Indian art in close-up detail, £14.99
Schist sculpture of a four-faced linga
From eastern India, around AD 800
The four faces of Shiva
The mythology of the Hindu god
This is an example of the chaturmukhi linga type, that is, four-faced. The four faces, each pointing in a cardinal direction, allude to Shiva's most prominent aspects. These comprise Bhairava, a manifestation of Shiva in his terrifying form, two faces which show his different attitudes as a withdrawn and serene ascetic and lastly, Parvati, his consort, the embodiment of feminine power.
The four-faced linga is sometimes regarded as symbolic of the five elements – Earth, Water, Wind, Fire and Space, the latter alluded to by the invisible face imagined to be on top of the sculpture and referred to by the vertical axis.