, being installed on a common pedestal and the figure of Shiva conceived as holding Parvati in his arms, the two images also reveal delightful unity.
Incidentally this position of the two images manifests the great Shaivite doctrine of the unity of the diverse revealing that what appears to be many are truly only one. Shiva and Parvati are conceived as two in myths as well as in visual representations but under Shaivite metaphysics they are only the two aspects of the same entity, the same as in this twin statue.
The artist has displayed exceptional ingenuity in modeling the two
figures. Not a routine form classified as Harihara : half Vishnu and
half Shiva, or one combining Lakshmi’s form with that of Parvati, this
ingenuity reveals in combining in the beings of Shiva and Parvati –
the timeless divine lovers, the majesty and aura of Vishnu and
grandeur and resplendence of his consort Lakshmi. Except a semi-curved
posture – a feature of romantically poised figures as those
representing Lord Krishna or love-god Kamadeva, amorously holding his
consort on his left, not an element of Vishnu’s imagery or a form
fitted to his regal status, and the style of ensemble : a loincloth,
however gorgeous, not his usual ‘pitambara’ – yellow ‘antariya’
covering his entire lower half, the artist has so created the magic of
forms that there reveal in the figure of Shiva the image of Vishnu and
in that of Parvati the image of Lakshmi. Ingeniously meeting his
artistic challenge, the artist has created a form of Shiva in the
frame of Vishnu, synthesizing the two sets of imagery so strangely
that the towering majestic crown, the characteristic feature of
Vishnu’s icons, has been conceived with an apex combining a form of
‘jata-juta’ – lumps of matted hair, and snake-forms mounting on it,
the essential elements of Shiva’s iconography.
Exceptionally ornate these twin images, revealing infinite beauty and
grace, represent Shiva with Parvati on his left. When with Parvati,
Shiva’s divinity is believed to multiply and from Mahesh – great god,
he becomes Maheshvara – god of gods. Uma-Maheshvara is thus one of his
few classified iconographic forms. However, in his Uma-Maheshvara
form, as he has been represented in early sculptures, he is usually
represented as normal two-armed seated holding Parvati in his left
arm. Scholars have classified his yet another form with Parvati as
Uma-sahit-Shiva : Shiva with Uma, Parvati’s other name.
Uma-sahit-Shiva is his seated as well as standing form. These twin
statues represent this Uma-sahit-Shiva form of Shiva’s iconography.
A contemporary brass piece, with the timeless quality of their art the
statues transcend scale of time and class with the best of the art
traditions of the land. Except that the figure of Parvati is not as
sensuously conceived as in them, especially in modeling her beasts and
thighs, in their figural dimensions, anatomy, gesticulation,
iconographic features, ornamentation, fluidity of lines, rare
plasticity, perfect modeling and in their power to breathe a lyrical
eloquence, these brass-statues are reminiscent of the early tenth
century Chola bronzes. The figures of Shiva and Parvati have been
modeled with sharp noses, lotus-eyes, cute small lips, pointed chin,
large ears with ear-ornaments reaching down the shoulders,
well-defined necks, tall slender figures with perfectly balanced
anatomy and curvatures and contours of raised arms and bent legs.
Shiva has on his forehead the ‘tri-netra’ – third eye, and Parvati, an
auspicious mark. The styles of tight-clinging and grooved ‘antariya’ :
Shiva’s, almost a loincloth, and Parvati’s, long with a central
decorative ‘patta’ – band, Shiva’s loose ‘yajnopavit’ and the chains
or laces worn around their necks by them both, with moderate circular
pendants, all are the features inherited from the tradition of early
The statues of Shiva and Parvati have been installed on a three-tiered
rectangular pedestal, two courses composed mainly of lotuses. Its base
consists of a plain moulding followed by an upwards narrowing lotus
rising which carries over it a plain straight rectangular moulding.
This central tier supports on it an oval shaped large stylized lotus
with a plain apex to install the twin figures. The Shiva’s figure, as
well as Parvati’s, are in the semi-curved postures revealing
exceptional beauty. Delightfully aligned and contrasted, Parvati’s
figure has its right knee bent corresponding to Shiva’s similarly bent
left knee. The two figures further curve: Parvati’s hip to left, and
Shiva’s, to right, and Shiva’s shoulders, to left, and Parvati’s, to
right. Shiva has his feet firmly set on the pedestal but gently drawn
by Shiva Parvati’s feet do not hold on the base as firmly as him. Her
heels are lifted shifting on toes the most of her body weight. Though
static by far, there bursts from behind their overall disposition,
flexion and fluidity of contours divine energy and great vigour.
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.
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