Granite figure of a dvarapala

From Tamil Nadu, southern India
Chola dynasty, 12th century AD

Door guardian from a Hindu temple

The Hindu temple is a sacred space, a divine home for the gods when invoked by their devotees. At most temples, sculptures of deities and other figures are placed on the exterior walls, in clearly defined niches or around doorways; at the entrance are male guardian figures or dvarapalas. They usually appear in pairs either side of the doorway and facing inward. They are placed like this to protect the sacred precincts of the temple from malevolent forces.

This example is one of a pair. Like the deities that they protect, this granite guardian has four arms, though two are now broken. He stands in the ususal pose for these figures, turning to one side with one foot resting on a large club. He wears a tall headdress which is decorated with a monster-mask or kirttimukha; fangs visible at the side of his mouth produce a terrifying image appropriate for a guardian.

Like Shiva, whose temple this figure guarded, the dvarapala has different earrings in each ear. In his right ear is a small snake and in the left is a bird seated in a ring. Here we see a distinctive feature of these dvarapala sculptures - they invariably display the attributes of the gods from whose temples they come.

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Height: 138.000 cm

Museum number

Asia OA 1955.10-18.5


Gift of P.T. Brooke Sewell, Esq.


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