Indian art in close-up detail, £14.99
Height: 106.680 cm
Asia OA 1872.7-1.78
Room 33: Asia
Stone sculpture of Durga Mahishasuramardini
Orissa, eastern India, 13th century AD
Durga defeats the buffalo-demon Mahisha
The myth of Durga killing the buffalo-demon
Mahisha has been a popular subject in Hindu sculpture from the
early centuries AD. The demon threatened the cosmic order. The gods
were helpless and begged Durga to subdue him. Armed with the
weapons of the gods, including
This sculpture depicts the climax of the battle between the goddess and the demon. Mahisha appears from the severed neck of the buffalo as a man with a sword and shield. Durga carries two quivers of arrows over her shoulder, and holds a sword and trident with which she kills the demon. Her lion-mount joins in the fight, biting Mahisha's leg. The energy and activity of the demon and the lion contrast with Durga, who is calm and serene as she defeats her opponent.
Durga's victory over Mahisha is celebrated in Bengal each year in the important festival of Durgapuja. Large clay images of the goddess and the demon are made for the duration of the festival, at the end of which they are immersed in ponds or rivers.
T. R. Blurton, Hindu art (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)