Mughal miniature paintings, £10.99
Height: 119.400 cm
Asia OA 1872.7-1.83
Room 33: Asia
Sandstone figure of Chamunda
From Orissa, eastern India, 9th century AD
The fierce, protective eight-armed mother
The Great Hindu goddess Devi takes many forms: benign, sensuous and maternal at one level, horrifying and powerful at another. Chamunda, with her skeletal frame and staring socket eyes, is one of her fiercest manifestations, associated with corpses and even sacrifical rituals. Her name derives from her victory over the demons Chanda and Munda.
Chamunda's role as one of the seven mother goddesses (the Saptamatrika) seems strange at first, but one aspect of her is as a protector. Her powerful nature is highlighted by the weapons (thunderbolt, trident and sword) with which she fights back the demons of ignorance and ego. She also carries a skull-cap and severed head. Her image becomes all the more terrifying with her skeletal anatomy, sagging breasts, sinewy neck, her jewellery made of bone, skulls and snakes and the vanquished figure on whom she sits.
Chamunda is closely related to the other fierce Hindu goddess, Kali. Both, according to myth, haunt cremation grounds and are known to dance a terrifying dance of all-consuming destruction. In this destruction, according to the Hindu view, lies the seed of regeneration.
T. Donaldson, Hindu temple art of Orissa, (3 vols.) (Brill, Leiden, 1985-87)