But for the inclusion of child Ganesha this representation of Shiva and Parvati could be classified as Uma-Maheshvara. Almost in the same manner as in Uma-Maheshvara icons Lord Shiva is holding Parvati in one of his hands. However, their representation with Ganesha is more often seen in the iconographic tradition as holy family, though in its fuller form the holy family also includes Karttikeya, their other son, and besides Nandi also the lion, mouse and peacock, respectively the mounts of Shiva, Parvati, Ganesha and Karttikeya, and sometimes one or both of Virabhadra, Shiva’s wrath manifest, and Bana, one of Shiva’s devotees he elevated to the status of his son. Deviating from the established tradition this statue does not incorporate even Parvati’s mount lion and Ganesha’s mouse, and includes instead one of Shiva’s aniconic manifestation, a Shiva-ling. Meaningfully included the presence of Shiva-ling is quite significant. Its inclusion transforms this aesthetic art-piece also into an image for the sanctum : a votive image.
Mount Kailash is the more usual geography for the holy family imagery. However, this representation has in addition also an elaborately cast fire-arch. Not a mere frame as the fire-arch is sometimes used in divine icons, this ‘prabhavali’ consists of the flames of fire, an element of Shiva’s form in Ananda-Tandava. Thus this representation of the holy family also incorporates an element of Tandava. Further, instead of a floral arch or one which a Shrimukha motif tops, this fire-arch has atop it a serpent hood, an element strictly related to Shiva. Apart, this form also blends other aspects of his image. Usually considered as mere iconographic motifs, the representations of river Ganga discharging from his coiffure and the crescent on his hair have been quite prominently conceived adding to his form the elements of his Gangadhara and Shashidhara manifestations. The artist has added to his figure, as also to those of Parvati and Ganesha, crowns and halos, symbolic of their divine status, though not a regular aspect of Shaivite iconography.
The four-armed image of Lord Shiva abounding in child-like innocence and endowed with exceptional softness and divine glow on the face has been conceived as seated in semi-lalitasana posture. He is carrying in the upper right hand his usual trident with his ‘damaru’ – double drum, hung on it, granting ‘abhaya’ – freedom from fear with his lower right, supporting Lord Ganesha, with the lower left, and with his upper left, Parvati. But for a pointed chin he has a round face, moderately sized but fascinating eyes, cute small lips, well-modeled nose and a high neck. He is wearing as a loincloth his usual tiger skin, a huge serpent around his neck and a few ornaments consisting mainly of large beads. The two-armed figure of Parvati has been as beautifully conceived. With her right hand she is holding child Ganesha, while her left, held over her left knee, seems to carry some object as if making offering to the votive Shiva-ling which has been consecrated right below it. She is wearing a rich traditional sari and appropriate ornaments. The four-armed child Ganesha is carrying in two upper ones goad and noose, his usual attributes, the normal right is held in ‘abhaya’, and in the normal left, he is holding a ‘modak’ which he is eating.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of ancient Indian literature. Dr Daljeet is the chief curator of the Visual Arts Gallery at the National Museum of India, New Delhi. They have both collaborated on numerous books on Indian art and culture.