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 Shiva's trident and Vishnu's discus, Durga rode out on her lion and defeated Mahisha in battle.

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.

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More information

Bibliography

T. R. Blurton, Hindu art (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)

Dimensions

Height: 106.680 cm

Museum number

Asia OA 1872.7-1.78

RRI861

Bridge Collection

Location

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