Relief sandstone panel depicting the Saptamatrika

From central India, 10th century AD

The seven mother goddesses

Reliefs of the seven mother goddesses (matrika) are usually placed as a lintel above a side entrance to a Hindu temple. The identity of the seven was essentially fixed by the fifth century AD, though there are minor regional variations.

With the exception of one, each goddess derives her name and attributes from the male god who she personifies. Brahmani (the second figure from the left) has four heads like Brahma, and is often shown seated on a lotus or on a gander; Maheshvari, the feminine personification of Shiva or Mahesa, sits next to her on a bull; Kaumari, derived from Kumara, rides a peacock; Vaishnavi is the female personification of Vishnu, as is Varahi, in his incarnation as the boar; Indrani derives from Indra. Chamunda, the last in the series, is shown emaciated, and unusually in this case, crowned by serpent heads. The seven goddesses are usually accompanied by Shiva and Ganesha at either end of the relief.

The ancient cult of goddess worship is linked with primeval ideas of fertility, generation and the earth. Collectively, they are known as Devi, the great goddess, who is simultaneously powerful, fierce, seductive and gentle. In this relief every alternate goddess carries a child in her lap.

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Dimensions

Height: 39.400 cm
Width: 73.000 cm

Museum number

Asia OA 1880-230

RRI1513

Location

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